Paulie’s Counter Culture – Sarah Troxell

Sarah was born and raised (mostly) in Houston, Texas, with a few brief stints in Alaska, Canada, and Australia as a small child, and Austin while she attended The University of Texas.


Sarah followed advice from her Dad and began working in restaurants in high school as a hostess. He told her if she gained restaurant experience, she would always be able to find a job. Little did he know this small piece of advice would end up shaping her passion for the food and beverage industry. Sarah worked a variety of jobs in restaurants while studying to be a pharmacist at UT. Her passion for the industry grew so much that she left The University of Texas to pursue and eventually obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Management from the Art Institute of Houston. Her science and math minded brain really proved to be a great asset while attending culinary school.

Sarah has been cooking professionally for six years at a variety of restaurants ranging from food trucks to fine dining establishments in Houston. No stranger to the front of house, Sarah decided to transition from the kitchen to the counter at Paulie’s to learn different aspects of the restaurant industry from the talented staff and management at Paulie’s. She loves the environment of Paulie’s, as well as utilizing her ability to multi-task. One day she hopes to open a 24 hour diner in Houston, or an oyster shack on the beach in northern California.

When she isn’t at work, you will most likely find Sarah drinking an espresso and a vanilla flat white at Southside, or slurping ramen noodles in Chinatown. She loves reading and collecting cookbooks of all varieties. In her spare time Sarah loves cooking for her friends and family. Her all time favorite thing to make is risotto. She has made risotto at least once a week for over four straight years. She also loves baking (and eating) desserts of all kinds. She loves spending time with her boyfriend, who is also a chef, and her siamese ragdoll cat Roux. When she finds time to get away from the restaurant for a few days, Sarah enjoys traveling to see her favorite bands Phish and Modest Mouse. Sarah loves living in Montrose, and is definitely enjoying her short commute to work at Paulie’s!

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Paul VanDemark

Paul is a Yankee by way of Alma, Michigan, but we’ve adopted him as a Houstonian.


Alma is a very small town, around 10,000 people; his high school class was around 150 students.  Paul was into sports, mainly football and wrestling, but he also played basketball and found a late, but strong, interest in Ultimate Frisbee.  He wrestled from 4th – 10th grade before he decided to take football training more seriously.

After High School, Paul moved to Upland, Indiana, another very small rural town, to attend Taylor University.  He graduated with a BA in English Literature.  He also played football in college, but gave it up after grades came in freshman year.  Taylor University focuses strongly on community and building life long relationships.  When Paul got married in 2013, his best man and groomsmen were all college friends.

One of Paul’s most favorite experiences while at Taylor was being the President of the Integration of Faith and Culture. He scheduled concerts, hosted authors and other figures for speaking engagements, and showed movies to create a dialogue on campus that otherwise would not have existed.  This experience drove Paul to Texas after college to attempt to work with live music.

After only a few months of moving to Houston, Paul landed work with some of the biggest artists in the world and helped put on the largest live music event in Houston. After working in live music for three years, and becoming a married man, Paul decided to pursue a job that includes his second love, coffee.  His wife teases that vacations are often not the most exciting because he is always dragging her to local coffee shops.  Basically that’s what has brought him to Paulie’s.  He also loves pasta, but coffee is his true love behind the counter.

The mysterious lady mentioned, his wife, is named Alice.  They live with only one pet, Puppy, which is an energetic golden colored long-haired Chihuahua mix.  They live in The Heights and like walking Puppy in the neighborhood and on the bike path nearby.  They also attend Sojourn Heights, a bible based Acts 29 network church.  Alice helps by serving on the media team and Paul helps prepare and serve coffee to the congregation. They met while attending Sojourn before the church plant was able to afford it’s own building.  Paul would help set up chairs and get the PA tuned and mics checked.  Alice would help set up slides for songs and microphones each Sunday: over time they became friends, and later husband & wife.  Paul & Alice still attend and greatly enjoy the community they have found within the church.  Every Wednesday they get together with a group of friends from church and have dinner, jet him know if you ever want to join!

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Nicole Dallas

Nicole took time off to help her husband open a church, and has since re-joined the Paulie’s team.  She also found out recently she’s having a baby!


Nicole is a native Houstonian born and raised, but due to her gypsy heritage she’s most content when living out of a suitcase. She has spent time in 24 countries, countless cities, and the rest of the world is on her bucket list. She lived in Barcelona, Spain, for a little while to learn Spanish and experience a new culture, and got a surprise marriage proposal from her high school sweetheart (now husband) in Paris, France. But despite their shared love for Europe and her constant desire to wander, she and her husband have settled in Montrose for now, and the neighborhood holds a special place in her heart. She considers the Paulie’s crew as family, and if you know her, you know our Chicken Piccata is her favorite dish in the entire world, which both make staying in Houston easier.

She and her husband came to Montrose two years ago to plant a local church, Sojourn Montrose, and have devoted their lives to seeing it grow and flourish. Sojourners strive to be a people that open their lives and homes to one another and to the neighborhood of Montrose. They humbly admit they’re an imperfect church, yet have a deep desire to show people grace and love. Nicole will tell you that planting a church is the most difficult thing they’ve ever done, but hands down the most rewarding.

Nicole may be the quietest one in a room, but she loves being in the midst of people and finds joy in serving them. She has been working in coffee shops since high school and one of her favorite things about being in the food and beverage industry is having opportunities to listen to peoples‘ unique stories, especially in such a diverse place like Montrose. People bond over good food and drink and she enjoys getting to be a part of those experiences.

Though she’s not a fan of the Houston heat, Nicole enjoys biking, riding her moped, swimming, visiting various coffee shops, and relaxing at Menil Park with a good book. Of course, she’d prefer to do all of these things with her husband and her friends by her side. At home you can often find her playing the piano, something she’s been doing for the past 21 years and loves. She’s classically trained but a perfectionist to a fault, so getting her to play for you would take some serious persuasion (gaining courage is something she’s working on). She also enjoys baking and decorating cakes and dreams about becoming a pastry chef one day. Her biggest dream though is to one day be a mom.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Dean Borgerding

As promised, I am releasing a “resume” of each of my 10 Baristas at Paulie’s, one per week. We have a talented bunch behind our counter, I’d like to share their stories with you all.

Last, but certainly not least, I bring you the DEAN.


Dean has resided in Houston off and on since 1998. Before that, he spent most of his life overseas due to his father’s job in the oil business. After completing high school and a taste of college, he joined the Army as an active duty soldier for the next four years as an MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) crew-member. After receiving an honorable discharge, he moved back to Texas and re-enlisted with the Reserves as an MP (military police) for another three years. He began his food and beverage career at various establishments as well as continuing his higher education at the Art Institute of Houston for Computer Animation. After a couple of years, he transferred to the University of Houston to pursue a painting degree. Shortly after he transferred, he found out that he was having a child, well not him but his partner Jacki.

His food and beverage history began in a little coffee shop known as Kaldi’s. It doubled as a sandwich shop and the only non-commercial cafe in Huntsville, Texas.  Like many things in Huntsville, it no longer exists.

Fast forward a bit to a time of extra hot lattes, upside-down caramel macchiatos and burnt coffee. Dean spent two and a half years grinding that little, green siren’s beans. He took many things from that time, specifically how to expedite long lines and what not to do with an espresso machine.

The next stepping stone took the form of a small, off the beaten path cafe with religious undertones. Taft Street Coffee is where he first began meeting the people that would have lasting effects in regards to the type of Barista he would become. A coffee shop inside a church provided a well of interesting experiences, some good and others, not so much. In the end, the space worked it’s way into a lot of people’s lives.

Dean began his employment at Paulie’s in November 2011. His current position at Paulie’s is Beverage Director and Assistant Manager which makes him the individual who is responsible for Paulie’s tasty beer, wine and coffee selections.

While at Paulies, Dean was shortly employed at other well known Houston shops. He bartended and crafted coffee at Double Trouble in Midtown under the Robins. He was also part of the opening crew at Blacksmith which is housed in the old Mary’s location. These employment opportunities also added to his knowledge of coffee beverages.

Outside of Paulies, he spends time with his partner and daughter. Museums, Menil park, coffee shops and local restaurants are where they like to get into trouble. He is sometimes seen toting a digital Nikon or some other hipster approved film camera. If you find him at home, he will most likely be caught purging his internet history of online hat shopping, trying to cook and making sure his daughter doesn’t leave the nest with subpar musical taste. His love of coffee is only fully illustrated by the fact that every night he prays to his made-up African coffee god while holding a rosary he constructed out of coffee beans. “Praise be to Coffea Arabica and a thousand blessings on your espresso!”

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Rebecca Qian

As promised, I am releasing a “resume” of each of my 10 Baristas at Paulie’s, one per week. We have a talented bunch behind our counter, I’d like to share their stories with you all.


Becca has one of the strongest work ethics I’ve seen at this restaurant, always ready for the next challenge! 


Rebecca Qian started with Paulie’s nearly two years ago. She is currently known as the “Cookie Monster” as she spends most of her time baking and helping customers plan their customized shortbread order. If you have placed an order for cookies in the past year, you have probably corresponded with her. She loves the challenge of exceeding customers’ expectations, no matter the theme, especially characters from the movie Frozen…

What attracted her originally to Paulie’s was the opportunity to learn coffee with Greenway Coffee.  She has come a long way from the day when the steam-wand was a foreign object. Her first goal was to win a community Latte Art Throw-down competitions. She has since accomplished that goal, in addition to becoming the 2014 Champion of the Paulie’s Latte Art Tournament.

Outside of work, Becca is a full-time post-bac student at University of Houston. She focuses on nutrition in hopes to obtain her Registered Dietician Certification. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Cognitive Studies and minor in Corporate Strategy and Chinese. Becca has worked in Research and Healthcare in Chapel Hill, Nashville and Philadelphia.  She stands by her dream to one day change the way people eat and see food.  She understands that the food and beverage industry has a huge impact on how people eat.  Right now she is learning all she can at Paulie’s and school.  She hopes to continue her studies at the VA hospital program to obtain her internship and Master’s in nutrition.

She has a great deal of restaurant experience for her age.  As much as she loves being in new cities meeting new people she finally felt at home in Houston.  She fell in love with the weather, people, and really just everyone at Paulie’s!

She has a slight obsession with Hello Kitty, elephants, sundresses, and Capoeira. A part of her will always believe that if she was given a really awesome cape and tiara she could save the world one day…with the help of delicious food!

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Rachel Tieken

As promised, I am releasing a “resume” of each of my 10 Baristas at Paulie’s, one per week. We have a talented bunch behind our counter, I’d like to share their stories with you all.

We are getting closer to the end now, only a few more left to learn.


Rachel is the natural artist in the group, with a great talent to freehand what most have to trace.  She is a very mature and responsible young woman, yet the youngest on our team.


Hailing from Shiner, Texas, Rachel Tieken joined the Paulie’s crew in March of 2013, 8 months after she moved down to Houston to be with her fiancé (now husband) and attend the art school at University of Houston. This is her first gig in the service industry; and she couldn’t imagine a better start. The smell of the quality coffee in the morning, the warm noise of the kitchen, and her coworkers have made working at Paulie’s much more than just a job.

Besides working at Paulie’s, she also creates chalk compositions for businesses and individuals around town with her steady hand and balanced eye. She spent one summer working for the Texas Department of Transportation, during which she was privileged to drive down and document every state road and countryside in a nine-county region.

When she is not behind the bar she paints and draws, crafts ceramic and textile objects, and wanders about outside admiring the colors and textures of Houston. She is proud to be a native Texan (and especially proud to be a native of Shiner), and forages plants from around her hometown to make naturally dyed fabrics. She also enjoys quilting–in the old-fashioned way–and sewing, wrapping presents, restoring antique furniture, and finding small beautiful objects. Her dense and wholesome food–especially her cakes–are in high demand, and usually high in butter content.

Walking around the countryside, gently exploring the sights and sounds, smells and tastes, of gravel roads and finding turtles after the rain, of ladybugs and all things that squirm and crawl and creep, of cactus and ferns and moss, of ripe dewberries and fried food, is the way that Rachel wants to spend her time. When she isn’t outside, just looking, she’s making something, or loving something that someone made by using it for what it was made for. She seeks to find the little human imperfections, the little mistakes and dirt in things, which makes everything alive and magical.

Paulie’s Counter Culture – Jenna Cash

As promised, I am releasing a “resume” of each of my 10 Baristas at Paulie’s, one per week. We have a talented bunch behind our counter, I’d like to share their stories with you all.


Jenna is a woman of many talents, and never afraid to get her hands dirty…The rumor is, Jenna is kin to Johnny Cash.


Jenna moved to Houston about two years ago from Brooklyn, New York with two Rubbermaid containers and a few guitars.  She was here for barely a week before answering a job ad and interviewing with Paul.  Paulie’s was her first real introduction to Houston, Texas.  She liked it so much she decided to stick around.

Jenna grew up in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, a small town three hours south of Chicago.  Jenna still grew up in the kitchen.  Her best friend’s father owned a small restaurant and catering business in her hometown, and the two young ladies started slinging hash browns at 6AM on weekends while helping with catering events.  In high school Jenna was hired at Panera Bread as a dishwasher.  After a year, and at 17, she became a manager.  She stayed with the company for 2 more years, and assisted in opening five additional locations.  While in New York, she started working at a small coffee shop called Gregory’s Coffee.  Although she had worked with coffee before, this was her first introduction to Specialty Coffee.  Just before leaving Brooklyn, she was managing a restaurant and bar in the Flat Iron District of Manhattan.

Restaurants make up a lot of Jenna’s history and back-story, but that only scratches the surface.  She is a trained massage therapist and worked as an LMT in the state of Illinois for nearly 2 years.  She was the youngest therapist with the fastest growing clientele in her area.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Entertainment Business in 2010, while residing in Orlando, Florida.  After finishing college, she moved to New York City and interned with well-known photographer, Ron Rinaldi.

Jenna loves music.  Her childhood home was filled with it.  She remembers being little and singing by the piano with her mother.  She was competing in vocal competitions statewide at a young age.  In school she played the trumpet in jazz bands, concert bands, and marching bands.  If it had something to do with music, Jenna was probably there.  In her teenage years, she picked up the guitar and started writing her own music.  She still does.  When she isn’t busy working or playing guitar, Jenna enjoys baking, especially pies.

Jenna lives in Spring, Texas with her boyfriend. They run Kritikos Recording Studio.  Jenna is often running to meetings with artists, grabbing food for grungy recording bands, and breaking down contracts and agreements.  KRS is currently in the process of building a brand new recording studio to accommodate the growing business.




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