Las Vegas woman wins diner in essay contest

Kandiace Buchheister, who is expecting a baby in the spring, was the winner in an essay contest for the Moffat Cafe, a breakfast-and-lunch spot on U.S. 40 near the Winter Park ski resort. Her essay, ''The Recipe for a Great Colorado Cafe Owner,'' bested hundreds of others in the contest launched by longtime cafe owners Anne Goodfriend and Kathy Kramer.

''I've always, always wanted to have a job where I could work in my pajamas,'' Buchheister said. She said she would wear them every day.

In her essay, Buchheister described a recipe she had been following for years and said she believed the dish was ready to be served. The recipe included 1 cup of smiles, two sticks of elbow grease, one teaspoon of patience and 2 pounds of ambition. Toss in 3 cups of creativity and one sense of humor with some other ingredients, mix, bake and cool.

''This can be served on a bed of cross-country skis (hey, you have to have fun, too!) and don't forget to garnish this with a toilet bowl brush (a clean restroom is also very important). Top each serving with the sugary smiles,'' she wrote.

Buchheister was told of her victory earlier this month, and has spent the past two weeks training for her new job.

An independent panel of judges selected the winning essay. Kramer and Goodfriend said they received hundreds of essays, each accompanied by a $100 entry fee. They had listed the cafe for about $150,000 in the spring before opening the contest.

''The fun factor was really, really high,'' said Kramer, who is looking for public relations work in Denver. ''We are just so happy that we can pass this along to someone who can keep it going.''

Bidding farewell to loyal customers and the restaurant where they have spent much of the past 10 years has been difficult, Kramer and Goodfriend said.

''It's been bittersweet,'' said Goodfriend, who donated some of the proceeds to Winter Park's renowned disabled-skier program. ''It's nice to be able to move on, but at the same time, we're saying, 'Oh no, this is our baby.'''

Buchheister has spent 18 years in the restaurant business, including working as an accountant for a Las Vegas-based chain for the past 10 years. Her background was not considered by the judges, who blanked out the names on the essays before judging began.


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