Art Cafe wins over the queen of talk
By Nathan Welton
July 26, 2004
Oprah Winfrey found
a lot more than she bargained for between two slices of white pepper-jack
bread in San Luis Obispo a few weeks ago.
After sampling a homemade sandwich from San Luis Obispo's Art Cafe
and Bakery, she decided to put in a plug for the business.
She also decided to buy part of it.
"It turns out this was the most expensive sandwich I've ever had," Winfrey
said Sunday after a photo shoot at the restaurant slated to run in October in
her magazine, O.
The humble chef, cafe owner Margaux Sky, was surprised and elated --
especially considering she had plans to sell her restaurant about an
hour before Winfrey's offer came through.
"It was just a sandwich, you know what I mean?" she said.
To Winfrey, it was the mother of all sandwiches; the chicken curry within the
homemade bread represented culinary perfection.
It was good enough to cause the uber-celebrity to break her no-bread
diet and send Sky a check -- the amount of which wasn't disclosed --
less than 24 hours later.
The two had never met, and Oprah hadn't even seen the cafe.
Winfrey's chance encounter with the meal came a few weeks ago while
visiting Tim Bennett.
He's worked with Winfrey for about 20 years and is now president of
Harpo Productions, which runs her television show, magazine and Web
Winfrey was reportedly hungering for a turkey burger. But Bennett --
a recent transplant to San Luis Obispo -- instead arranged for his
sister-in-law, Sky, to bring a few sandwiches to his house.
Bennett "said 'Enjoy it -- because tomorrow she's shutting down her cafe,' " Winfrey
And enjoy it she did.
But Sky, who opened the eatery about 2 1/2 years ago, had become tired
of her hectic schedule and was ready to move on.
Sky said she had been working 12 to 15 hours a day, baking her homemade
breads before dawn and preparing other fixings as late as 6 p.m.
The restaurant wasn't necessarily in financial difficulty, she said,
but it wasn't making a large enough profit to employ more than two
people. As a result, she had become almost a one-woman show.
"It all hit me at once," Sky said. "I woke up at 3 a.m. one day
and said, 'I can't do this any more.' "
She made arrangements to sell, lining up a buyer to sign at 9 a.m.
the day after the food was delivered for Winfrey.
But the signature wouldn't come.
"I've never bailed someone out," Winfrey said. "It's all about
the sandwich. ... Everyone who is that good should be given a chance."
When Winfrey left San Luis Obispo, she immediately began thinking about
investing -- and extended an offer the next morning at 8 a.m.
Bennett "called and said if I wanted to stay in business, the check was
in the mail," Sky said.
So she said she would..
"Women try to do too much instead of reaching out and asking for support
so they can do what they do better," Winfrey said. "Always do your
best, because you never know who's watching."