Ponderings by Henri Bensussen, MCWC board member and
Mendocino Quill's editor, a.k.a. The Maven
She’s driving a 1970 Dodge, a Special Edition sold back then as a compact sedan. It looks about 25 feet long. The top is painted a dark orange (when its vinyl coating peeled off in a car wash, Oscar painted it with Rust-Oleum); the gas cap hangs off its sprung hinge (the car’s been rear-ended three times). Inside the capacious trunk is a hot breakfast for 90, including spinach frittata, potatoes, oatmeal, scones; on the back seat are platters of watermelon and cantaloupe dripping juice on the sturdy upholstery. But do not dismiss Oscar or her unusual catering vehicle. She’s a fixture at MCWC for good reason.
By 8:05 people are lined up and being served by Oscar and her assistant of 30 years, Eileen Kwan. Oscar was named before birth by her grandfather (her middle name is Ann). It
brought a lot of teasing in her school years, but later it helped her get jobs as a chef. She was the first woman chef hired by the local Captain Flint’s seafood restaurant at Noyo Harbor, done by phone and quite a surprise to them when she showed up for her first day of work.
Oscar established her catering business in 1982, as The Phantom Café (“If you can find it you can eat there”). You can learn more of her history on her website ThePhantomCafe.com.
And you can taste her cooking at next year’s Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.