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Tempeh it Forward 

Young co-owner of Cafe Yumm, Karli Foster means business

When Karli Foster walks into Townshend's Tea House for her interview with the Source, she is dressed in the uniform of one of the front counter employees of Cafe Yumm. Since she is the co-owner of the Bend Yumm, one would think she would be in civilian clothes, but Foster doesn't work that way.

"I don't broadcast it at the restaurant. I play restaurant, is what I call it. I play restaurant every day so I'm on the line. I do everything the employees do. I clean the drains, I do the dishes, I make the rice, I open, I close, I work mids. I'm there for whatever's best for the restaurant," explains Foster. Her youth explodes out of her hazel eyes when she smiles.

Karli does not say any of this to brag. She means it. She believes in Cafe Yumm. From the food they serve all the way up to the franchise's mission statement.

Karli moved to Bend from Eugene in 2008, specifically to open up the restaurant. As a student there, she became familiar with Yumm due to the restaurant's saturation in the area.

"I started eating at Yumm in early 2000 when I went to college in Eugene. Then I lived in Southern France and then moved back and graduated from U of O. It was the opportune time: I had finished school and my travels and Cafe Yumm had announced they were franchising in 2007 so I knew I wanted to jump on board."

At 26, she was in love with Yumm's philosophy, and became the youngest franchise owner. Five years later, none of that luster has worn off for her. Karli said that the aspects of the company's philosophy that drew her in were simple.

"The triple bottom line. To be socially, economically and environmentally aware in all of the decisions that we're making for the business. And the business model, again, I think is brilliant. We're serving beautiful, delicious food to people in the community."

While Yumm can sometimes take up 40-80 hours a week, she also volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club, reads as much as possible (Tom Robbins and Chuck Palahniuk) watches movies (she loves Jennifer Lawrence), works out at the athletic club, explores the river trails and teaches herself the ukulele.

The boundless energy and enthusiasm she feels for all of her hobbies and business is clear. There does not seem to be a cynical bone in her body.

"The food, the product, I believe in it so strongly. I'm so passionate about it and I believe it's one of the highest callings: to serve food to our community and I get to do that by serving them good food," Foster says, grinning. "I love multi-tasking, I love challenges. I've always felt like, 'There's a problem? There's a solution. We're gonna work through this.' You're navigating ambiguity, in a way, but you're also using all the tools in your tool belt to get to that solution."

Foster seems ready for anything. When asked if there is anything else she would like to add, she says in all seriousness, "Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones." As she walks out the door, I realize two things: 1) Damn, I like the sound of that and 2) I would kill for a Hot and Jazzy.

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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