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New Mexican (Newspaper) - October 2, 2005, Santa Fe, New Mexico Sunday October 2 2005 THE NEW MEXICAN D5 Cafe cooks up new life for gang members Los Angeles Times LOS the street they could be enemies i One has a stitched across her neck The other holds a knife They are from different gangs I The two young women glare at each other Others notice No one says a word 1 The one with the knife draws it up and brings it down into a big red onion All at once they laugh Its so the tattooed woman says My eyes Keep says the one with the knife Gotta keep going You can do it They might be from differ ent neighborhoods and differ ent gangs but in this cramped kitchen at the back of a small festaurant just east of downtown Los Angeles they put fights and guns and jail cells behind them They make sandwiches bake cookies wait tables and run the cash register This they will tell you is almost a miracle Hard to says Joanna Flores 18 who has been in and out of jail since she was 12 If of the girls here were walking in my neighborhood before I knew them before we came here there would be problems It wouldnt have been good But its cool now Now were Welcome to the Homegirl Gafe a 10table breakfast and lunch spot on a hilltop boulevard in the Boyle Heights section of 6ast Los Angeles In a city teem ing with small quirky homespun restaurants serving inexpensive food with flavors from different lands this one stands apart There is the food Mexican with a twist But its the help that makes the difference Where else can your frothy bowl of fideo soup noodles peas and cilan be prepared by a girl from gang served by a woman from the Mara villa gang and cleared from your table by a smiling mother from the 18th Street gang J Finally there is Patty Zarate She watches over the homegirls always She is 47 shy but strong with short silver hair and keen roving eyes that hardly miss a thing She is from Mexico Not long ago she was trying to find solid ground in the United States and figure out whether her talent for cooking could be turned into something profitable Now she is the boss chef and in a sym bolic way the mother here Her new trainees girls and young women who have listened to few people in their lives listen to her She calls almost all of them mija my She prods them with sweetness Can we maybe go a little faster with the chopping Thats good thats Were so busy now Thank you much better you are Zarate doesnt own the res taurant any longer that is part of her story But make no mistake this is her place The homegirls would not be here the yellow walled cafe that smells of red Los Angeles Times Patty Zarate center manager of the Homegirl Cafe prepares meals for a busy lunch time crowd at the popular East Los Angeles restaurant Zarate cooks and manages a group of troubled girls who work at the restaurant pepper and roasted garlic would not exist if not for her dream It began to take hold in the 1980s Back then she was fresh from Guadalajara She had been a stacker at a hardware store and then she worked as a secre tary at Dolores Mission a Jesuit parish and touchstone in Boyle Heights At first we only knew one side of said the Rev Greg ory Boyle her boss In a com munity of what he calls abrasive he noticed that she was a confidante to two groups the new arrivals from Mexico and Central America and the wayward gang toughs who made the parish streets some of the citys most danger ous She was Boyle said Maybe she should become a social worker he thought at the time Pattys way with people was absolutely peaceful and respectfuL Then we found out about the other side of In her spare time Zarate had started tinkering in her small kitchen at home at first for her husbandand young children She says she was trying to find herself by discovering something she truly loved to do Expanding on recipes and techniques she had learned from her mother she began turning up at the par ish with treats Her food was far from the fat tening tort as tacos and burritos sold at many of the neighbor hood eateries Her food was diferente something different Most of it was Mexican but much of it was vegetarian All of it was light and healthy She used basil lentils and filo dough Japanese mushrooms and said Romie Armenta one of the scores of parishioners who grew enchanted with her cooking Tofu with mole sauce Wed never heard of Often the food became din ner for Boyle and a household of other Jesuit priests They tasted her cooking and encouraged her to see herself as more than a secretary The question became said the Rev Michael Kennedy What would Patty do with this great talent we were learning about For a while nothing Boyle had begun devoting full attention to directing Homeboy Industries a nonprofit business that finds work for gang mem bers and parolees Zarate and Boyle talked about running a restaurant together She got a job helping poor families in East Los Angeles find homes One day in 2003 near an old Boyle Heights cemetery she discovered a holeinthewall restaurant up for lease Her daughter Angela wanted to attend a private college in Seattle and this might be a way to pay for it as well as college for her two other kids It was a gam ble Some said she was crazy but Zarate quit her job used her last paycheck for the first months rent and took over the rundown restaurant She thought she would be successful I was she said It wasnt what I had thought But the restaurant introduced the neighborhood to Zarates cooking whitefish sauteed with chipotle peppers black coffee flavored with orange rinds tofu enchiladas and Mexican bolillo rolls stuffed with turkey and mango salsa She named the dishes after friends and fam ily Titas Pipian Chabelas Fish Soup YuYus Sandwich Angelas Green Potion The typical meal cost less than So Some days that was enough But on other days hardly anyone showed up and the little Ziploc bag Zarate kept by the cash register for receipts was empty Posiurepecfic Special Purchase Sealy PosturcptdicSilem Waters firm queen Scaly Posturepedic Cocobay pluih queen set naturalUticxV specialists V SttarwSdtwtcfjBngtlhorne Euro giUjigjljii queth Ml Always the best names Alwaya the best prices Buy LoCili And Save of Santa Fe Come visit Bill Strong Your neighbor in Santa Fe Furniture Gallery Sleep Center Patio Furniture Fine Pianos 504 W Cordova Street at St Francis 9825555 Hours MondayFriday 96 Saturday 95 Sunday 15 The nuts and bolts of running a business Marketing pricing balancing books maintaining inventory Of this she knew next to nothing She paid a visit to Boyle They both remember how she slumped in his office tears flow ing Zarate gave up ownership of her cafe to Homeboy Indus tries In April it became official The Plaza Cafe turned into the Homegirl Cafe tidy with brick tile floors a big black stove tak ing up a third of the kitchen and a growing legion of customers who sometimes line up on the sidewalk She is the head cook and man ager of daily operations Two of her longtime assistant chefs are there All the while she trains a few homegirls each selected by Boyle after they have convinced him they are determined to let go of their old ways The homegirls and Zarate have forged a bond Whether serving food or chopping onions the girls can be slow and inefficient causing customers to wait But Zarate pushes them Move faster clean more smile often Sometimes they push back with stares and shrugs and snickers When they go too far as one did when she showed up singing loudly and smelling of alcohol Zarate fires them Politely Sometimes Flores said she and the other girls find the work hard Then there is life in the neighborhood Its not all roses you Flores said Its not easy money like Im used Thats some thing new The main thing is You have to work hard for this like Patty works Be patient Just try Purchase your 3Month Individual Adult Membership anytime between October 1 October 15 and receive FIVE FREE FITNESS CLASSES Includes use of all workout facilities at the center for 90 days Basketball Swimming Pools IceSkating Arena Fitness Area with Weight room Indoor Track and Cardio Machines equipment rental fees NOT INCLUDED ovcvti Cluivcz COMMUNITY Choose 5 FREE individual adult dropin workout classes of your choice Here are some of the drop inclasses to choose from CardioCyding Lunch Sculpt Express Pilates Core Strength NIA Dance Bosu Workout lyengar Ashtanga Yoga offer EXCLUDES classes requiring registration CENTER COMMUNITIES Conserve energy save on gas money be part of our community gel in motion and ride the Santa Fe Trails t o o On Thursday October 6 Santa Fe Trails is offering FREE bus rides all day to celebrate Communities in Motion Day In addition to the tree service Santa Fe Trails will be holding a raffle where all passengers will have a chance to win lots of exciting prizes including a free monthly passl Our staff will be distributing giveaways to riders during the morning commute as a way of saying thank you to all our loyal riders At 1 at the transit shelter on Cerrillos Readjust north of pub lic art dedication of Cuentos del Road will honor the history of Cerrillos Road TIAMKS Tl THE FtLllHINC CIAKA Mill AN SEAFDID OLIVE GARDEN ON ZAFARAKI WHOLE FOODS SANTA FE PLACE CALL SANTA FE TRAILS AT
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