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Central California Life Magazine

The Grove - An Unexpectedly Fresh Find Hidden in Clovis

Jun 16, 2016 03:06PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

A cook tossing pizza dough at The Grove Cafe.

The Grove Cafe in Clovis, CA is making an impact on the community in a surprising and unexpected way.

"The Grove" boasts locally sourced food, daily specials, several different menus to choose from, 12 different breads, a made-to-order sandwich station and wood-fired pizza station, as well as 80-90% from-scratch meals. And to top it off, the food is very reasonably priced -- it's easy to get a half sandwich, half salad combo, along with a drink, for less than $6. 

Because of the quality, freshness, and affordability, "The Grove" is drawing interest from an increasing portion of the community. "They had fresh salmon for $4, and sides of vegetables for about .89 cents," said Community Medical Center's Senior Communications Specialist Mary Lisa Russell.  

Interestingly enough, the location of this tasty cafe is in the Clovis Community Medical Center. The Grove Cafe is, indeed, a hospital cafeteria, though their mission to create healthy, fresh food and ingredients sets them apart from most other hospital cafes. They have fresh, local produce delivered 6 days a week.

On Yelp, the Grove has 4 1/2 stars, and rave reviews. A typical comment is similar to one posted by Liz T., "I've been coming here for the past couple of weeks since a few of my coworkers raved about it," she writes. "Apparently a lot of people come here on their lunch breaks."

We had a chance to get in touch with Paul Luchi, director of nutrition and dining services at Clovis Community, and Jeff Dinmore, executive chef of nutrition and dining at Clovis Community Medical Center. 
The Grove Cafe seats about 80 people.

The Grove Cafe "used to be just a simple café for employees and patients," Paul informed us. "The area originally was completely surrounded by orange trees, and that's where the 'Grove Cafe' was born." 

The Idaho-based Thomas Cuisine Management runs Clovis Community’s food services department, including the Grove. Chef Jeff has been head chef at the Grove for 6 years. Paul has been with Thomas Cuisine Management for almost 14 years, and had worked at a different location prior to his position at the Grove."It's always been their focus -- genuine service, and developing great relationships." Paul recalled meeting someone that "has been working with the company for 50 years" as an example of their loyalty to harvesting relationships. 

Paul started working in the food industry at the age of 17 and Jeff started as a busboy at 14. The rest is history! 

When asked what their hopes for the future were, Paul joked, “We would like it to slow down a little bit!” 

Essentially, their number one priority is taking care of the patients, nurses and doctors that are at Community Medical.They have been conducting lots of research on healthier options that can be served. "That will be the big focus, healthier healthier healthier." 

It is their mission to provide those working and staying there with healthy, unique options, and are doing all that they can to sway people to come to the Hospital, whether it be patients or employees.

What helps them truly stand apart from a traditional hospital cafeteria, is that they enjoy what they do, and are proud of the food they are serving. Not only that, but they also have a special "healthy options" Menu that includes specials every day. 

Alongside their comfort food menu -- wood-fired pizza, pasta, sandwiches -- their healthy menu includes lean protein, veggie option, and a healthy starch option. The Grove also has a fantastic “Flavor and Fire” salad section cleverly titled "Field of Greens" and is always pretty healthy. "The bulk of clientele are the employees, so we want to make sure there is variety," Paul stated.

Selection of build-your-own pizzas.

Another popular aspect of the Grove is the wood-fired pizza section. They offer made-to-order, wood-fired pizza that is incredibly popular. H M. on Yelp left great feedback, "I was so impressed myself that I ate it up with 15 mins," he writes. "The crust was chewy and cheese was delicious. Highly recommend the pizza if you ever eat lunch or dinner there."

In order to keep it interesting and diverse, they are always asking people their opinions. Paul said that he asks the important questions, "What haven’t you seen? What haven’t you had?" 

Backing up Jeff in the kitchen are great cooks. "They come up with great menu ideas," said Jeff. "They have a desire to want to have, and serve, great food and provide great service." Jeff gives these cooks opportunities to be creative and assist in creating daily specials and menu items, as well as taking lead and fully creating the specials themselves.  

Behind the scenes, The Grove has a retail manager and retail su chef that run the café like a restaurant, which is a contributing factor to the ultimate success of the Grove so far. "They plan a lot of things," Paul said. " And create menus. In the summer time, they put together a BBQ program. Once a week they put out BBQ station." The items are different each time, like chorizo, chicken, and more. 

Something that inspired both Paul and Jeff is the fact that they get to use fresh ingredients daily and have the freedom of creativity from the entire staff. Jeff said, "It makes people excited to come to work, to have that passion for what they are doing. People can feel and see that passion." 

They love that they are able to build a professional program that has a lot of passion behind it. "We roast our own beets," Paul said. "That to me is phenomenal. As many items as the prep guy has to prepare each day, he still takes the time to roast and peel beets." It is this attention to detail, the thought put into each item, that has people coming back for more. 

According to Paul, one of the continually funny things he hears people say is, “Let’s go to the hospital for lunch." 

"At the end of the day," Paul said. "We use clean, simple ingredients to create great food."

For more information about The Grove Cafe and Clovis Community Medical Center, visit their Facebook Page or their Website. You can also view their Yelp reviews

Simply Fabulous Food: Episode 1 - The Grove Cafe