With little-to-no experience in the restaurant business, Beth Goldwater started her career in the industry by working at a small café in Chicago. Now, more than a decade later, Goldwater will be expanding her career as a restaurant owner with a second eatery on Camelback Road.
Arcadia News talked with Goldwater about her beginnings and what’s new for Bertha’s Café.
Where are you from?
We are from New York, but we moved around quite a bit when we were younger. We ended up in Arizona in 1998 and then our parents moved back to New York, and we stayed. The first Bertha’s opened in 2005.
When did you get into the restaurant business?
I was going to college at the time, and I visited my brother in Chicago. I was supposed to stay for a week but I was having so much fun, he allowed me to stay for the summer. He’s like, “You have to get a job,” because he wasn’t going to have me not work. So, I got a job at a café, with absolutely no experience, and I had so much fun at this tiny little café.
It was early morning hours, making coffee and everything from scratch, and I thought, “I can’t believe people do this for a living.” It was so much fun and I just got hooked. I went back and changed my major to hotel/restaurant management at NAU.
Did you always know you wanted to be a baker?
No. Originally, I was going to school for architecture. I knew I wanted something with a creative feel. I looked at a fashion institute – I knew I wanted to be creative, but I didn’t know which medium. I took some classes in fashion and architecture, but I didn’t get that inspiration until I got into this industry.
What is the story behind the name Bertha?
Bertha comes from my twin sister. She thought it would be funny in high school to tell everybody – I think it started with me telling her not to call me Bertha, and when you tell a sibling not to do something, they do it tenfold. So that’s what happened, and now my nieces and nephews call me Aunt Bertha – all my friends and family, that’s just what they call me.
What is the inspiration behind the dishes at Bertha’s?
I started off creating cheesecakes out of my brother’s restaurant, Nixon’s, in Phoenix. And I loved making pastries. It was something where I could be creative; it was my passion. I got busy enough that I decided to do this on my own and went from there. I found a tiny spot and opened up a place.
The inspiration is just my love of being creative with food. I made a business plan, and my husband and I created a menu and it actually became more popular than the cheesecakes almost. That part has been really fun and a learning process.
What is your signature dish?
I would say cheesecake, since that’s what I started with and that’s my passion. We have a lot of flavors. My favorite has been a baklava cheesecake – the creamy with the sweet, it was so good. Or the s’mores one – that one is my favorite too.
What is the most challenging dish you’ve had to cook?
Our recipes are pretty simple – we do a lot of comfort food. The only thing that’s challenging is if I’m getting distracted and burn something.
It’s probably something that I’d make at home, like a dish I’d make for a holiday dinner.
What is your go-to comfort food?
My husband cooks at home a lot – there’s a lot of meat and potato dishes. But I would have to say tacos, because he actually makes a really good taco. Or his green chili pork.
What is the most challenging part of being a restaurant owner?
Right now, it’s hiring. I have an amazing staff and a lot of people who have been with me for a long time, so I don’t have to do it often, but when I do it’s hard to find that good person. And since we have a small staff, it’s almost like you’re playing “match” where you’re looking for a person that gets along with everybody. You want them to enjoy working together.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’m hanging out with my 7-year-old. He had a holiday concert recently, and I was excited to see him right at the front – he’s a short little guy.
Who inspires you?
You go through phases and styles of cooking – my new place has a Southwest feel to it and we’re using a lot of spices, so I’ll say Bobby Flay at this point. He uses a lot of spices and does a lot of relatable food, so I’m going through a lot of his books and shows for inspiration.
What advice has stayed with you throughout the years?
When I was going to pastry school, one of my teachers said, “Never memorize a recipe,” specifically for baking, because you might mess up. I tell my bakers, don’t memorize this because you have to be precise, and if you miss one of those things that you’ve memorized, you could mess up the whole recipe.
Who would be your dream dinner guest?
My mom. Because I think she would be really proud. And let’s include my grandparents as well.
Tell us about your new restaurant at the Camelback Esplanade.
It’s called Goldwater’s. The food is American with a Southwest feel – some of the recipes are passed down from my husband’s family. It will focus on breakfast, lunch and craft cocktails.
The location is where my brother had his first restaurant – it was a political pub where a Democrat and Republican could sit and watch the debate and there were no bad words; it was a discussion. My last name is Goldwater – so the new place has a political feel to it (I’m related to Barry by marriage), but we changed it around to represent the Goldwater women.
I didn’t want to get political, and Barry gets a lot of attention, so I went with the women of Goldwater. One of them started Planned Parenthood in Arizona – some of them have done some amazing things and started amazing companies, so it’s cool to be a part of that. The grand opening will be January 2.
What advice do you have for people who want to pursue a career in this industry?
Don’t think about it as a part-time job. This better be your passion. It’s stressful, so you better enjoy it because you’ll be living it. Also, get yourself a supportive spouse!