As the river shimmers in the bright golden glow of the sunrise, the tinted glass doors of the Gold Rush Cafe unlock and swing open, inviting visitors and locals for a unique breakfast experience. One step in the rustic western cafe on the corner of 4th and Broadway shows a community can thrive. Youre greeted with a smile as the aroma of freshly made bread pudding waffles wafts through the corridor to welcome you. The space is quaint and abuzz as a motley collection of signs along the lattice-laced walls gives you a smile or a laugh. Guests and staff are joyous and kind, making you feel like youre a part of it all. Inside the lively cafe, you might catch owner Korey Vazquez, the man who revived this little corner cafe and who takes the stage in Native Gardens at Market House Theatre.

Korey Vazquez took over Gold Rush Cafe in 2020.

Korey Vazquez's Culinary Journey

Korey Vazquez's journey from humble beginnings to chef and restaurateur is nothing short of inspiring. His love for cooking was ignited at a young age, always seeking ways to improve dishes and experiment with seasonings beyond the usual salt and pepper. Cooking is my way of expressing myself and connecting with others. It's my art, and I pour my heart and soul into every dish,” Korey shared. Korey's culinary passion led him to the Culinary Institute of America, where he aspired to become a food photographer and dreamed of teaching his skills at Paducah School of Art & Design.

However, life had other plans for Korey. A chance encounter after moving back to Paducah led to love, and he decided to stay in Paducah, putting his culinary dreams on hold. A few years later after some challenging life trials with dreams beaming through, Korey adopted an "attitude of gratitude" and started humbling himself to be grateful in the present, which led him to a job at Terminix, where he made connections with local individuals and business owners. Soon, his new connections and community would lead him to an opportunity of a lifetime – taking over the community staple, the Gold Rush Cafe.

Korey's creative side comes out in his work as a chef, as well as onstage.

Korey's journey to acquire the Gold Rush Cafe wasn't without its challenges. He faced multiple rejections from banks but persisted until he found a supportive lender who would take a risk to make his dream come true. With unwavering determination Korey transformed the cafe, making subtle yet impactful changes that respected the history of the cafe while building a strong experience and a found community.

The Community-Driven Gold Rush Cafe

What sets Gold Rush Cafe apart now is Korey's commitment to the community. He believes in supporting other local businesses and forming partnerships that benefit everyone. Community support is everything. My customers are like family, and I'm grateful for their trust and loyalty.” Koreys community connection is strong with his fellow chefs and restaurants. He views his local contemporaries as partners rather than competitors. Other businesses are not competition to me. We're completely separate things. You can get waffles at other places, but you can't get a bread pudding waffle there. When people ask for recommendations, I share we have a great lunch but, if you're not feeling [what we have]. Hey, I recommend this [restaurant].’ I couldn't do what I do without the community.” Korey's approach is all about creating a vibrant and interconnected community.

Korey's commitment is not just a business strategy; it's a way of life. He sees every person he meets as a potential friend and collaborator, and his dedication to promoting the interests of others shines through.

Stepping onto the Stage

While Korey's culinary journey has been extraordinary, his latest venture into the world of theatre at Market House Theatre (MHT) is equally remarkable. With past experience in high school theatre and church dramas, Korey has always had a knack for captivating audiences. His decision to audition for Native Gardens was an impulsive one, sparked after a comment on social media. MHT had posted about their search for a lead role in the show. After his comment on the post, many of his friends and neighbors expressed their support in reply.  Little did he know that this decision would lead him to a whole new world of performance and a new community.

Korey rehearses with a new community of friends.

Koreys recent dive into television and radio interviews for shows like Americas Best Restaurants and upcoming projects has sparked a fire. I've been doing these radio interviews and TV interviews, which have made me more comfortable talking to people. I've got an acting bug in me. It's just been dormant, but now I have this chance.” He expressed rehearsing for a live audience has been a challenge, especially the memorization of lines, but Korey's determination and meticulous nature drive him to perfect his role. He finds comfort in the camaraderie of his fellow cast members and the joy of making new connections.

The Message of His Passion

As Korey prepares to take the stage in Native Gardens, he hopes that audiences will not only enjoy the play's humor and storyline but also take away a valuable lesson. The play carries a strong message, emphasizing the importance of community and understanding.

Korey also hopes that his journey from a shy and reserved individual to a successful chef to actor will inspire others to step out of their comfort zones. He believes anyone can pursue their passions and dreams, regardless of background or initial reservations.

Native Gardens tells a story of community and understanding.

In the end, Korey Vazquez's story is one of resilience, community, and the endless possibilities that come from embracing new opportunities. Whether in the kitchen or on the stage, Korey's commitment to making a positive impact on the world around him is truly admirable. And as the curtain rises on Native Gardens, audiences will have the privilege of witnessing Korey's talents and the inspiring journey that brought him to this moment.

Native Gardens runs at Market House Theatre from January 26 to February 4, 2024 in the Studio 200 Theatre. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased via phone at (270) 444-6828 or online at

Photos courtesy of Caleb Buford, Market House Theatre