This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.
BAKERSVILLE – With just a few steps, folks can once again go from seeds to food at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company — no planting required.
After a two-year hiatus, The Baker Creek Restaurant reopened in August with new chefs and new ideas for the vegan eatery. The distinction means no animal products are used in its dishes.
“I just love to experiment,” says Martine Walker, who has past experience with vegan and raw foods and moved to the Ozarks from Colorado with husband Ken Walker to lead the reopened restaurant.
“I love … taking a favorite dish and then recreating it to be vegan, and have it be appealing to maybe people who aren’t vegan, or skeptical of vegan food. We try to make things that are acceptable to everyone, not just vegans.”
The restaurant is part of Bakersville, a pioneer village at the famed seed company’s headquarters in rural Wright County. In addition to the restaurant, it features period-themed buildings, shops selling home and clothing goods, and its namesake seed store. In line with that vibe, the restaurant is housed in what appears to be the Ozark Hotel — but offers Asian flair through food and decor when one opens the door.
“Jere (Gettle) has an affinity for all things Asian,” says Martine of Baker Creek’s owner. “Asian food does lend very well to vegan. You can do a lot of vegan dishes as Asian dishes and not be changing a whole lot of things.”
What’s on the menu at The Baker Creek Restaurant
A small-but-mighty list of distinctive dishes comprise the restaurant’s menu, and currently includes Chinese dumplings as a featured appetizer, and mains of Italian pasta (think pesto), vegetable satay (a creamy peanut sauce with veggies, Burmese tofu and rice that’s gluten-free), and Thai red curry (made with seasonal veggies, and also gluten-free).
Still hungry? A pumpkin brownie, topped with vanilla oat milk ice cream, is an option for dessert.
The restaurant’s farm-to-table mission — and effort to integrate as many local products as possible — comes through dishes like the pasta. While the specific variety may evolve depending on the day, on a recent visit it featured house-made pesto featuring Genovese basil that’s grown at Baker Creek, local black walnuts, nutritional yeast (for a nutty, cheese-like flavor), vegan chicken and “whatever fresh tomatoes we have ready to harvest for the topping,” adds Martine.
“Then we make the noodles all in-house here, too. Back through that room is the noodle maker. We make all the noodles on a big, old machine.”
And the dish is accentuated by a piece of sourdough bread — also made by the farm owner’s mother, who bakes goods used in the restaurant and individually for sale.
Perhaps another surprise to some is that there is a price tag for that pasta.
In the past, meals were offered by donation, but that has changed with the restaurant’s reopening. Costs, however, are moderate: $10 is the upper figure charged for any dish on the menu.
The fame of the heirloom seed company
While Baker Creek has its heart in the Ozarks, it’s known far beyond the region. The company, founded in 1998, claims the spot as North America’s largest heirloom seed company with more than 1,300 varieties. One metric of its reach: More than 800,000 people follow the company on Facebook.
It’s free to visit Bakersville, which is open Monday through Friday. At certain times of year, crowds also come for special events — such as its spring tulip festival and planting festivals — at the site.
The Walkers were two people who admired Baker Creek from afar before making the decision to move to the Ozarks.
“We found out about Baker Creek through the seed catalog,” says Ken, of the company’s famed book-like publications of colorful plant possibilities. “We fell in love with the pictures, and the layout is so beautiful. They had a little tiny ad in the very back saying ‘Come join us’ and an email address.”
Martine sent in the couple’s resumes to see what might happen — which, in this case, was an offer to lead the restaurant.
“Everything lined up really, really well,” her husband says. “So it was kind of like — God, the universe, whatever you ascribe to — laying it out for us. When it works out easy, it’s meant to be.”
The Walkers both have considerable past experience with food and restaurant management, including ownership of a raw food company. Those facts created a foundation for their move to Missouri.
“We love food,” says Martine. “But it was mostly that we just wanted to work at Baker Creek.”
The Baker Creek Restaurant is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about the restaurant and village, click here.