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Volunteer Park’s ‘baker extraordinaire’ leaving popular Capitol Hill cafe

Heather Earnhardt and a giant chocolate cake (Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

The duo that created the Volunteer Park Cafe are going their separate ways. In a statement sent out by the cafe on Wednesday, VPC announced that Heather Earnhardt would be leaving the restaurant she helped open at 17th and Galer in 2007.

“People’s lives just change,” VPC owner Ericka Burke tells CHS about the move. “Having to get up every morning and bake at 4 in the morning is tough.”

“She’ll always be in the heart and spirit of VPC,” Burke said.

Earnhardt leaves as the cafe settles in for the long haul after a lengthy zoning battle with a group of neighbors who objected to the popular restaurant’s growing ambitions. Nestled into a residential Capitol Hill street, the cafe was brought to life in snowy January 2007 by Burke and Earnhardt who met years earlier while working together at vegetarian restaurant Carmelita.

Burke said regulars shouldn’t expect any immediate changes following Earnhardt’s departure. She says she’ll change up the dinner menu offerings but that anything more will be a “slow transition.” Eater Seattle reports that Kouka “Nana” Kaborke and Emily Weeks will take over baking duties.

According to the statement sent out by VPC, Earnhardt is leaving to “teach baking classes and consult on projects.” She did not respond to a message CHS left for her asking about the change.

Earnhardt once baked four batches of whoopie pies for a local competition (Image: VPC)

For Burke, it’s not the first “break-up” she’s been part of in the business. In 2009, she went her separate way after collaborating with Linda Derschang to open Oddfellows.

Burke said Earnhardt is leaving VPC in a good place. “We’ve been talking about it for a while and trying to figure out what worked,” she said.

Here’s the full statement from VPC on Earnhardt’s departure:

Heather Earnhardt, baker extraordinaire of Capitol Hill’s beloved Volunteer Park Cafe is moving on after nearly five years.

 Earnhardt, who kept the pastry case stocked with downhome pies, cookies, scones and other delectable treats plans to teach baking classes and consult on projects.

 “Heather has tremendous pastry skills and we’ve been lucky to have her,” says Ericka Burke, chef and owner of Volunteer Park Cafe. “I fully support her moving on and wish her all the best.  Heather and I worked very closely to build and grow VPC.  I am very grateful for all Heather has contributed.  She will be missed.” 

“The cafe customers have been like an extension of my family,” say Earnhardt.  “I have made many close friends and will continue to maintain those relationships.”

 For now, Burke will take on some of the baking duties, but the majority will be executed by two of Earnhardt’s protégées.

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Cookie Needer
9 years ago

This is the worst news, ever. Where are we going to buy cookies now? I can’t imagine anyone will ever be able to fill Heather’s shoes. I love Heather and her Charlie Brown cookies… And her salty chocolate chip…
Seriously, where are there good pastries? And don’t suggest any place that has essential baking company or mass produced pastries. I want no part of that conversation.

9 years ago

Heather is the best baker I know and I’m pretty freaking picky. I can only aspire to be as good as her. She has inspired me on numerous occasions and I can’t wait to see what this talented girl does next.

Sugar bakery & cafe

9 years ago

Erica should leave! And we all know why!