Sweet Potato Baby Café owner Aryen Moore-Alston, a finalist on the Food Network’s Food Network Star show in 2014, always wanted to own her own restaurant. Now, after running her successful Sweet Potato Baby catering company for the past two years, she’s getting her chance.
“As soon as she got off the Food Network show, she decided that culinary was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, so she opened up a gourmet cupcake fundraiser which morphed into a full-service catering company,” said Karen Moore, marketing director for Sweet Potato Baby.
Moore-Alston has running a catering operation out of the United Way Plaza building at 1005 Tillman Street since this past July, and people in the building kept commenting that they smelled the delicious food from her catering gigs but they could not have any.
“So she decided to go ahead and open a café,” said Moore. Moore-Alston will continue catering operations at the United Way Plaza building with the addition of a sit-down lunch service.
A ribbon-cutting and official opening took place in late October.
The new café will employ 10 to 15 employees to start out, and Moore expects to add more servers and a pastry chef in the coming weeks.
Moore-Alston, who was just voted in as president of the Culinary Federation’s Memphis chapter, provides job opportunities for her former culinary students at Knowledge Quest.
Sweet Potato Baby is currently only open for lunch on Tuesday through Friday. Appetizers include mac and cheese hush puppies and bruschetta with side items like sweet potato biscuits with honey butter, pan-roasted garlic green beans and garlic parmesan sweet potato fries. The menu includes sandwiches such as burgers, paninis, an eggplant parmesan sandwich, and grilled salmon with brie. Entrees include fried chicken, miso salmon, lemon and rosemary roasted chicken and sweet potato fritters.
Moore-Alston spent her childhood in Italy, and she also lived in Japan as a foreign exchange student.
“All of the places she been, she’s soaked up the cuisine and learned how to cook,” said Moore.
The café’s location was previously used as a cafeteria for Georgia Pacific, so some retrofitting was needed including removing the buffet railing and adding fresh paint throughout.
The new café will continue with its catering services, which were named to the Greater Memphis Business Chamber’s Top 10 Companies to Watch list in 2015. Sweet Potato Baby enjoys regular clients like Leadership Memphis and TeachMemphis.
“Catering remains the heart of the business,” said Moore, who points out that the café can be rented out for special events on Saturday and Sunday.
Future plans possibly include adding a dinner service.