Once upon a time, a young boy named Martin spent a spring in Oregon, on sabbatical with his father at Oregon State University. Oregon wove its magic around the young fellow, and he vowed to move here one day.
Years later, Martin Bleck attended the University of Miami to earn a dual degree in film and in art – degrees he achieved but quickly knew he would never use. Instead, he followed what he loved: Food. He was a penny poor student and loved a fine meal; so he taught himself the science of masterful cooking in order to love what he eats – and afford what he loves.
Ready to face the world of food prep and begin working his way up the ladder, Martin knocked on the door of Creative Tastes Catering, owned by a woman who served the celebrities, catering 450 events a year – where single events had budgets of $150,000. If you assume the woman who interviewed him was one named Janet, you are correct. But if you think this is the “happily ever after” part, I must disappoint you. She hired someone else. Every fairy tale has its villain, and in this case, the villain (whom Janet mistakenly hired) never showed up for work. Martin got the call.
Janet says the chemistry was immediate – and the relationship soon changed to husband and wife. Marriage was good for the business; in 2004 they opened Garden Café Catering at the Fairchild Tropical Garden, employing 75 people between their two businesses. In the meantime they’d also had a son, and set their sights on moving to Oregon before he entered high school.
Twelve years of Oregon reconnaissance during the Florida portion of their lives led them to settle in the Chehalem Valley. In 2009 they bought The Underground Coffeehouse in Newberg, adding the café portion. Itching to move back into the “fine food” business, they claimed the space for Subterra as soon as it was available, opening their new restaurant of affordable fine foods and selling The Underground in 2010. Janet’s knack for building businesses and serving her community soon led to the birth of The Rogue Gourmet Catering Company, offering food service of choice for events around the valley.
In their eleven years here, the Blecks have reached beyond their businesses and into the community. Janet immediately trained as a Master Gardener. She’s an Earlybird Rotarian, involved with the youth leadership division and the annual Pancake Breakfast at the Newberg Old-Fashioned Festival, one of her Rotary group’s major fundraisers. She is also a member of the Newberg Soroptomist Club. The Blecks donate locally to many causes in Yamhill County, focusing on education and the arts.
Janet admits that business in our valley is slightly different from the star-studded events of Miami. Here, Janet says, the people who have hired her help her unload her truck when she arrives. People gather to enjoy food, family, and friends, not just to “one-up the Joneses.” In this beautiful valley, Janet says, they have been welcomed into the camaraderie of a people who are honest and forthright.