Thyme & Place Café

04 Aug 2019

Where passion, spirit, and freshness greet you each time

155 Hall Ave.
Southern Pines, NC


If passion is the first requirement to be a restaurant owner, Leslie Philip has found her calling.

Her passion and spirit permeate Thyme & Place Café where the atmosphere is warm and charming. As guests enter, they know immediately that they are where the extraordinary is regular — from the greeting, to the menu, to the plated meals, to the specials of the day, to the sweets and other desserts.

In the local community Thyme & Place is special “because our menu is unique, lots of variation, lots of specials that change, always interesting items. And we are a café — a fun, hip place — and the food is always good. We have something for everyone,” Leslie says.

The variety in the brunch-lunch menu is as popular as the delightfully fresh approach to cooking. Chef

Emma Andrade explains, “We are a made-from-scratch kitchen. About 95 percent of everything is made in-house. From start to finish, we are cooking. We don’t take shortcuts, and the food preparation is well thought-out.”

Who makes the mouth-watering pastries in the wood case at the front of the cozy café? She is baker Jari Miller, who brings a wealth of baking experience to Thyme & Place. Before moving to the Sandhills to be close to family, she had owned a bakery in Syracuse, N.Y., and shipped more than 2,000 pounds of baked goods, including 23 different kinds of cookies, every Christmas.”
When she operated the bakery, she also sold her products at seven farmers markets each week — her empanadas were the biggest sellers. They are now a crowd pleaser at the café. “None are made with a recipe found elsewhere. They are all Thyme & Place creations,” Jari says.

After she has prepared the dough, Emma adds the filling for the savory empanadas. “It’s surprising how many vegans and vegetarians are in this area,” she says as she comments on the popularity of the meatless ones.

“For fans of sweet empanadas, I fill them with custard, fruit, whatever is in season,” Jari says.

Leslie is so thankful that Jari and Emma are on her team. “You have to taste a lot of sour lemons before you find the right person.”

Leslie describes how she found Emma as “magical.” When the two first connected over the phone, they both cried because they had had similar family experiences. Leslie had just lost her mother, and Emma’s father had just passed away.

“My culture gives you a year to grieve,” Emma says referring to her father’s heritage of being in the La Jolla band of the Luiseño tribe of Native Americans in California. That Leslie and Emma found each other is considered by Emma’s mother, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, so remarkable that she refers to it as “a God wink.”

Emma’s culinary journey has been quite circuitous and given her experience on both coasts. Since the ninth grade she has known that her life would embrace food. She has participated in a variety of culinary competitions and internships, and her experiences include being at Ojai Valley Inn, a luxury resort in Southern California, and completing Cordon Bleu training in Los Angeles.

Leslie’s culinary journey and achievements are equally significant because she is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Her selection is a distinction because membership in the international philanthropic organization is extended to only women leaders in the fields of food, hospitality, and fine beverage. About her selection, she modestly says, “It’s an honor.”

Similar to Leslie’s views on how food enriches cultures, LDEI promotes culinary diversity and recognizes food as “the thread that connects all cultures.” Her membership in LDEI attests to her culinary skills and knowledge and her support of community health and well-being. The organization carries the name of Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), the most innovative chef in history who was known as “The Chef of Kings and The King of Chefs.”

Three or four times a year Leslie and her team plan special culinary theme dinners. For example, a “Taste of France” held last March celebrated French culinary traditions with selected wines and four courses prepared by Emma. Sponsored by the French Consulate General in Atlanta and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the dinner was held in more than 130 counties. Thyme & Place was one of only three locations in our state chosen to participate.

More recently, Thyme & Place held a Native American dinner with flute music and storytelling. The main course included platters of quail with rice pilaf, bison brisket with greens, and Three Sisters mélange of corn, squash and beans. Chef Emma also prepared smoked trout with a white bean spread as the first course and delighted everyone with a delectable Sioux Indian pudding for dessert. (I know. I was there.)
The café’s embrace of culinary diversity is reflected in specialties that include arepas (Venezuelan corn cakes), banh mi (both vegetarian and pork) inspired by Vietnamese cuisine, a classic Cuban, and a tartine (a French open-faced sandwich with creative toppings). The Hassleback potato — named for a Stockholm restaurant — is topped with chorizo and poached eggs covered in pimento cheese sauce. As the menu says, “No need to fly across the ocean” to find something interesting.

About her staff, she says, “I let them be creative. They’re more than capable.” With Jari and Emma firmly established in pleasing customers, Leslie is trying to pull back “and work on bigger objectives.”

One area of expansion is catering. The café offers full catering for weddings and other events — up to 150 people — and can also complement an event with specific foods. Thyme & Place also has added new meals to go, and they include the popular empanadas.  

“Cooking is artistry. It’s like having a palette and being able to choose the colors that you use. Whether you are a chef or baker, what you do with the ingredients is up to you,” says Leslie.

For the team at Thyme & Place, the palette pleases many a customer with passion, spirit, and freshness.
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