Meet Chef Patrick Cowden of Person Street Pharmacy Cafe and Wendell’s Farmhouse Cafe
images by Summit Exposure
In the Wendell Falls Welcome Center, there’s a Farmhouse. Inside, there’s Farmhouse Café, a new concept by Chef Patrick Cowden, who took over the Pharmacy Café on Person Street five years ago. Farmhouse Café is filled with fresh breakfast and lunch options like avocado toast, grain bowls and artisan sandwiches. We talked with Cowden about his new concept, and learned more on the Danish specialty he’s serving—the smørrebrød.
Tell me a little bit more about the vision for Farmhouse Café.
We are located in the Farmhouse, the Wendell Falls Welcome Center located in Wendell, North Carolina. My goal moving into this space was to create a community gathering place—a place that not only serves the residents of Wendell Falls but also is open to the public in general. Wendell is definitely an up-and-coming community. I wanted to have a place that beckoned people to gather over a glass of wine or a craft beer and enjoy a casual night out together. A place that serves a quick lunch of creative sandwiches and grain bowls. A place that for breakfast a person can nab a big ol’ biscuit or go the healthy route and catch a chia seed pudding or an Acai bowl. In essence, I wanted to create a place that welcomed a wide range of people to find their “go-to” cozy spot.
What is your personal background? How did you get here?
My family is from the mountains of North Carolina, and I have been in Raleigh since 1984. I went to New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and have worked at quite a few places here in the Triangle. Throughout the past few decades, I served as the Chef de Cuisine at Jean Claude’s Cafe and Executive Chef for establishments including Michael Dean’s, The Grill at Glen Lennox, Michael Jordan’s 23 Sport Cafe, The Weathervane at A Southern Season and Tobacco Road Sports Cafe.
My business partner Daniel Whittaker and I took over the Pharmacy Café five years ago and have partnered together in Green Planet Catering. After nearly 20 years in North Raleigh, my wife and I recently moved to Wendell Falls—an incredible master-planned community just 15 miles from downtown. We were lucky enough to hear that the previous operators of the Cafe (Grounds Cafe) were not renewing their lease this past summer. After discussions with the developer, Newland, we were able to open Farmhouse Café this past September 2019.
I’ve been hearing about the Smørrebrød. What are they? Why should I try one?
The Wendell Falls Farmhouse has some fantastic architectural features which, to me, gives it the feel of a Scandinavian farmhouse. So why not do something that no one else in the Triangle is doing?
And why should you try them?… ‘CAUSE THEY’RE AWESOME!!
Smørrebrød are a Danish classic. They are open-faced sandwiches served on a dense rye bread (we use the Danish Rye from Boulted Bread) with a wide variety of toppings. It typically includes three key ingredients: the thick rye, a smear of butter or flavored mayonnaise and a visual presentation that provides a “pop” or colorful “wow.” This gorgeous dish is a great meld of a sandwich and an upscale, white-table-cloth entree one would typically find in a cool bistro downtown – and it’s just the right size for a lunch or a light dinner. I love sandwiches of all types. And as I mentioned before, I get a Scandinavian vibe from the building; so I thought it would be cool to introduce the Triangle to Smørrebrød.
Do you have any other menu highlights that you want to share?
We are getting ready to roll out an evening small plates/social menu that will play well with our sandwich-oriented, all-day menu. There will be even more Smørrebrød available at night and wine-centric plates designed to share with friends. This evening menu will change very regularly; I call it seasonal “Mood Food” … being, what am I in the mood for at the time? Sometimes I am on an Asian kick; sometimes it’s French (especially if I just had dinner at Jolie the week I am planning menus) or maybe I want to get back to my Appalachian roots. Always fresh, new and savory!
What’s happening at Farmhouse Café for the holidays that we should know about?
My wife just finished doing an AWESOME job decorating the Cafe for Christmas. One look would tell you that we’re certainly already in the holiday spirit. At Farmhouse Café, there will be plenty of holiday-themed menu specials, a Christmas Cookies with Santa event and as usual, live music every Friday night. Warm, cozy, welcoming, incredibly delicious… Farmhouse Café will be a great place to meet friends and enjoy some great holiday fellowship.
Monday-Thursday, 7 am-9 pm; Friday-Saturday, 7 am-10 pm; Sunday, 10 am-6 pm; farmhousecafewendell.com