“A vegetarian café? That can’t survive in Wolfsberg! “Andrea Buchsbaum often had to hear this in the beginning when she opened her creative café – Creafé – in January 2018 in Johann Offner Straße. It was a meeting place not only for lovers of good coffee and vegetarian food, but also for those who like knitting and crocheting. The café offered many books and magazines for reading in comfortable chairs and sofas, which created the atmosphere of a second living room. You often saw people knitting and crocheting in the café and the knitting circle “Wollfühlen” met there every month. In 2019 Andrea fell in love with the Hotel Aldershof garden and relocated. At the end of 2020, she unfortunately really had to close down her successful dream project, but it had nothing to do with the menu card.
Andrea, why is Creafé in Aldershof no longer open?
This question gives me heartache again. The last few years have been characterized by a lot of hard work, also for the family, because unless everyone lends a hand, such a project will not work. In spring 2019 we were completely euphoric. It went really well and we were hoping to be able to hire more staff and take things a little bit slower. Then came Corona. It was like someone had pressed the stop button.
At first we were still thinking “Ok, this will be manageable somehow.” I can still remember the words of the government: “No one will be left behind.” Then you get € 500 in funding, which isn’t even enough for private rent, let alone business expenses. Suddenly it was “It is the entrepreneur’s own fault – they have to create reserves.” What should you use to create reserves in the early years of a company, when at the end of the month it’s barely enough to survive?
During the first lockdown we also learned that we would soon become grandparents for the first time – this made us think about the future even more. The summer actually went really well, although with full personal commitment, which brought me to my limits healthwise. When “Lockdown” was proclaimed once again in autumn, we as a family decided to no longer run the café. It was not an easy decision and I suffered a lot from it. When you realise a project that is so close to your heart and people embrace it really well, it feels as if you’re taking it away from them again.
What do you miss the most?
What I miss most is the exchange with people. Anyone who knows me better knows that this was my greatest fear before opening the café – today I have to laugh about it. As a young woman, I never really felt at home in the Lavant Valley. It made me feel constricted. I always wanted to be free, free in my decisions – my motto was always to live and let live, no matter how, where and with whom. I already moved to Lower Austria for the first time when I was in my early twenties. The second time I lived in Vienna for 5 years. Still, something brought me back to Wolfsberg again and again.
In the conversations before the opening I was told by someone that you only attract the people who are right for you and that’s how it actually was. Suddenly it became clear to me: They are here too, the people that are open to new things, that see the world with my eyes. There were so many great moments and real friendships developed.
What don’t you miss at all?
If I’m being completely honest – all the work. But now I also have a granddaughter whom I spend as much time as possible with. Time is very precious, I have definitely come to this conclusion in recent years. What I also don’t miss is the feeling of being the center of attention. As a café owner the attention is on you, that was too much for me sometimes. I’m someone who gets up in the morning without thinking about the hairstyle and outfit when I go to the baker’s, but suddenly everyone knows you and thinks they can judge you. I also like to call a spade a spade, which isn’t something everybody tolerates. So I’m enjoying the seclusion at the moment a lot more after all.
Do you like living in Wolfsberg?
Oh yes, by now I can definitely say that. Over the years I’ve gotten calmer, I no longer have the feeling of missing out on anything. You need this attitude in order to live happily in a smaller city like Wolfsberg. A big advantage of Wolfsberg is definitely its geographical location. The mountains, the lakes – everything is relatively easy to reach, but it’s not too far to the sea either. A large part of my family lives here too. I used to always want to emigrate, to Ireland for example. I fell in love with the country and its people during my first holiday in Ireland, but now I can no longer imagine it. It’s nice to have children and grandchildren nearby. Family is an important part of my life.
Do you sometimes long for Vienna?
Definitely not in times like these. Nevertheless, I also enjoyed the years in Vienna – the diversity, the anonymity, the range of cultural events … But at the moment I’m enjoying the peace far too much.
Where do you cook today?
True to the motto “when one door closes, a new one opens”, my current job fell into my hands. At the same time I decided to close the Creafé, the local health food store Demeter was looking for a new cook. This sentence also makes me smile, since I’m not a trained cook, but had always worked in the technical field before. Sitting behind a desk again was out of the question for me, so I sought a conversation with Michi, Michaela Tschubi, the boss of Demeter St. Markus. We both knew relatively quickly that this connection would be beneficial for both of us. Only recently we talked about a breakfast menu similar to the one at Creafé, but the details aren’t clear yet.
How does your philosophy fit together with Demeter?
Our philosophy has always overlapped – nutritious, regional and seasonal cuisine. I think it’s important to buy from small, regional companies and at the Creafé I got my vegetables mainly from “Biogemüse aus dem Lavant Valley” in Bad St. Leonhard and the “Biobote” from Kappel at Krappfeld. It was always clear to me that professionally I can only do what I also do privately. I have always considered the opening of the shop by the founder Josef Tatschl to be great and courageous. He did it in 2007, a time when not that many people were thinking about where their food comes from. To be honest, I don’t think many do that today either – everything has to be available at all times. I am convinced that we have to get away from that thought. In the end, it’s in the hands of the consumers, but most of them are still not aware of that.
At Demeter St. Markus, grains and vegetables are grown regionally. Most of the dairy products come from their own farm on the Leidenberg, while bread and pastries come from the farm and are later baked in the shop. We only use organic food. We speak out against the throwaway culture and use the food available for our lunch menu. I professionally prepare meals the same way I would at home. I can’t imagine doing anything better or more meaningful at the moment… Yes, there is something else, namely to pass on the knowledge I have learned and am practicing in workshops. To show people that vegetarian and vegan cuisine does not have to be boring or difficult and that it can also taste very good.
Why are you a vegetarian, actually?
When I think back to the time when I still ate “normally”, I didn’t like eating meat back then either, I think even as a child. But I grew up in a time when the rule was “you eat what’s on the table”. In addition, my mother was a single parent of 5 children, which meant that having enough food was not always a given. Wasting food, as it often happens today, was not an option at all.
I didn’t like cooking when I was young either. At some point I realised for myself more and more often that after the typical Carinthian evening meal I felt a feeling of fullness and a general discomfort. In 2012 I came across a vegan cookbook by Atila Hildmann in a bookstore. At that moment I decided not only to give up meat, but also to try a vegan diet. It was at this time that I discovered my passion for cooking – suddenly there were so many foods that I hadn’t even known before and that tasted so delicious. The argument “what can you still eat as a vegan”, that I’ve never been able to relate to. My diet was suddenly much more varied, more colourful and I felt that it was good for my body. Personally, it often seems to me that people forget to listen within themselves, what’s good for them and what they should leave alone. With the opening of Creafé, I switched to a mostly vegetarian diet. A purely vegan café, I think Wolfsberg might not have been ready for that at the time.
Do you have a favorite food?
No, I do not. I hate boring cuisine, which also means I don’t like to cook the same thing over and over again. I love to experiment, to try new recipes and new combinations with grains and vegetables. However, I really like to eat legumes, preferably lentils.
What role does handicraft play in your life?
It’s my second passion. To be creative with knitting needles or crochet hooks is like meditation for me. I forget everything else around me for hours. I have neglected this hobby in the last few years, but also realised again how much I miss it. My website www.mrs-buchsbaum.at is currently under construction, but my blog and online shop for wool and accessories will be there in the future. I also still gladly accept orders for knitting and crocheting.
For me, knitting is so much more than just sitting and knitting. It’s passion, love, personality and happiness. In the end, you have a finished, one-of-a-kind project – something you created with your own hands. Creafé arose from my wish to share and talk about this hobby with others – that was the original idea behind it. In the end, people preferred to eat and drink. But you can also be creative when cooking and create something with your own hands.
Is there a life motto that accompanies you?
“I am the owner of all my decisions.” Nothing has been put into my lap, and I have not received any inheritance. Everything I have or don’t have in my life I have created with my own hands. I think the saying is so fitting because nobody but me has to live my life. I’ve already made a few decisions in my life, they weren’t always good when I look back, but who knows beforehand. Even as a teenager I was aware that we only have this one life available and nobody knows when it will end. That’s why, already as a young woman, I wanted to make my own decisions and not do what anyone else thought was best for me. I don’t want to stand there one day and ask myself, “Was that it?” Although when I think about it, that won’t happen anyway. So far things have always been quite exciting in my life and I don’t have the feeling that that was it already. I think there is still a lot to come – let’s be open for surprises.