Michaella Olavarri knows a thing or two about baking.
She knows how to cook cuisine from all over the world and boasts 30 years of experience in the industry, including running her own patisserie/coffee roastery and acting as head chef at a variety of restaurants across the country.
And now, after stints on Vashon-Maury Island at places like Minglement, Burton Coffee Stand and the local farmer’s market, Olavarri is ready to open Mica’s Kitchen, a new eatery in the same spot as The Maven Mercantile, another food establishment which recently shut its doors.
In an interview with The Beachcomber ahead of Mica’s Kitchen’s soft opening this Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Olavarri said she is excited to get cooking.
“This is my gift that I love to share,” she said. “Food makes people happy.”
Mica’s Kitchen promises to be an eatery offering standard American cuisine that would appeal to anyone — soups such as house chowder and sandwiches like the Reuben, brined and smoked for five days. Not to mention fresh baked bread, vegan and gluten free options, and, of course, the Burton bun — a cinnamon roll-like pastry covered with a light dusting of sugar.
Olavarri will open Mica’s Kitchen with her son, Mark Dunham, who has a degree in computer science and business technology and will be the designated “numbers guy” behind the new business. Olavarri will cook, bake and run the operation along with three islanders.
The space and patio will remain mostly the same as The Maven Mercantile, with an on-trend, distressed country look. An inside community table will be added for those who wish to dine in and connect.
The mother-and-son duo envision the space as “a place to talk and socialize,” Olavarri said, “kind of like eating at home with a big family.”
Drip coffee from the Vashon Island Roasterie will be served to accompany morning pastries bright and early at 5 a.m. The eatery will remain open until 7 p.m. for take and bake dinner options.
Olavarri, who has family in the Seattle area, moved to Vashon-Maury Island in 2013 after a friend offered her a cooking job — and a place to stay.
But Olavarri’s life includes several unexpected hardships: lost leases, a divorce and cancer diagnosis. It’s what caused her to pack her bags in Alaska and move down to San Francisco, where she learned of La Cocina, a nonprofit kitchen that supports business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color in the area. The nonprofit offered Olavarri kitchen space at a reduced rent to get her back up and running. She also had access to mentors such as Traci Des Jardins, one of the top female chefs in the country and two time winner of the James Beard Award, who sits on the board of La Cocina.
Later, living on the islandwith her friend from the Bay area, Olavarri tried her hand working for several island food establishments while looking for the right opportunity for a storefront.
At the same time, Heidi Finley, the owner and founder of The Maven Mercantile, decided to close up her storefront to expand her other food delivery business.
Once Olavarri decided to open Mica’s Kitchen, the announcement of the eatery’s opening was made public and posted on Facebook. Finley was “super pleased” to see the new business would be in the food industry.
“Mica has a great following in the community,” she said.
Just days away from opening Mica’s Kitchen, Olavarri is confident it will be successful — while remembering that it took her persistence to get to this point in her career.
“Never stop believing in your dreams,” she said.