“Comfort food” is a buzz phrase that every now and then confronts us with visions of satisfaction and pleasure.
In that moment, it becomes our mantra for those tasty morsels that give us joy, warmth to our souls and leave us grinning like a Cheshire cat.
As entrepreneurship takes many forms in its creation and delivery, this week I present to you a roller coaster ride for a couple with a story of innovation that not only had me dizzy from the ride, but a side ache from the laughter I enjoyed through our communication this past weekend in West Kelowna.
Torsten Kaminski, born in Hagen, Germany, of small business operating parents, learned from a very early age the meaning of a family business.
Torsten’s father operated a leather goods venture in Germany. As a kid growing up, young Torsten enjoyed his personal development with his entrepreneurially-minded parents at his side.
In 1979, the Kaminski family decided to move to the U.S. and purchased a hotel in Florida.
At his father’s side, Torsten said his father amusedly asked him to learn by experience every aspect of the hotel operation, from maintenance and luggage handling, to booking guests and providing information to the visitors about the Florida sites. It was an education unto itself into the hospitality industry.
In 1989, after graduating Grade 12, Torsten and his three siblings long with his parents were ready for another exploratory mission.
So, the family moved to Nanaimo where his parents acquired the Long Lake Inn, another notable hotel establishment which continued to provide Torsten with the skills set for interpersonal relations and people management of a tourism-based enterprise on Vancouver Island.
During the 1989 period in Florida, Torsten met his wife Jeanne, a Southern belle from Memphis, who had been managing a clothing store in Miami.
Torsten told me over a coffee that she fell in love at first glance at a party where the couple met.
Within a year, the happy couple were married and joined the family parade to Nanaimo, to begin yet another milestone in their entrepreneurial love story.
In 1992, the couple returned to the U.S. as his wife’s father was very ill and she wished to be closer to him. Torsten then took a position as a manager of a Denny’s restaurant as the first of the couple’s four children arrived in 1993.
The Kaminskis soon couple found themselves operating a sign company and jewelry store.
It amazed me to witness the ease within which this couple described their ventures in a casual matter of fact manner. It just came naturally to them—of course they were going to launch a venture together. It didn’t seem to be to a threat to their existence at all as both of them are highly disciplined people who value and embrace a realistic work ethic to “reap what they sow” in life.
After Jeanne’s father passed away, the couple decided to return to Canada, to call B.C. their home.
In 2006, both Kaminski families settled in the Central Okanagan.
Torsten’s parents continued their entrepreneurial pursuit in downtown Kelowna, while Torsten and Jeanne tackled their new residency in the Okanagan region with a new venture—the “Walking Taco” concession kiosk which they operated at many regional events.
They did catering work upon request and found great success with that approach in their new home environment.
People raved about the choices and quality of the food products the couple served wherever they journeyed in the valley.
During this diversified experience with their Walking Taco concession, the couple spent many hours examining potential ventures that the two of them could develop for their future in the Okanagan landscape.
It boldly came clear to them that with both of their solid experiences in the food and beverage industry in Canada and the U.S., they likely could be comfortably launch a restaurant venture.
Next, the couple embarked on searching for a market niche. Recognizing that in difficult economic times, people look for the optimum value for dollars spent. And although Asian buffets have been quite popular in Canada over the years, there has not been much evidence of influence in comfort food concepts.
The Kaminskis determined they were on the right path and embraced together the concept model of a “ home-style” buffet model in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, their vision becoming a reality as The Patio Buffet.
The first Patio Buffet opened in Vernon one year ago, and a second location attached to the Comfort Inn in West Kelowna started up two months ago.
I love their motto: “All You Can Eat, And We’ll Do the Dishes.”
I learned quickly from my chat with Torsten and Jeanne that creating and operating a staff team, offering large diversified and incredibly delicious buffet menu was paramount for success in the minds and hearts of this couple.
Dear readers, please do yourself and your friends and loved ones a big favour and gift of a visit breakfast, lunch or supper to the Patio Buffet in Vernon or West Kelowna, and make certain you ask for either Torsten or Jeanne—they would love to chat with you and walk you through the mouth-watering dishes in the buffet containers.
I guarantee you won’t be sorry. This couple is what entrepreneurship in the valley is all about—innovation and creativity.
Joel Young is founder of the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.