Congratulations to longtime client Peg Rasmussen, owner of Peg’s Countryside Café and Catering in Hamel, on her well-deserved induction into the Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame. The Minnesota Restaurant Association presented the award at its annual ceremony at the Saint Paul Hotel Nov. 19. Previous Hall of Fame inductees include such Minnesota restaurant icons as Pat Murray, Jack Mancini, David Fong, Bill Kozlak and Jack Kozlak.
For 37 years, Peg and her staff have served meal after meal after meal – more than three million by her estimation – to customers at her 55-seat restaurant that sits on the western edge of the Twin Cities. Along the way, she’s watched suburbanites discover and embrace her tiny small-town restaurant. She’s also been chosen to embody the new face of Betty Crocker, started a thriving catering operation and helped kids develop an interest in the restaurant business — all while cultivating strong friendships with her longtime customers.
“If we’re closed,” says the sign on the door to the bright yellow and red cafe, “just slide your money under the door.” With sentiments like that, you might expect Rasmussen to be a down-home purveyor of folksy philosophy and stick-to-your-ribs home cooking. And she is. But she’s also a nationally recognized businesswoman, former president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association and of the Twin West Chamber of Commerce.
In 2009, Peg spun off her burgeoning catering business into its own facility, just down Highway 55 from the café. Today, Countryside Catering provides the same great service and cuisine – including “fancier” items, plus their signature cupcakes – that the Café became famous for, delivering food for business meetings, weddings, graduations and parties all over the Twin Cities.
In 1996, General Mills named Rasmussen one of 75 women across the country to embody a revamped Betty Crocker logo. Photos of the women were incorporated into a computer-assisted composite image, which Rasmussen proudly displays – alongside thousands of photos of restaurant regulars – on the Café’s wall.
This “non-cook” has appeared on local and national television showing people how to make her trademark fare, and is a part of one of the country’s most recognizable and enduring food-related trademarks.