Annie Bennet — co-owner with her husband Dave of Annie’s Cafe in Bountiful — has a story to tell. The path that led her to opening Annie’s Cafe was an arduous one, filled with triumphs and setbacks — challenges both personal and professional, and more obstacles than most of us see in a lifetime. But Annie is full of grit and determination, resilience and resolve.
Her origins alone are uncommon. She was born and raised in Argentina to an Italian mother and an Egyptian father after they immigrated to South America. Her father was 17 and her mother 14 when they met on a fishing boat in Italy. She has French culinary training, worked with Gordon Ramsay in Las Vegas, owned a food truck in Reno, and somehow, found herself making crêpes in Bountiful. Here’s how it happened.
Annie’s mother — who also works with her at Annie’s Cafe — was a pastry chef in Argentina. “She had an academy and her own TV program in South America,” says Annie. “So I grew up in the kitchen.” Marriage brought her to Utah some 30 years ago, where she lived in Heber City with her husband and four children. However, the marriage wouldn’t last, and suddenly, Annie was a single mom raising four kids.
“I was working in a bakery,” she says, “but with four kids, I needed another job. So, I went to work for the Department of Corrections in Nevada.”
She worked in maximum security prisons in Las Vegas and Ely as a cook, but also was responsible for finding and removing contraband — alcohol, drugs, etc. — from the prisons. It was very difficult work, and not exactly what this talented pastry chef had in mind.
To make matters much worse, her oldest daughter at the time got very sick and needed a liver transplant. “I had to put my dreams aside and kept working in the prisons because I needed the money,” she says. “But while I was working in the prisons, I also went to culinary school and I got pretty lucky. I got to work in Las Vegas with chefs Gordon Ramsay [of Hell’s Kitchen fame] and Scott Conant and became Scott’s pastry chef at his Scarpetta restaurant.”
She then went to work at Gordon Ramsay Steak restaurant at The Paris hotel & casino. “But I couldn’t afford to leave the prison yet. So I was going to school full-time, working in the prisons, raising four kids, and also working in restaurants.”
Annie would eventually be transferred to Reno, but was getting further and further from her dream of owning her own business in the culinary world and “doing what I want to do. But then I got pretty lucky again,” she says, reminiscing. She was hired by the Town Club private women’s club here in SLC in the Avenues, where their motto is, ‘Empowering Women Since 1930’ — “and they made me Executive Chef. So now I am finally doing what I love … and my health crashed.”
Bleeding ulcers would lead to the removal of 90% of her stomach. “I had to stop working,” says Annie, “because I can’t be cooking in the kitchen and catering with feeding tubes attached to me. And my resume was pretty thin, so when I got better, it was back to prison work. I got a job working at the jail in Farmington.”
In time, she would meet her current husband, Dave Bennet, on a hike. He’d eventually ask Annie, “What do you really want to do?” “I want to have my own business,” she replied. Well, with unlucky timing, Annie and Dave opened their food truck business called Crêpes & Cakes just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US. Yet another setback.
But as we’ve learned by now, Annie is not one to let mere obstacles like COVID stand in her way. With Dave’s help (he basically built the kitchen and interior of the Bountiful eatery from the ground up) the couple opened Annie’s Cafe during the pandemic. “I couldn’t have done it without him,” she says, with gratitude.
It’s a very small space — just a handful of tables — but business is brisk, Monday through Saturday. Customers seem to go gaga over Annie’s savory and sweet crêpes. They run the gamut from a Loaded Chorizo breakfast crêpe, Flank Steak crêpe, Monte Cristo and Philly Cheesesteak crêpes, to sweet offerings like Nutella Banana, Love Me red velvet crêpe, spiced rum-infused bananas Foster crêpe, and many more. She also sells house-made pastries, smoothies, boba teas, homemade soups, and other tasty temptations.
But Annie is a formidable woman. Looking to the future, she says, “I’m not done yet. I want to open a fine dining restaurant.” And I, for one, would not bet against her and Dave. They’re already looking at a large space adjacent to Annie’s Cafe that maybe … just maybe … could become Annie’s dream restaurant.
There’s a sign hanging behind the counter at Annie’s Cafe that says, “She Believed She Could, So She Did.” Pandemic or not, you’ve gotta dream big.
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