Tails wagging, several dogs with their beaming pet parents are attending a birthday party at the Dog Chef Cafe in Baltimore, Maryland. The music is blaring, and the table is set with plates and food, where Pierre, a cute white toy poodle, is the center of attention.
“He’s not just a dog to me; he’s a member of my family,” Jazzmen Knoderer says as she pets her pup.
She and her husband, Daniel, adopted Pierre five months ago, after he was found wandering the city streets. And even though they don’t know when he was born or exactly how old he is, they thought it would be fun to have a birthday party at the cafe, which is known for healthy meals and treats for canines.
“Like most dog owners, I care about the snacks and treats that I give my dog," Jazzmen said.
So does dog lover Kevyn Matthews, “the dog chef” and owner of the cafe, who uses his skills as a chef for humans to create nourishing dishes for canines. He uses human-grade food to provide an alternative to manufactured dog food, which he said may be “full of stuff that’s not good for dogs.”
His dog-friendly shortcake, on the other hand, is "made with no sugar at all, just a little honey and topped with a raspberry reduction.”
Yummy to dogs — and humans
Matthews’ attractive creations, from muffins to candy to pretzels, don't merely look good enough for people to eat — they are.
Customer Kyla Thomas samples a peanut butter cup. It is unsweetened and covered with carob instead of chocolate, which is toxic to dogs.
She’s pleasantly surprised. “This is really, really good. This just doesn’t taste like food for a dog, but food we would eat,” she told Matthews, who is helping her from behind a glass counter that is also stocked with cookies, rolls and even yogurt-filled cannolis.
“I make it look like something that a human wants,” explained Matthews, “but what’s in there is what the dog actually needs” — things like fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
Customer Blythe Pruitt likes that “the food is natural and wholesome, there’s no preservatives and it’s freshly made.” She bought a meal in a plastic foam carryout container. “Our little pup is going to get his own little hamburger and sweet potatoes,” she said.
Accent on health
As Matthews chops kale to put into pretzels he’s baking, he said he does not use wheat, soy, corn or other fillers found in some packaged dog food that may cause allergies. He said his dishes help dogs with health issues.
For dry skin, he suggests "a coconut muffin because it’s filled with the proper oils, or one of the pumpkin muffins if they have a problem with digestion or they're constipated.”
Matthews’ treats and meals are not cheap, but his customers think they are worth the price. Some spend between $100 and $1,000 per month for his meal service. Some want the best food possible; others want the health benefits his food provides.
At the birthday party, the pet parents talked about their dogs and canine gadgets on the market, while they stuffed their pups with healthy treats.
“The dogs really seemed to like the food,” said Jazzmen. “Pierre has a Twitter account and Instagram — he is @PierrePup — so I will post pictures from his party today to share with his followers.”
For Matthews, the best part is knowing the dogs were fed the best food he can give them. “A dog spends its life making us happy, and what makes me happy is seeing a dog happy,” he said.