From Farm to Pizza

An Afternoon Chat with Sola and Red Tractor’s Tiffany Lach

Cassi Miller  |  Friday Apr. 1st, 2016

Balance is crucial in life. When it comes to food, people seek balance. Is it possible to consume delicious food that is also healthy? Can a restaurant produce sumptuous, decadent meals while also caring for the community in which they exist? Can one combine dining and sustainability? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Step through the doors of Sola Café or the newly expanded Red Tractor Pizza and you have found your balance. Tiffany Lach, chef, business owner, café curator, lover of Bozeman, sat down with me at Sola over delightful salted caramel lattes to talk about the journey toward that balance with food.

 

CM
: What drew you to the restaurant business?

TL: I grew up in it, worked in restaurants since before I could see over the counter. My father had this restaurant in Indianapolis called the Tin Star Jail. It had a great theme. There was one section of the place where you sat and ate in an actual jail cell. All the sandwiches were named after gangsters, the Baby Face, the Al Capone, and the like. The restaurant was known for its handmade sandwiches and from-scratch soups. It had the first salad bar, before Wendy’s came along. My father was definitely my inspiration.

When I lived in Santa Barbara, I owned my own café and art gallery and I loved it. We were all organic before that was ever really a thing that people did. Then, I sold the café and worked in the corporate world for a while. With kids, the security and insurance was attractive. But when I got to Bozeman, I knew I still wanted to be in that restaurant atmosphere. I wanted to do something ethical and responsible for the community when it came to food.

CM: Oh, that brings me to my next question. What do you love about having restaurants in Bozeman? About being part of this restaurant community?

TL: Well, we opened Sola about seven and a half years ago. My goal was to offer good, fresh, local food because at the time, that was hard to find in Bozeman. I mean, the milk and the meat were no problem, but vegetables and other fresh produce were definitely a challenge then. But now, gosh, there’s such a community of local food providers and it has been wonderful to watch that transform over the years. That actually inspired me to create the market side of Sola. I wanted to create a space, a launch pad, to help others showcase their local products, but also unique items from all over the country that represent a care for food, for what they are making. After all my experiences in this industry, I felt like it was my turn to give back and help others. That is my mission. Anyone who creates beauty in what they do, who puts thought into what they are creating, recipes or artisan products, deserves a chance. There are so many Renaissance people out there, in this town, who consumers deserve to know about.



CM
: So specifically with Red Tractor Pizza, tell me about that journey. How was that restaurant born? What were your goals there?

TL: Well, if you remember, in 2012 we had a fire here at Sola that forced us to shut down for four months. I was sort of in denial that we would be closed for that long, for four whole months. Before that fire, we knew we needed more bakery space for Sola, and it just so happened that after the fire, during renovations, the On the Rise space became available, which was very exciting. I was a little overwhelmed signing another lease, but I couldn’t say no. It became a mini version of Sola, where we made breads and sweets and sold them outright, but it wasn’t quite what people expected. We thought the high school crowd would sustain us, but that wasn’t happening like I wanted it to and we were struggling about what to do next. Pizza just came naturally. We were already making a pizza dough and I thought, with this hot oven that I’m already paying to keep running, why don’t we just do pizza? There were no organic pizza places in town and this allowed us to do something more with Montana grains. The original name was Farm to Pizza, but we settled on Red Tractor Pizza to give it more of an icon. And Adam, my partner at Red Tractor, is phenomenal. He’s showed me what a good partnership can really be. His father had restaurants in New York where he grew up working and helping out, so our partnership seemed so natural. This was definitely my making lemonade out of lemons moment.

CM: So what do you want people to experience here and at Red Tractor?

TL: Above all, I want them to feel cared for. That’s the most important. I want them to eat good food, but I want the whole thing to be a complete sensory experience. I want this to be a place where people gather; I want to serve food that people gather around. I want them to have conversations. I want them to be together here. I love being able to hear laughter in the restaurant. Even when people are crying, I know that real human moments are happening here. Yes it’s about good food, but it’s also about being together.

CM: Lastly, what’s the most popular dish at Sola and Red Tractor? Do you have any fun events coming up?

TL: Oh, that’s a bit of a tough one. At Sola, the most popular dish is our gluten-free pancakes. People are always asking about them. They are made with almond meal and they are so good. At Red Tractor, it’s probably our Bill Murray Pizza. It’s made with a roasted garlic sauce, bacon, mozzarella, dates, and gorgonzola, and it has this amazing sherry-honey glaze. We have a big picture of him in the restaurant, too. People love that.

So at Red Tractor, we have Music Mondays, which have been great. We’re working on getting more live music in there on Fridays and Sundays, too, hopefully eventually theming our nights with genres of music. At Sola, we have periodic jazz and our display art is constantly changing. We’ll also have our Goat Day coming up in May, so people should check out our Facebook page as that gets closer, because Amaltheia Dairy brings there baby goats here and the kids love it. Both spaces have a kids area, so we’re always welcoming families.

It’s quite clear to me that Tiffany Lach, as a restaurant owner, exudes that balance in food and care that true foodies seek. She and her staff at both Sola Café and Red Tractor Pizza strive to create a place for all, where people can come together, share food, and share real human experiences.

About the Author(s)

Cassi Miller

Cassi is a writing instructor and veteran services tutor at MSU and also works for Montana Gift Corral. She loves exploring everything Montana has to offer and spending time with her husky named Flames. She can be reached at: cassijo79@gmail.com

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