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  • Tara Crutchfield

Orgen D’nal Café and Juice Bar

“My entire life, my mom has been the family cook,” Arthur White said. Thankfully, the community can regularly delight in his mother, Betty Coleman Bent’s scratch cooking at the family’s Lake Wales eatery, Orgen D’nal Cafe. 


“My great grandmother, Gladys Coleman was an indentured slave from South Carolina,” White began. Coleman eventually moved her family to Frostproof, and White was born and raised in neighboring Lake Wales. Cooking has been a common thread amongst the family, from White’s great-grandmother to his grandmother Betty Watkins and his mother, Betty Coleman Bent. 


White has a background in Health Science. He went to school for Pre-Occupational Therapy and then grad school for Public Health. He worked in a hospital for a time before opening his training studio, Kingdom Fitness and Nutrition. White was also a teacher for five years before leaving the school system to help his mother start Orgen D’nal. The matriarch in a family of educators, Betty Coleman Bent, is the owner and director of the Higher Learning Academy of Central Florida and has been an educator for over 30 years. White’s wife and older sister are teachers as well.


ORGEN D’NAL ORIGINS


The family started making juices during the pandemic, prompted by a health scare. “My entire family changed the way we ate,” White said. He was making cold-pressed juices for his gym clients when his mom asked him to bottle some for her. She’d choose what produce she wanted, and White would make it for her. “My mom and all of her siblings picked citrus their entire life,” White said. “We always were a fruit family.” He added, “That’s what really pushed it – my mom’s health. I think that’s what drives us and keeps us going, knowing that it’s benefitting her too.”



Eventually, there was so much juice traffic at the gym it was interfering with training. Teaching and operating his gym, a family café was the farthest thing from White’s mind. “I don’t know how it became this, but I know it’s from God. It had to be,” he said. “I heard my mom growing up, my entire life, saying that she wanted to have a restaurant.” When Coleman Bent approached him about opening a Lake Wales café, his initial reaction was, “You’re crazy. Why would you want to do that? And who’s going to work it?”


They decided to go for it and signed the lease for a restaurant space. Coleman Bent already had a culinary background, and White described customer service as her number one priority. “Before we even thought about the kitchen, we thought about the atmosphere first,” he said. “Her mission was to create something that represented us. We wanted something that would embody, for one, our original background. […] We wanted to have a place where everyone could come and eat something healthy and also embrace a culture of people.”



The name was a foundational part of the brand. “We came up with the name because of the original name of Africa. It was known as ‘Negroland,’” White said. Orgen D’nal is ‘Negro Land’ spelled backward. He gives credit to God and his mom for finalizing the moniker. “The name means a lot to us. We identify as Hebrew, and we’ve been doing a lot of studying about that particular coast of Africa.” White and Coleman Bent plan to travel to East Africa in June for a nine-day trip and say Orgen D’nal à la Africa isn’t out of the question.


The Orgen D’nal owners spared no expense in getting their dining room up to par. The space is inviting and comfortable, complemented by lush outdoor seating on their “Back to Eden” patio, which White noted is the perfect place to enjoy Sunday brunch. “We definitely focused on art first,” he said. The space is furnished with framed paintings by Sherelle White (Lakeland, FL), Kwaku Ntow (Ghana), and Uzo Njoku (Lagos, Nigeria). Partitioned areas with couches and monkeypod wood coffee tables flank the entrance. As you walk in, the eye is captivated by a large mural of a beautiful woman crowned with a flower and foliage afro wearing an earring with the Orgen D’nal emblem. Their tables, crafted out of cypress and maple trees by a retired veteran, have a small butterfly carved into each one. “We wanted somewhere that you feel at home – you feel relaxed when you come in,” White said. Even the music – a curated playlist of lo-fi, jazz, and reggae – plays a role in creating that ambiance.


Orgen D’nal’s inaugural event was an art show for the books. Florida Highwaymen artist Al Black and second-generation Florida Highwaymen Kelvin Hair were in attendance, as well as several local artists and an artist from Kenya. “We didn’t even know how big that would be for us. That really gave us a name,” White said. Orgen D’nal opened in October 2020 and had an official ribbon cutting with the Chamber last year.



FROM SCRATCH, WITH LOVE


Betty Coleman Bent is the author of Orgen D’nal’s recipes and the head chef. Her son considers himself her sous chef. “Everything we make is from scratch,” he said. “We don’t buy anything prepared.” Alongside their popular cold-pressed juices, Coleman Bent whips up fresh wraps, salads, and smoothies for lunch Tuesday through Friday. The café hosts an evening dinner service with live music one Saturday each month. This dinner offers changing chef specials like sauteed salmon, chicken masala, curry chicken, and jerk chicken. The latter pays homage to the family’s Caribbean ties. “We make it the way my grandfather made it,” White said, which is rubbed and marinated overnight.


The lunch menu’s  Island Chicken Wrap is another Jamaican flare with homemade curry and sauteed chicken thighs. “We make it just like you’d get a pot of curry chicken,” White said. The wrap comes with the option of grilled or curry chicken, mixed greens, peppers, and onions dressed with a pineapple sauce so good, customers have begged them to sell it by the jar. White suggested pairing the wrap with a Citrus Glow juice made with orange or grapefruit, lemon, red apple, ginger, and spring water. But you can’t ‘beet’ the Beet Love or Queen & Slim juices.



Orgen D’nal juices are made with fresh ingredients, so customers get the live enzymes from the produce, and the only preservative used is lemon juice. Bella, White’s 8-year-old daughter, lends a hand with the juice biz. Father and daughter held a juicing class at Bok Tower Gardens and have been asked back to lead more. Bella is a hit when they set up shop at markets. 


Bella isn’t the only one lending her talents to the team. Orgen D’nal is a family operation with Betty, Arthur, his wife Stephanie, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, and whatever family is around to help out. One of White’s nieces, who was an integral part of the team, recently left for nursing school. “I’m going to miss her a lot,” he said. “When we call on our other family members to help us, they will.”


White’s favorite meal, without hesitation, is his mom’s sauteed salmon. No one holds a candle to Coleman Bent’s version of the dish. “I don’t even like making it at home because it doesn’t taste like hers,” he said. “I guarantee all the people that come here have never had sauteed salmon like that.”


Sunday Brunch is another treat drawing crowds from Lakeland and Tampa. Orgen D’nal serves upscale scratch southern-style chef specials, including shrimp and gouda grits, smothered chicken, and salmon croquettes. “You know when you’re getting food – some love was put in,” White said. Orgen D’nal has been approached several times about recreating their magic elsewhere. White said, “We have considered it more than ever now because we know we have something.”


Photography by Amy Sexson

 

Orgen D’nal Cafe and Juice Bar
1429 Resmondo Drive, Lake Wales
(863) 456-4086
FB: Orgen D’nal Cafe
IG @orgendnalcafe

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