Editor’s note: This is another entry in an occasional series of photo columns by Morning Sentinel photographer Rich Abrahamson.

 

WATERVILLE — Kelsie Dunn, 11, was wrapped in a blanket and stood outside Jorgensen’s Café and Deli when I stopped for coffee on a snowy Thursday morning before Easter. She stood next to a table that was loaded with muffins, scones, cookies and fruit croissants. Tall dispensers filled with freshly brewed coffee were nearby and at the ready. The girl’s mother, deli owner Theresa Dunn, talked to the driver of a car that stopped to grab his curbside order.

It’s been a rough time for Jorgensen’s and other restaurants that were forced to lay off employees while closing their dining rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic. Like other downtown restaurants, the café reduced hours while staying open for carry-out and curbside pickup.

Kelsie Dunn, 11, assists a customer at the register while working with baker Dee Hunter, right, at Jorgensen’s Café and Deli in Waterville on April 10. Dunn’s mother is deli owner Theresa Dunn. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

A pair of retired sisters are among her regular customers, Theresa Dunn said. Before coronavirus, they ate breakfast while sharing their favorite table near the door. Now their food is taken to go and driven home. The order hasn’t changed. “Two sesame bagels, cranberry walnut cream cheese on the side and two small coffees,” said Dunn.

Coronavirus has changed the way Dunn operates the café. To avoid cross contamination she dispenses coffee, cream and sugar for her customers. She wears gloves and is the only person to handle food. All the pastries are handled with paper before being individually wrapped.

Kelsie opens the store with mom every morning at 6:30. Sometimes she catches a nap on the couch before eating breakfast and going to work. The girl is experienced at greeting customers, taking orders, dispensing coffee and working the register. Her work is sometimes set to the beat of music played through her cellphone while skating through the café on lighted roller blades.

Her mother brews coffee, while making breakfasts and sandwiches to go.

“We just want to bring people in so we can get some money for the bills,” said Kelsie, a student at China Middle School.

The spacious café covers two rooms and seats about 80 people. During slow times the mother-daughter team have worked on every part of the café. They’ve taken it section by section, according to Dunn. Furniture and décor were moved, walls bleached before being repainted. Surfaces were wiped down. The kitchen was deep cleaned and painted blue. Half of the café lights are left off to save energy.

Kelsie Dunn, 11, of Jorgensen’s Café and Deli in Waterville, enjoys house made blueberry coffee cake as she skates through the deli’s dining room on April 1. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Before coronavirus, master baker Dee Hunter, 65, of Waterville, was making her mark at Jorgensen’s. Dunn brought her in to expand the café’s line of baked goods. In February after awareness of coronavirus became more prevalent, she and other café staff were laid off.

Hunter was also laid off from her second job at Bagel Mainea in Augusta. The business eventually closed. Sensing more hard times to come, Hunter quickly applied for a position at Home Depot where she was hired to work in the gardening department. Her daily work includes watering plants and flowers.

With an opportunity to do what she loves, Hunter was hired back by Dunn to make special dessert orders for Easter meals.

“I love being with a family that works hard and appreciates me being here,” said Hunter.

Dee Hunter frosts a pineapple carrot cake April 10 at Jorgensen’s Cafe and Deli in Waterville. Hunter was preparing made-from-scratch desserts for Easter. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Pineapple carrot cakes and cheesecakes were made and picked up by customers for the Easter holiday. Hunter and Dunn look forward to making more special orders for Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays. “Homemade desserts bring people together,” Hunter said.

Many restaurants don’t make their own baked items. Uncooked items are delivered first, cooked, then decorated, according to Dunn. Hunter’s specialty is making “100% from scratch” desserts.

Baker Dee Hunter and Jorgensen’s Café and Deli owner Theresa Dunn package a cheesecake April 10 in Waterville. Hunter prepared made-from-scratch pineapple carrot cakes and cheesecakes for Easter. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

“I love baking. This is what I enjoy most. It’s my number one,” said Hunter, as she mixed the first of four pineapple carrot cakes. Raspberry cheesecakes were baked last while the carrot cakes cooled before getting a layer of cream cheese frosting.

“Dee is the happiest person I know. She always has a smile on her face when she’s baking,” Dunn said.

Hunter began mixing ingredients in the kitchen as an 8-year-old. She learned to bake while working with her mother at the family’s Waterville home. Her skills in the kitchen were important to keeping a large family fed. She was the second oldest of six children.

At 15, she took a waitressing job serving breakfast and lunch at Sweet’s Lunch in Fairfield. Hunter worked after school and on Saturdays at Sweet’s.

As an adult, Hunter found that her passion for baking was taking over her home. She responded by expanding her business and opening Dee’s Bakery along College Avenue near the old Marden’s store. The bakery was there for 11 years. She catered events and made wedding cakes while running the business.

Freshly baked pineapple carrot cakes cool at Jorgensen’s Café and Deli in Waterville on April 10. Dee Hunter baked the made-from-scratch carrot cakes for Easter. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Hunter makes more than 100 desserts including cakes, pies, rolls, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and pastries.

Dunn and daughter Kelsie look forward to sharing the kitchen with Hunter while providing homemade desserts to their customers.

“I will run and grab the Graham crackers for her,” Dunn said. “I will wash the dishes for her, whatever it takes for her to crank those pies out. Kelsie will be the taste tester while the hard stuff is left up to Dee.”

All desserts are 100% made from scratch using recipes that have never been written down, said Hunter.

She owns volumes of cooking books, using them only for reference.

“I don’t need a recipe,” she said. “They’re in my head.”

 


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