Aurora Coffey was much of the visionary genius behind the former American Harvest Eatery, as she is now for Luminary Kitchen & Provisions in Springfield. "She really is the driving creative and organizational force behind the business," says Jordan Coffey, her husband and business partner.
The two met in a kitchen, working for August Mrozowski and his wife, Sharon Ehrat, both of whom owned and operated Augie's Front Burner, the downtown restaurant that closed last year. Mrozowski may technically be retired, but he continues to provide support to the Coffeys. Mrozowski says in addition to Aurora's talent in the kitchen, she has a keen sense of marketing. "She's an amazing writer," adds Ehrat. "She's a very giving person, also."
Aurora studied at Robert Morris Culinary Institute in Chicago and learned from some of the best in the contemporary culinary world, including Chef Rick Bayless, host of a PBS program about Mexican cuisine. Aurora also spent more than a year working in the kitchen of the House of Blues in Chicago.
Part of what Mrozowski and Ehrat helped pass down to the Coffeys was a passion for farm-to-table fare. In addition to locally sourced products being fresher and of higher quality, "You're supporting the community as a whole," says Mrozowski of buying from local vendors and farmers.
"She's very well-versed and knowledgeable in seasonal ingredients," says Jordan about Aurora. Aurora is the one who develops and conceptualizes the ever-changing menus based on the seasons, a practice that American Harvest was known for and which Luminary carries on.
Jordan speculates that what Aurora is most proud of to date, professionally, is the opening of Luminary over the past year, which seems like a herculean feat given the crisis facing the food and service industries.
The Coffeys are down-to-earth folks who will tell it to you straight. They have big hearts to match their big personalities. Earlier this year they held a mental health fair, inviting everyone in the service industry. They announced Luminary will be closed during the week of Oct. 26-Nov. 2 this year, so that their hard-working staff can have a rest. And they have recently donated meals to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Illinois.
In a broader sense, all of their hard work is motivated by their two young sons. Jordan says Aurora has especially worked hard to "establish a successful business that can sustain our lives at home."