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Local Globe chef delivers healthy variety at new cafe

Jordan Baker stands in the middle of the seating area in the all new Vida E Cafe location at the south end of Broad. Photo by LCGross

When clients call Jordan Johnson, they are looking for something a little different, and that’s what she aims to give them. In Globe-Miami, Johnson may be better known to some as the face behind the famous (and soon to re-open) Vida E Café, but there is much more to her than sandwiches, salads and coffee. She also runs a catering company under the same name.

Her catering clients – as opposed to her customers at Vida E Café – know her as the creative energy behind elaborate five-course meals served in the comfort of their homes, as well as meals and hors d’oeuvres for graduations, weddings, galas and other local events.

“I didn’t limit myself,” she said of her early catering days. “I did catering for anything or anybody.”

Vida E Café opened in 2005 and closed in 2015, and Johnson catered the entire time. If she needed help, her family pitched in.

As time passed, Johnson’s reputation grew, along with her client list. She catered training meals for the Carlota Mine for several years, as well as events at the San Carlos Wellness Center.

Her niche is fine dining, and she does not limit that label to traditional meals. Linda Gross, a vegan, is one of her clients, and Johnson said she had fun planning and catering her 60th birthday party. “I like clients who challenge me.”

Baker catering an event local bed and breakfast;  The Chrysocolla Inn. Photo by LCGross

Another of her clients, Nancy McKay, has eaten Vida E catered food at many different events, including annual Chamber of Commerce mixers at the Center for the Arts, ladies Christmas dinners, anniversaries and birthday parties.  She said Johnson disappoints.

“She brings interesting food to Globe,” McKay said, “and we all expect a little bit more because we know what she can do.”

The only time McKay was almost disappointed in Johnson’s service was when she tried to procure Vida E Catering for a 40th anniversary party of about 100 people. Because Johnson was expecting a baby soon (turned out it was within the week), she refused. “She didn’t want to commit with her baby on the way,” McKay said. “I understood!”

In 2015, Johnson reverted to her roots in baking and has kept her hand near the oven by baking cakes – for weddings, birthdays and other special events.

“I enjoy the cake, but that’s not my specialty,” she said.

Her motto and her goal is to cook food that is different but delicious. She plans to introduce a fusion menu when the Vida E Café kitchen is up and running. “A fusion menu is where you do different things with familiar food,” she said. “What if we did a jalapeno popper in an egg roll or had Korean tacos?”

Her goal – whether at the café or when she’s catering – is to make eating both enjoyable and adventurous. She remembers a man who had never eaten salmon before but decided he would try it “because it was free.”

It is experiences like this one that makes Johnson happy to be in business in the Globe Miami area. “”I could do great in the Valley (Mesa-Phoenix area), but that’s not where my heart is,” she said.

Even as she plans her “something new and fresh” menu for the local community, she said she realizes Globe is on the cusp of “something great.

“Everyone can smell it,” she said.

Way Back When

Johnson started out baking as a little girl under the direction of her mother, Susie Baker. When she (Johnson) was 10, all of her relatives received peanut butter cups for Christmas.

She had thoroughly scratched the baking itch, however, by the time she graduated from Mesa High School and the EVIT program and was ready to start culinary studies at the Art Institute in Phoenix.

Awarded a half scholarship after winning an omelet and crepes-making competition, Johnson graduated in 2005 and set out to make her fortune. “I asked my advisor if I could just skip the baking part of everything,” she said.

Johnson wasn’t going to be able to escape baking entirely because her before-school job was as a catering representative for Atlanta Bread Co. She not only had to manage the restaurant, which is similar to today’s Panera Bread, but also to approach organizations to offer deli trays and sandwiches for meetings and events.

By the time she graduated, she not only had culinary training but also job experience to add to her resume.

Her first job, ironically, was as the omelet maker at a Marriot Hotel in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Johnson had been told to get into a hotel somewhere to get some job experience, and she used a highly “scientific” method to obtain that first job. She walked down the beach and chose the largest hotel and asked the manager if he had any job openings.

Hard work and perseverance resulted in steady promotion, and Johnson was moved to Atlanta to be the kitchen manager. Although the experience was invaluable, she wasn’t making very much money and she was very homesick, so she moved to Globe. She quickly found a job with the Copper Parrot, where she designed the menu, ran the kitchen and the staff.

Six months later, she quit that job and started a 10-year stint with Vida E Café.

The Vida E Way

When Vida E Café was open from 2005-10, it really was the place where everyone knew your name, Johnson said.

“It was like you were part of the town,” Johnson said, “and this was the Cheers of Globe.”

Jordan Baker/ Photo by LCGross

Vida E Café is set hold a soft opening soon, and although it has a commercial kitchen, it will initially only offer coffee and healthy drinks like smoothies, juiced drinks and infused water.  Later, it will offer the fusion menu.

Although she refused to give away all of her plans, she said people should be on the lookout for additional Vida E Catering services in the future.

Jordan and family. Courtesy Photo

Personal Stuff

Johnson is married to Barry Johnson, who works for the Forest Service. They were initially married on board the Copper Spike and then held a formal ceremony later in 2006.

They have three children: Mayvra, 7, Silas, 5, and Jace, 2. She has not held a full-time job since the café closed two years ago, and although she is feeling twinges about jumping back into more consistent work, she is also ready.

“Jace doesn’t know how it is to have a working mom,” she said, with a slight quirk to her lip. “He will find out soon.”

Contact Her

Schedule a catering event by calling Johnson at 480-239-9842.

About Aimee Staten

Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.

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