The idea of eating well is different to every individual. We all have our thoughts and opinions on what makes a meal sustainable, fulfilling, and equally delicious. Haven’s Kitchen’s truth on dining well (which you can find in this interview) is dead-on. With aims of educating the masses on being more in-tune with the ingredients they are using, Haven’s Kitchen is a special place with aims of slowing things down (in the kitchen) in a fast-paced city. The founder of the company, Alison Schneider, informed us all about “a beautiful space for the home cook to learn how to make delicious food and eat with a new awareness of the environment, [our] farmers, and each other.”
A&H: What is Haven’s Kitchen’s main goal of achievement?
Alison Schneider: We built Haven’s Kitchen to educate people, and in doing so, increase the demand for locally- and sustainably-grown produce. This demand will ideally help small and mid-sized farmers make a good living, grow more food, and feed more people.
A&H: What techniques does Haven’s Kitchen aim to provide to those who seek knowledge on eating more sustainably?
AS: The way we teach about food and sustainable food systems at Haven’s Kitchen is to focus on what’s right with what we eat, and to get people excited about the choices and options that they have, making the subject palatable, exciting, and accessible. Our space is beautiful and our staff is friendly and easygoing—that’s going to get people excited, feel relaxed, and want to recreate their experience at home.
A&H: What is Haven’s Kitchen’s idea of “dining well?”
AS: We want to make food feel good, feel safe, and feel nourishing again. Flavor is paramount, and it’s a simple truth that the fewer chemicals and shorter time between Earth and plate makes for more delicious food. Eating seasonal, well-grown food is dining well.
A&H: Has the food community the company has created seen continuous growth since its creation?
AS: Our neighbors have been our biggest supporters since we opened in January. We’re very lucky to have such a wonderful community already in place that we can serve and get to know.
A&H: Tell us about the cooking school.
AS: We’re not a cooking school for chefs, but a cooking school for everyone. People ask us all the time what kind of cooking school we are. French? Organic? And the two words that keep popping up are “non-industrial” and “recreational.” Our desire is to educate anyone who’s willing on what they are eating, its significance within our food system, and how to cook and eat without negatively impacting our earth. Non-industrial is our way of describing a food system that is gentle on the planet, healthier for us, and not confined by arbitrary rules and regulations.
We want our guests to leave empowered to make choices that will make a difference and we hope that they’ll be more comfortable in the kitchen. After attending a class at Haven’s Kitchen, our guests should feel emboldened to visit their local farmer’s market, introduce themselves to the farmers, buy produce that is in season—even if that means spontaneously changing the evening’s menu to fit what is available that day. We want our guests to care about where their food came from, and care about where their scraps are going. And we want them to have fun cooking, drinking, and getting to know one another at our farm table at the end of the night.
A&H: Haven’s Kitchen also stocks a carefully-selected group of products. How does the team go about deciding what goods to sale?
AS: We start with the question, “Where did this come from?” After that, all of the other environmental, ethical, and nutritional issues shift into place. We can get the information we need just by going a bit deeper and asking questions. Did this honey fly around the world to get to me? Were the people who grew this coffee treated with respect? How much energy was used to produce this pasta?
The driving force behind our shop was to make it easy to recreate the lessons learned at Haven’s Kitchen at home. But the more we delved into building the business, the more we realized our shop ties our values and our community together. In class, our guests will taste the difference between buying eggs from a local farmer, and buying eggs at the grocery store. So, naturally we want to give our guests the chance to buy these farmer’s market eggs after class.
We like to support small businesses with whom we have relationships. Of course, products like olive oil don’t grow in New York, so we source from small, family-run businesses abroad. We are particularly excited about the fact that most of our purveyors also teach classes. We want to support and promote local businesses and regional farmers, while also providing our guests with the highest quality. Ultimately, by supporting our producers, and pleasing our consumers, we can improve our food system, one Fair Trade coffee bean at a time.
A&H: What projects does the company have in the works?
AS: A bunch! Our neighbors have been asking for sandwiches, soups, and other easy lunch items, so in September we’ll be adding all sorts of light fare to our shop menu. We’re recipe-testing a few new granola flavors, another pancake mix, and some crackers and cookies. We’re already planning supper clubs into next year and adding some class series’—so the students who want to take several in-depth classes can. We’re also revamping our website so students will be able to register (and shop!) online. And our third floor is getting built out to a gorgeous bar/event space.
A&H: Let’s create a scene: It’s a Sunday evening and the Haven’s Kitchen team has decided to host a small, intimate gathering for the closest of family and friends. What would be on the menu?
AS: Depends on what was at the market on Saturday!