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She Aims to Serve


Hilary Shelley has been waiting tables at Oakland’s cozy Full House Cafe (see page 70) for less than a year, but the regulars already know her by name.

"This is that kind of place: There’s a familial feeling between the staff and the customers," Shelley says, adding that the rest of the world could use a bit of this infectious friendliness.

"When you meet a new customer—or any new person in your life—you want to get to know their name and make eye contact with them when you’re listening to their order," she says. "You can’t cruise around on autopilot all day. It’s not helpful to you or anyone else."

Shelley waits tables four mornings a week to pay for her classes at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She’s working on a master’s degree in philosophy, cosmology, and consciousness studies. But it’s not ESP that tells her what most of her customers are going to order as soon as they walk in.

"There are people who come in every day and want the exact same breakfast every single time," she says, scanning the restaurant. "It doesn’t take long to remember their ‘usual’."

Vegetarian Creamy Red Beans Omelet, From T.J.'s Gingerbread House

Creamy Red Beans


4 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 shallot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 each of red, green, and yellow bell pepper, chopped fine

1 stalk celery, diced

2 1/2 quarts of water

1 cup dry red kidney beans, washed

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon green onion, chopped fine

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a pot. Sauté the next four ingredients on low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add water to pot, bringing to a boil over medium heat. Add beans and bay leaf; cook about 90 minutes until beans are soft and creamy. Add all the spices to the cooked beans and cook for another 30 minutes. When done, sprinkle green onion and parsley on top of the beans.

Sautéed Vegetables


3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 small red onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup carrot, sliced thin

1/4 red, green, and yellow sweet bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into julienne strips

1/2 cup each green and yellow zucchini, sliced

10 snow peas

4 small flowerets of cauliflower and broccoli

4 or 5 mushrooms, sliced thin

6 or 7 water chestnuts, sliced

4 asparagus, sliced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons green onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 radish for garnish


Heat olive oil in a saucepan; add garlic and onion, stirring constantly. Add carrot, cook until soft, then add other vegetables except green onions and parsley, stirring constantly. Add sauces and spices and cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle in green onion and parsley. Garnish with radish.



3 medium eggs

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter


Beat eggs in a small bowl; add salt and pepper to taste. Set 7-inch omelet pan over low heat until it’s thoroughly hot. Add butter to pan until it sizzles, then pour in eggs. Using a fork or a spatula, draw mixture from sides of pan to middle, allowing uncooked eggs to run underneath. Repeat until eggs become fluffy. Cook for about 2 minutes, until golden brown underneath. Slide omelet from pan onto a warm serving plate. Pour cooked beans into the center of the omelet, then fold the edges of the omelet over the beans. Top with sautéed vegetables. Serves 2.

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