Known for the friendly service and warm, comfortable setting, Brenda’s Cozy Cafe has been named Business of the Year in this year’s Business and Citizenship awards.
The Stettler Awards Gala has been a prestigious event for many years where citizens have an opportunity to honour the accomplishments of local businesses and citizens.
The 2020 Business and Citizenship Awards Gala will be held Oct. 22nd by invitation only – the Stettler Public Library will be providing a live stream for the public to view on the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development Facebook page.
“At first, I thought she had the wrong number,” laughs owner Brenda Brinson, referring to when she first received the terrific news. “It took a while to sink in, and I didn’t tell anyone right away just in case it was a mistake and she wanted to take it back!”
These days, she is nothing but grateful for the accolade, as it is very affirming and all the more personally meaningful as owning her own restaurant has been a dream since she was a little girl.
“I was visiting over at Wells Furniture one day, and Bernie (Jackson) ran over to Maggie Jo’s (the restaurant prior to when Brenda purchased the business).
“She came back and said, ‘I just heard that Maggie Jo’s is closing at the end of the month, and they had also been trying to sell for a couple of years’,” she said.
Bernie then suggested that Brenda should purchase the business.
And that was that.
“I thought, hey, that ‘s a great idea – let’s do it,” she explained with a smile, adding that at the time she was also running a full-time catering business.
Brenda’s Cozy Cafe officially opened on Oct. 1st, 2013.
From the start, Brinson said her vision has always been to produce good, fresh, high-quality fast food. “People are in a hurry – they don’t have a lot of time. So it has to be fresh and fast. We pump out a lot of food over a short time over lunch,” she said. “Most of the time it comes out quickly – people are pretty impressed.”
As mentioned, Brinson, a red seal chef, has been interested in the culinary arts from an early age.
“I took a two-year diploma course in Saskatoon at Kelsey Institute, and then I actually got my journeyman ticket in Vermilion at Lakeland College,” she said. “I can remember the first meal that I cooked – my grandmother let me cook when I was 10 years old,” she recalled. “I remember the frying pan I used! It wasn’t a fancy meal by any means – it was fried baloney and fried potatoes, just for me and my grandma. She lived by herself, so I would go over and visit her.
“I was always bugging my mom – let me cook, let me cook. But mom wouldn’t let me,” she chuckled. “But granny let me cook. My mom is a fantastic cook and my grandma is a heck of a baker and cook, too. My grandma was always also involved in the social committee of the ladies’ auxiliary – she was a social convener.
“So any fall suppers, my mom and my grandma were always involved in events like that. Cooking meals just brings everyone together, and that’s what I love about it.
“I’m just wired to serve people, that’s what I want to do,” she said, adding that one of the most challenging things about the pandemic has been not being able to have closer contact with folks in the restaurant. “One of my favourite things is when I set down a dish in front of people and someone goes, ‘Wow!’ I live for those moments.”
And her love for all things culinary extends past the restaurant.
“When I’m at home I’m watching the Food Network, or I’m on Pinterest looking at recipes. That’s what I’m doing on my off-time. I drive my kids nuts because it’s like, ‘Mom – do we have to talk about turkey pot pies anymore? Honestly!’
“And when I go on holidays, it’s also all I want to do. I went to New York, and I went on a pizza tour. I just love it – the whole thing. It gives me joy!”
She’s also thankful for a terrific staff.
“I’ve had people stay with me for years,” she said. “You find good people, and when you do that, you treat them right and make sure they know they are appreciated. I think if they feel appreciated, they will stick around and they will go the extra mile with you.”
Besides the food variety and quality, Brinson said extensive community involvement is also a key to success.
“You make yourself a part of the community and you give back whenever you can – I think that is very important. And it’s one of my other favourite things we do here is to give back.”
A fun example of that is the annual food bank battle she has with Bernie Jackson from Wells Furniture.
“I’m very pleased that we are in a position that we can give,” she said. “It means a lot to me to be able to do that.”