Samantha Stephens, chef and founder of OatMeals, always a foodie, took full advantage of being in the “Food Capital of America” (maybe the world) when she moved to New York City for college. Thousands of restaurants serving cuisines from around the world—what’s not to love! For one thing, the “Freshman 15” that had expanded to the dreaded “Freshman 30.” For another, the drain on her meager student budget. She had to change her eating habits. Oats, she found, are among the healthiest grains. They are brimming with vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and antioxidants, and they lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, oats keep you feeling full longer, so that you eat less and lose weight.
Sam loved the benefits to her health as well as her budget, but, bottom line, it was the taste that had her eating oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She had tapped into her inner epicure to prepare wildly creative dishes that changed a bowl of oatmeal into a sensory adventure with the stylish presentation, the appetizing aroma and the piquant taste. As she worked her magic, she fantasized about having an oatmeal cafe.
After she graduated, she followed the path prescribed by her degree and went into investment banking—very successfully. But visions of oatmeal never stopped dancing in her head. She attended the International Culinary Center, where she earned a Grand Diplôme in pastry arts and, eventually, made the leap from Wall Street to Greenwich Village. Sam opened OatMeals, the world’s first oatmeal bar, in a neighborhood filled with innovative, hip eateries and still her cafe stands out. It has become a haven for the students at nearby New York University needing comfort food—cutting-edge comfort food!
You can Build Your Own bowl. Select from three sizes of bowls: Baby Bear, Mama Bear and Papa Bear (of course) with steel-cut oats made with water and choose from among more than 80 toppings: fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, sweet stuff, savory stuff, spices, sweet dollops and drizzles, You can finish up the bowl with a splash of milk if you like.
The Signature Bowls created by Sam are equally tempting. Each one falls into a category, such as Comfort (includes “Peaches and Cream”); Hot and Bothered (includes “Tropical Sunrise” with fresh fruit and coconut); Savory and Spice (includes “The Elvis” with peanut butter and banana). Sam’s unique Signature Bowls also incorporate international cuisines, including French, Italian, Greek, Indian, Thai and Chinese.
Don’t think you have to give up dessert in the midst of all those healthy offerings. Pastries are baked on site each morning, made with rolled oats and oat flour: scones, croissants, cinnamon rolls, cookies and cookie dough truffles.
The atmosphere in the cafe is as comforting as the oatmeal. Sam’s collection of oat tins are on display (an oat art exhibit), a vase of wild oat stalks adorn the front window, throw pillows are made from oat sacks, and an oat skateboard sits in a corner (we didn’t ask).
It’s no wonder why Quaker Oats loves Sam! They named her “Creative Oatmeal Officer.” She works with them on ways to spread the word about the untapped potential of oatmeal and speaks to groups on what oatmeal can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.