Do what you love, love what you do.
Those words perfectly describe Lamar Sloss and his long-time love affair with the art of making specialty crepes.
A Love Story
Although his formal education was in business and marketing, after graduation Lamar applied for a job that took him a new direction. He applied to become a crepe chef. At the time, the he didn’t know much about what it meant to be a “crepe chef,” nor the doors that it would open in his life.
Two months into his post at Holy Crepe, in Nashville, Tennessee, Lamar met Samantha, an Eagle River girl who was attending school in town. She was a regular at the restaurant and caught Lamar’s eye. In little time, the spark was undeniable. Years later, he fondly recalls, “I ended up meeting Samantha, loving crepes, and falling in love with her. I guess I fell in love with the whole thing!”
But soon, Samantha finished her studies and moved back to Alaska. After a year of keeping in touch long-distance, Lamar decided to come north to visit Sam. The decision seemed big for him- leaving Tennessee to travel across the country to Eagle River, Alaska, in December. After the visit, he had made up his mind. Lamar left his life in the lower 48 and moved to Eagle River in 2015, where he soon married Sam.
On his wedding day, Lamar’s mother fittingly gave him two crepe wheels as a wedding present.
In Alaska, Lamar didn’t have any trouble finding cooking jobs. Over the next few years, he worked for Snow City Café, Middle Way Café, Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop, and a few other local restaurants, all along the way studying methods, gleaning wisdom, and honing his skills in the kitchen. He also cultivated relationships with local businesses and made valuable contacts.
Taking A Gamble
Everything seemed to be pointing toward Lamar stepping out on his own. Still passionate about crepe-making, and feeling that there wasn’t anyone in Anchorage or Eagle River offering them to the community, the seed of an idea began to grow. He had considered running his own business off and on for years, but the timing hadn’t been right. Now, he felt ready to jump in. Weighing the risks didn’t frighten him. Though admittedly still a bit “green” in some areas, Lamar felt he had adequate cooking experience and a lot of crepe experience to start on his own.
Making It Happen
With support from Sam, a lot of enthusiasm, and two crepe makers, Lamar started catering “pop-up” events under the banner of his new business named A Crepe Crew. His idea was to bring his equipment and ingredients to make crepes to an existing coffee shop or brewery for a night here or a morning brunch there. He started by doing private parties for family and friends. With the positive feedback and the successes that followed, he was offered his first major pop-up event at a deli in Anchorage.
It was trial by fire. Maybe Lamar had anticipated a slower start or a gradual turnout, but what he met that day was a huge, hectic crowd- all eager for his crepes. With a band of a few buddies to help him, he quickly received 60-70 orders and was caught unprepared for the sheer volume. Without enough support, he took much longer to deliver than expected. Customers waited 45 minutes to an hour to receive their crepes. Although he was a little shaken, he noted with laughter, “everybody loved the food.” Encouraged that the demand was real and that people loved what he was serving, he knew he could fine-tune the operation to be a viable business.
A Crepe Crew soon evolved into a catering company, and Lamar took on a business partner, Kevin Frawner. Although crepes are still his passion and the prime focus of his offerings, they now cater to private events with a full range of menu items. He likes to think of himself as a “chef for hire.” To his surprise, pop-up events have become a more substantial portion of the business than expected. The on-site pop-up jobs at local companies have grown from one day a week to 5-6 times each week, accounting for nearly 70% of his business. Currently, the Crew sets up at Cynosure Brewing two evenings a week, where customers enjoy local beer and specialty crepes. On Saturdays and Sundays, Lamar and Kevin go to Uncle Leroy’s Coffee Shop and serve crepes for brunch.
The partnership with Kevin has allowed Lamar to focus on the business side of the operation to a higher degree. The two have established a rhythm to their workflow, and it’s common to see Kevin working the crepe wheels while Lamar takes orders and delivers crepes to hungry customers at events. They switch roles at times, finding greater creativity and efficiency as they work in tandem.
And the menus they offer are far from ordinary. The soul of the business has become to offer exceptionally satisfying food that is also creative and of a higher quality than the run of the mill chain. They feature Alaska Grown and organic produce and meats whenever possible, aiming to nourish people as well as stimulate their taste-buds. In light of that vision, A Crepe Crew makes everything from scratch, including the ketchup, mustard, mayo, whipped cream, and hot sauces. Crepe-making has become an art- and the variations of sweet and savory crepes they offer and rotate seasonally are incredible. Proudly, Lamar says, “A lot of love goes into what we make. We hope to change people’s minds about crepes.” He adds, “we’re cooking food that I would wanna eat. I think a person likes to be fulfilled soulfully, along with sustenance. We’re bridging that gap between taste and nutrition, and offering it with local organic products. We want to present a meal you’re proud to eat and that we feel proud to serve.”
A Crepe Crew
Since the business took off, Lamar and Kevin have kept their schedules busy. There is nothing automated about the bulk of the operation. Some trades still require a fair amount of manual labor to achieve the goal. In their crepe business, all the prep tables, dishes, silverware, equipment, and food are transported to the various locations in their vehicles in totes and ice chests. The guys set up, and they tear down. And it’s not all a bed of roses. When asked what he likes the least, Lamar responded emphatically, “Dishes,” noting that they average two hours of dishes after each busy event. “We do a lot of dishes, that’s for sure.”
But both men have a strong work ethic and log 70-80 hours per week at the job without many days off. As Lamar put it, “I love what I do. I can’t complain about it. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for so long. My mentality is that I just love it all. I’m learning so much.”
Among the blessings of a prospering business, Lamar and Sam welcomed a new member to the family this past summer- Elijah Sloss. With a wide grin, Lamar said, “It’s made me more efficient…[and] It’s put a lot of perspective in my life… like what’s important and what’s not. It’s prioritizing. I didn’t know I could squeeze so much out of a day.”
As new babies seem to do, they help us refine our focus, and then add a layer of joy to our lives that we didn’t expect. It’s not unusual to see Elijah swaddled to Lamar’s chest while he’s busy making crepes. He, too, is now a part of the “Crepe Crew.”
Lamar loves making crepes, but what he thrives on most is the moment when everything that he has prepared for comes together. All of the hard work and planning that goes into preparation many times comes down to about four hours of high-intensity. The increased energy at an event and the push to get all of the orders out gives him a great sense of satisfaction. But while there are many components involved in pulling it off, both he and Kevin strike their rhythm and make it all look effortless.
Lamar continues to sharpen his skills as a chef, expanding his menu into other items for the catering side of the operation. As the business continues to grow, so do his plans for the future. He confided, “I think it would be really cool to have a Crepe Café here in Eagle River. Someplace close to home that I could walk or ride my bike to. Maybe have the café serve breakfast, lunch and an early dinner.” Pausing to think for a moment, he then added, “also some longer events. I would like to do more fairs and festivals. Maybe even the Alaska State Fair.” His ambition for the future doesn’t stop there. “Ten years out, I think it would be pretty cool to take this nationally. I think crepes are underrated in America. Once I get the system down, I could duplicate it elsewhere.”
For Lamar, the privilege of doing what he loves daily, and successfully, is not lost on him. With his likable, easy-going demeanor and a big smile, it’s no wonder his business is taking off like a rocket. In addition to working hard, Lamar feels that supporting other small businesses is also a key element to his success. “I’ve only lived in Tennessee, but I can see Alaskans have a lot of pride in this state and in their community. We’re glad to be a part of it,” he notes.
But with all of the hard work and grand ambitions for the business, Lamar still loves cooking breakfast at home.
“Breakfast at home is my favorite. It really is! This morning, I cooked some French toast, bacon, fried potatoes, and some cheesy eggs with a little homemade hot sauce. This is my favorite- a lazy day and cooking at home.” Then with a chuckle, he added, “and then…maybe taking a nap!”
If you’re interested in venturing into the world of crepes, stop in one night at a pop-up event and try the crepe burger with an ice-cold craft beer. You’ll thank me later.