Pippa Calland

Article and Photography by Ali Waxman

Hours before the first doors open on Tuesday morning at the West Shore Farmers Market, customers line up to place their lunch order.

“How’s business today, Pippa?” asks a frequent customer.

“Couldn’t be better, Alex!” responds Pippa Calland, former champion of the Food Network’s Chopped show and current owner and operator of Mid St8 Taco, located at the West Shore Farmers Market in Lemoyne.

“That’s the kind of customer service I want to provide,” says Calland. She wants to greet her customers and not only learn their names, but also attempt to remember them and their orders.

Her business model is based on characteristics learned from her grandfather. “Cook with integrity,” he advised her.

Calland developed her love of cooking from her mother, who replicated dishes her grandfather prepared. Although Calland grew up in Indiana, most of her family resides in Arizona.

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“I really enjoy food that makes me sweat and gives me an adrenalin rush,” says Calland. Her flavor palette traces back to her Southwest roots. During her undergraduate studies, Calland worked in many Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants.

Mid St8 taco is the first and only restaurant in the area to provide a “tortilleria,” a shop that produces and sells freshly made tortillas. Tortillerias are native to Mexico and Central America and are slowly making their way into established areas of the region.

Throughout her early culinary career, Calland often heard that corn was considered a villain in the restaurant environment. She was determined to bring masa (corn) back to relevancy, since it’s used in practically all of her dishes in one form or another. Not being of Hispanic heritage or fluent in the Spanish language, Calland challenged herself and traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico to study with acclaimed chef Suzanne Trilling.

With Calland’s determination to maintain the authenticity in her cooking, her friends and colleagues motivated her to open a taco stand. Some questioned her location choice. She knew Central Pennsylvania wouldn’t be the easiest place to convince locals to try new culinary fare. However, Calland learned that people from Pennsylvania appreciate a good meal and flavors that stay with them at a fair price.

Her business benefits from word of mouth, and for her, that’s proof positive that that’s the best form of advertising because it comes directly from satisfied customers.

“We consistently provide well-prepared meals, never had any complaints and that’s why my customers remain dedicated to coming back.”

Mid St8 Taco serves as many as 250 customers a day. While the heavy traffic and long lines can, at times, can be challenging to employees, they’re ready to meet that challenge with great spirit, which is evident by the friendly smiles and singing while working.

“I have high respect for all of my employees,” Calland says proudly.

And it’s not just words that Calland says; she backs it up by not only paying her employees a higher than normal wage. They are considered partners in the business.

Mid St8 Taco has earned the reputation as a cult favorite in the area. “Taco nirvana has arrived!” exclaims Calland.

For more about Pippa Calland and Mid St8 Taco, please visit midst8taco.com.

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Ali Waxman

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