Our People of Kaldi’s series regularly highlights great individuals, often with long careers at Kaldi’s or fascinating journeys through the coffee industry. Without our team of coffee-loving, people-loving people, Kaldi’s Coffee wouldn’t be Kaldi’s Coffee!
This month, we’re mixing it up with three profiles in one post. Each fall, we welcome a wave of new team members. This year it's been an especially busy hiring season, so we thought it would be fun to check in with a few new team members and get their perspective on what it's like to join the Kaldi's Coffee team.
Paige - Demun
On Beginning at Kaldi’s
I’d known about Kaldi’s since I was a child; I’d come get a gooey butter cake and an orangina every day after school at Captain Elementary across the street. At the beginning of the summer, I was looking for a job and I wanted something fast-paced and community oriented. I’d put in applications elsewhere, but when I interviewed here, it just felt right. Everyone was super-nice and welcoming, it was clearly the environment I wanted to be in.
On Training as a Barista
I started three months ago, in June, and I’m working in the front of the house, just beginning my apprentice training on the espresso machine now. It was very nice to ease into things in the summer, the mornings were busy but the afternoons were quiet. The cafe is picking up now that students are coming back.
Training has been great, it’s a supportive environment and I feel like people want me here. It’s a very close, tight-knit group, and they really welcomed me in. I was nervous at first because I’m so young (highschool senior), and people here are in college, grad students, post-college, but as I’ve worked I’ve gotten so close to everyone. Working with great co-workers is really fun. I’d never worked a solid eight hour day, so adjusting to that for the first time in my life was really hard. It helped when I got closer to my team and learned how to stay moving and working. Stopping kills my momentum and makes the day drag.
There are a few regulars who come in and we all stop and greet them. Last Saturday was totally insane but a regular, Tony, came in and made my day with his smile and hello. Just getting that moment of connection is why I love this. When I started, I worried I’d never get to know all these people, and now I can make their day or they can make mine better just by appearing!
Theo Esten - Demun
On Moving to Saint Louis
I moved here mid-July, after graduating from college and visiting home over the summer. My fiance is from St. Louis and got a job at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and we’d been looking for a place to live. I’d enjoyed working in coffee before, I wanted something local, and I had a lot of friends who went to school in St Louis who recommended Kaldi’s. We found an apartment less than ten minutes from both of our jobs, in a lovely, quiet neighborhood.
On Training in the Kitchen
I started at Kaldi’s on August 1st, so I’ve almost been here a month training in the kitchen, and today’s my first front of house training day! My last job was as a barista at a cafe in Evansville, Indiana, where I worked for over two years. It was less structured than Kaldi’s so I’d switch in and out of the kitchen, which made me comfortable in multiple areas. I really enjoy having a system here though; I like knowing what I’m doing on a shift.
It was an easy transition, the build cards and training made it pretty easy. Having a team member by my side was super helpful. They’d show me how to make a dish, then I’d make the dish, and they’d give me feedback immediately. I try to sample something different each day from both the food and drink menus; the food is great quality and I’m proud to be making it every day.
I was taking in so much information at the beginning and I’m an introvert, but every day got easier as I started connecting with my co-workers. The people here are wonderful, I’ve had a blast. We have a nice squad in the back; we have a great time pumping tunes and working our way through the day together. The camaraderie makes the hardest days easy. Knowing that mistakes are alright, that everyone’s here to support each other, and that there are these wonderful people beside me who are open and friendly, all of this has made my first month a great experience.
Luke Johnson - Washington University Medical Campus
On Beginning at Kaldi’s
I was working nights this summer, looking for a new job, and was listening to Michael Pollan’s This is Your Brain on Plants on tape. When I reached the section on coffee, he started telling the legend of Kaldi, the Ethiopian goatherd who discovered coffee originally, and I thought, yea, I know Kaldi’s, I should apply at Kaldi’s. So I went online and filled out the application, which was super easy.
I came in with no expectations. I found there’s a great sense of team here, even when I’m working on my own, and the communication is great. My interviewer, Jillian, had a palpable passion for Kaldi’s in my interview persuaded me to work here. I asked her for her Kaldi’s story, she told me about her nine years with the company, and I was jealous, like, I want that! I usually don’t see that level of passion in many places.
On Training in the Bakery
I’ve been baking for 15 years, in cafes and bread bakeries, so training was super familiar to me and training with Lisa (Lead Baker in Chesterfield) was wonderful. The job is time management: what’s in the oven, what’s cooling, what can you mix, what can you prep, what can you decorate. You have to figure out the best game plan, the best flow. I studied art history, but got a job baking at nights, and I’ve always loved it. When I graduated, I thought, why not keep baking? I love feeling like a helper elf, appearing with treats that delight people.
Favorite moment so far
At Kaldi’s we have fresh ingredients, everything is quality, and we were just voted best coffee shop in Feast Magazine’s People’s Choice award; I’m proud to be here. My favorite moment so far was our Harvest rollout meeting with all the other Saint Louis bakers. Baking is a solitary activity, so getting together and meeting the whole Saint Louis team and talking to those great people, hearing about their different mentalities and walks of life as we got focused and visualized our fall attack, was wonderful.
Speaking to Paige, Theo, and Luke was a joy. Their openness, appreciation of teamwork, and passion were on full display, and represent the qualities that help Kaldi’s provide an exceptional coffee experience. To explore careers with us further, please apply, and be sure to welcome the new faces at your favorite cafe this fall!