We Are Alfalfa
Alfalfa's more than restaurant, we're a part of the community and we're all about the people who work here, eat here and have kept us here since 1973. Here's a look at a few of the folks who've made Alfalfa a staple of the Lexington community.
Erik May: The Salad Man
Erik May (pictured at right with Jennifer Topolski Bayes) thought he wouldn’t last a day working at Alfalfa. Even though is culinary tastes were more about Burger Chef and McDonalds, friends pressured him to apply for a job but, “I didn’t want to because I was a punk and didn’t want to hang around with a bunch of hippies," recalled Erik.
"The guy with the blue eyes” as he’s referred to by customers who know his face but not his name has done nearly every job at Alfalfa and has long since give up fast food burgers for red beans and rice.
For the last 8 years Erik has been making our legendary salads. What’s the secret to the Alfalfa salads? "The dressings," he says. “I follow the recipes exactly as they were at the beginning so they’re as consistent as possible. The house vinaigrette is the most popular with miso and blue cheese dressing following close behind. Miso dressing is one of those dressings that once you acquire a taste for it you can’t give it up,” he adds.
The fact that Alfalfa uses as much locally grown produce as possible also makes Alfalfa salads stand out. Erik says, “You can tastel a huge difference in the freshness of the local vegetables. I also like that we just keep cycling the money back into Lexington when we buy local.”
We’re glad Erik lasted more than a day at Alfalfa. In fact, we can’t imagine the place without him.
Helen Alexander: The Heart of Alfalfa
The heart of Alfalfa, the best sauté cook in the universe, an artist, and “a helluva dice player” are just a few of the ways Helen Alexander’s co-workers describe her. Owner Jim Happ and wife Betsey even named their daughter after her.
Helen (pictured at right with Joey David), the dinner sauté cook and cookie baker, has been with Alfalfa for 24 years. She started cooking at age 10 under the guidance of her mother who she describes as "a fantastic cook." “My mother was known for being the best cook in Central City. I would start the beans and cornbread while she was at work and she would come home and finish the meal. I still make the flour for the chicken the way she taught me, 50 years later.”
Helen has a natural talent for making food look beautiful. “When I worked salads, I started cutting the cherry tomatoes into flowers and placing them just so inside the green pepper, working with colors and shapes. When I sauté for dinner I try to make the whole dish look just like a Japanese house with everything arranged just right. Not too much.”
Also known for baking amazing cookies, Helen makes saucer size chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies. She has tweaked the recipes over the years, carefully adjusting the sugar, vanilla, spices and leavening agents to create cookie nirvana.
Helen has lots of stories about Alfalfa through the years. “Back when the restaurant was on Limestone we were closed on Sunday and Monday nights. Sundays would be men’s night and Mondays were women’s night, though anyone could come either night. We’d make big meals, drink and play dice. We were an island of misfit toys. It was like a big family.”
Helen adds kindness, humor and talent to the Alfalfa recipe. We hope she stays another 24 years.