Petaluma’s Sheryl Cahill cooks up something new
Owner of both the Station House Cafe and the newly launched Side Street Kitchen in Pt. Reyes Station, restauranteur Sheryl Cahill moved to Petaluma a quarter-century ago.
“I was a young mom living in Marin with two little ones, and I felt like a fish-out-of-water,” she says. “In contrast, Petaluma had welcoming neighbors and lots of mothers of a similar age.”
Sheryl soon founded her own day care center, but when her kids entered first and fourth grade, she returned to college part-time. Her passion for the social sciences eventually led to an Anthropology BA from Berkeley, but she also worked “the front of the house,” as a server and manager at the Station House Cafe.
Sheryl confesses that she is, in her words, “a little crazy, because whenever things in her life are going well, she frequently decides to take on something new.
In 2005, that “something new” was to purchase the venerable Station House Cafe. Ten years later, when she heard the old Pine Cone Diner was shutting down, the “something new” was buying the place and building her own BBQ joint.
“The next 18 months had way too much ‘sitting around’ as plans, permits and demolishing, and then rebuilding the back half of the building took place. The advantage was that we had the opportunity to start from scratch - not just in cooking, but with the whole concept from renovation to design to culture and, of course, cuisine.”
The result is what she calls “a family-friendly, French-inspired fast-casual eatery that reflects our commitment to fresh, local, and sustainably produced cuisine.”
For Sheryl, “good things have a French connection.” Which is why she chose the “beautiful and efficient” Rotisol rotisserie made in Chelles, France to cook the eatery’s free-range chickens.
“Using our secret herb blend, slow roasting, and, of course, love, the taste of our shining star is phenomenal,” she playfully boasts. She credits Station House Cafe managers, Aviva Feldman and Alyson Howe, with providing her the time and space away from Station House Cafe in order to open Side Street Kitchen with chef Aaron Wright and general manager of Side Street Kitchen, Janna Roberts.
“Without them, I couldn’t have done this project,” she admits. “It was like a multi-dimensional dance - very intense, and very, very busy.”
Sheryl says that her latest “something new,” will be to learn more about the food side, starting with Aaron as her teacher. A recent revisit to France fueled this dream.
In France, she says, “Every side street has a little place to eat, and each one has its own distinctive flavors. That helped me with menu planning, but also showed me there is so much to learn about cooking good food in quantity. I like to cook at home, so professional technique is the main thing I need.”
Sheryl continues, “It’s really fun to be actively participating in such a special place (Point Reyes Station), adding “I still consider myself a Petaluman. There are lots of similarities between the two localities. Both towns maintain their agricultural roots and small-town feel by retaining historic buildings. But most important is that people are friendly and down to earth. I feel welcomed in both communities.”
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