Customer Profile: Christine’s Restaurant and Catering, Rocky Ford, Colorado, Cooking Up Business
Christine’s restaurant and catering business is a boy meets girl love story and so much more. While Rocky Ford locals Mike and Christine Laurent fell in love and married 38 years ago, their relationship has grown richer over their shared love for savory, home-cooked food.
You can trace the opening of Christine’s Restaurant and Catering Business to the Laurents’ years of entertaining on Valentine’s Day. “This whole business grew because for years in our home we’d have friends over at Valentine’s Day and make a four-course meal,” Mike explains. “Our almost-teenage boys would be in the kitchen helping cook and they would serve the food.”
For other holidays and friends’ events, Christine fed her passion of baking and cooking. “Some people were telling us, ‘you ought to open a restaurant because there’s no place in town for soup and salad,’” Mike recalls of requests for Christine’s full-flavored cuisine.
In January 2005, the Rocky Ford couple opened Christine’s in the historic 1910 church on North 2nd street. Early morning customers are drawn to the aroma of Christine’s mouth-watering biscuits and sausage gravy and delectable caramel nut sticky buns.
Old-Fashioned Cooking Favorites
While soups and salad are on the daily menu, customers tend to crave the helpings of Christine’s made-from-scratch house specialties like her flaky-crust coconut cream pies and fresh-baked bierrocks. A bierrock, the Eastern European pastry pocket sandwich filled with sausage, cabbage, onion and other spices, is a favorite of customers.
“I learned old-fashioned cooking from my parents and grandma,” says Christine. “I grew up having bierrocks and people knew what bierrocks were, but nobody was making them anymore. Now we make them every day and many people will come to Christine’s just for those.”
Mike also sells the in-demand bierrocks from the Christine’s food truck he operates 10am-2pm on Mondays in La Junta and Thursdays in Rocky Ford. His signature breakfast burritos, pulled pork nachos, and chili fries are second to none.
“My breakfast burritos are different than anyone else’s. We use Jimmy Dean’s sausage, Anaheim peppers, eggs, and hash browns,” Mike shares with the upbeat gusto of a celebrity chef. “When you order a burrito, I put the tortilla on the flattop and then add the ingredients and cheese in right there. You’ve not going to get a soggy, mushy burrito that’s been wrapped for two hours.”
Dedicated to Helping Others
Pride in their culinary craftsmanship runs deep for both Mike and Christine who were raised on local farms and had their own farm for twenty-three years. “In small areas like ours, you learned how to work and learned to appreciate work,” explains Christine who graduated with 17 other Cheraw high school students.
A dedication to hard work and helping others are qualities that Mike and Christine model and what they value in teaming with First National Bank.
“About 30 years ago we bought our farm and we tried to get a small line of credit loan with a local bank and they wouldn’t talk to us,” Mike shares. “But First National Bank got us the line of credit and over time it’s gotten a little bigger. When we sold the farm, we just rolled it over for the restaurant.”
Christine appreciates the trust and personal interaction side to doing business with First National Bank. “They are willing to work with us and make it as easy as possible. They are not so big that they don’t care who you are,” she explains. “Some banks are too big and too impersonal.”
A Bank with a Relationship with the Community
As the Laurents have combined and changed loans and bought different food trucks over the years, the bank has modified loans to better fit Mike and Christine’s financial goals. Mike explained that he felt like Tracy at the bank knew him well and was ready to help.
“That’s just the kind of bank they are because they have a relationship with the community.”
The bank’s relationship with the community took on extra significance when COVID-19 first bullied its way into Colorado and businesses were curtailed. “First National Bank supported us,” Christine adds. “They got cash flowing by buying some gift certificates to local businesses and they passed those along in the community to help people out.”
Helping people out with delicious, affordable meals is what brings extra satisfaction to Mike and Christine. “We’ve gotten to be known for really good food at a fair price,” Mike shares. “People from out of town will tell us, ‘you need to raise your prices.’ Well, we don’t follow that because we’ve got several older customers and many are retired with a fixed income.”
The Perfect Blend for Business
Looking out for customers and their employees comes naturally to this couple who also likes to treat once-a-month evening dining guests at Christine’s to finer Tuscan charm—white linen tablecloths and napkins, soft music and a relaxed ambience. The Steak Night specials keep the 43-seat capacity Christine’s packed for hours featuring mesquite prime rib, ribeye steaks, flat irons, plus salmon, chicken, and breaded shrimp. On those bustling nights, Mike and Christine share the kitchen.
“Mike does all the grilling of the steaks. He has that mastered,” Christine explains before Mike good-naturedly interrupts with, “I’m too stubborn to teach anyone else how to grill the steaks.”
Adding a dash of humor to the tenacity of their business is the perfect blend for expanding the original Christine’s to also include catering and their Encore by Christine’s event location. The Laurents cater for business luncheons and meetings and a wide range of special occasions in the region. Encore by Christine’s opened in 2010 to serve groups for weddings, family reunions, memorial dinners, and any number of special events and private parties.
In serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to tens of thousands since 2005, what do the Laurents enjoy most about the restaurant, catering and food truck business? “I enjoy doing the cooking and dealing with customers because you know you make people feel good and make them happy,” Christine reflects. “I find it particularly rewarding when we are catering and you make people’s event memorable for them.”
Mike echoes Christine’s contentment in serving customers and hearing “that was just the best ever.” Or, as one customer posted on social media, “The food is all fresh and there is a great variety on the menu. But the real reason we go is for the pie.”
Favorite After-Hours Cuisine
After a full day of prepping and preparing hearty foods for others, what do the tireless chefs like to make and eat at home? “Ever since we’ve been married, I would almost rather have Christine’s spaghetti with her special sauce than a steak,” Mike proudly reveals. “We do a special on her spaghetti every couple of weeks at Christine’s and I get the leftovers.”
With all her hours in the kitchen, Christine is quick to share her after-hours culinary wish list. “Personally, I don’t really care for leftovers. I want something fresh,” she points out. “My favorite food is something that someone else has made. I like cooking, but I like other people to cook for me too.”
After nearly four decades of marriage and 15 years in the food business together, Mike and Christine have found a way to indulge their taste buds and keep their communication fresh. They drive to Pueblo to pick up food and restaurant supplies they can’t get through their vendors and local sources.
“We use that as a date night,” Mike explains of their boy-meets-girl love story bonded stronger over their shared love of food. “Each time, we go out to eat at a different place in Pueblo and then go walk it off in Sam’s club.”
It’s fairly apparent that Mike and Christine will keep on cooking and we’re all grateful for that!