One of the newest businesses to Osceola’s downtown square is Keller’s, at 122 1/2 West Jefferson Street, a restaurant owned and operated by Cameron Keller that offers fresh baked breads, sandwiches, soups, and more.
Keller attended Iowa State University where he majored in logistics, and worked in that field for 10 years while living in California. It was during that time that he discovered a joy for cooking and baking. When his wife, Nickie, decided she wanted to go to law school, Keller took the opportunity to go to culinary school.
While Nickie came to Iowa, Keller went off to New York City, where he attended the French Culinary Institute. It was there that Keller learned to work with sourdough and European style breads. When he was finished in New York, Keller came back to Iowa and began selling breads at farmers markets, as well as distributing breads through Hy-Vee, Fareway, and nutrition stores in the Des Moines area.
In fall 2011, Keller opened Keller’s Deli and Cafe in downtown Des Moines, at the corner of Seventh Street and Grand Avenue, in the skywalk system. In 2015, Principal purchased the building where Keller’s Deli and Cafe was housed, and the decision was made to tear it down to build a new parking ramp. Keller decided to take a step back from the restaurant life and return to his former job in logistics.
Keller and his family moved to Osceola in 2020, with the idea of getting back into baking formulating in his mind.
“I wanted to get into a small town, live out in the country…I had an idea to get back into cooking,” said Keller.
After taking some time off to spend with his three young children - daughter Rowan, 9, and 5-year-old sons Jack and Quinn - an opportunity presented itself in the form a building for sale in downtown Osceola, and Keller acted on it.
He purchased the former location of Booth Law Firm in July, and Keller’s opened its doors Nov. 21.
Keller arrives at the restaurant between 2 and 3 a.m. to start baking the day’s bread. He rolls anywhere from 50 to 75 loaves of bread a day, more as the week goes on, with up to 80 loaves on Fridays. Sourdough takes the longest, at six hours from mixing to baking; the sourdough starter that Keller is using he’s had for about four months. When Keller left the New York, he returned to Iowa with a sourdough starter that was over 100 years old, given to him by one of his teachers. Unfortunately, when his Des Moines restaurant closed, Keller let that starter die off.
There are five kinds of bread that Keller currently makes - roasted garlic and cheese, baguettes, pain au cereal (flax and sesame), five grain wheat, and bordelais (sourdough) and they are used for soup and sandwiches, as well as loaves that people can buy. Daily, Keller estimates that he uses 30 to 40 loaves for the sandwiches alone.
The menu at Keller’s features hot and cold sandwiches, pasta, soup, salads, and desserts. Popular hot sandwiches are hot ham and cheese, roast beef, and corned beef, though employee Tammy Thomas says that everything sells equally well. She believes that is due largely to the homemade factor.
“99% of everything is made in house. Fresh bread, soups…it’s all good,” said Thomas.
Other menu items include a curried chicken salad sandwich, garden salad, honey sesame salad, lasagna, rigatoni with marinara, and roasted turkey on 5-grain wheat. Former Fresko pastry chef Brock Bucy concocts fresh made desserts, including cookies, pumpkin bars, and gluten-free molten chocolate cake.
As his operation grows, Keller would like to expand to have a larger kitchen area with different bread ovens, as well as pizza ovens. Keller envisions opening a party room to offer more seating, and would like to feature a display case of fresh bread, desserts, and pastries.
“I want to be a bakery...My goal is to have a nice, sit down or take out place that has excellent food that you can get quickly,” said Keller.
Currently, Keller’s is open during the week from 11 to 7, with plans to offer delivery in the new year. Event catering, family meals, and bag lunches are also in the works.
“I liked to make all kinds of food, [I’m] just getting started, [I] have great staff here. Once everyone is trained, things are operating really smoothly, I’ll start doing a little more fun stuff that I like to make,” said Keller.