Michelle Ishay was a key force in making The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School cookbook happen. An early champion of Haven's Kitchen, she convinced Ali that a cookbook would be an important medium to translate her philosophy of cooking.
And Michelle would know. Michelle is the Creative Director for Artisan books and has been in the publishing industry for over 20 years. Her vision has been important in the design of many of the cookbooks that were inspirational to Ali.She doesn't like to be photographed, but Michelle Ishay's (center) deft touch makes each dish look desirable. The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School author Alison Cayne (left) and photographer Con Poulos (right).
Can you tell us a little bit about your history with Ali?
I was working and living within two blocks of Haven's Kitchen when the carriage house was being renovated. I was praying that it wouldn't become another bank or Verizon store. So when a crisp white awning was installed, I was relieved to have a fresh spot in the hood. On opening day, I popped in to get my morning coffee.
The space was perfection: steel, glass, subway tile, stocked wooden shelves. I knew I found a place where I could escape the bustle of the city. In addition to Bellocq teas and dark chocolates, there was a smart selection of well-worn, much-loved cookbooks on the shelves, many of which I had worked on in my 20 years in publishing. So when the pony-tailed barista handed me my crafted cup of love with the brightest smile, I asked, "Excuse me, whose books are these?" She lit up, and with the wag of her ponytail, Ali said' "Oh, they're mine!" I knew then that I not only found my place, but I also found my person. On that first meeting, I knew we would someday make a book together. I think we even said so.
What do you do at Artisan?
I am the Creative Director at Artisan. I help to shape the content and build the visual teams that brand our authors. Each author has their own story and thus each author needs their own singular look, feel and voice. The photography, illustration and design all shape that voice so the object itself reaches the largest possible audience.
What are some books that you've worked on?
They range across categories and decades. Some recent work: John Derian, the Remodelista series, Paula Wolfert's Food of Morocco, Sean Brock, and Burma and Persia by Naomi Duguid.
How did you get to where you are in life professionally?
I was nine years old the first time I inhaled the ink on the pages of my sister's copy of The Stranger by Albert Camus. Only one of the illustrated characters was spot gloss, and I remember being in an utter state of wonder staring at that cover.
After majoring in photography, writing and design at the School of Visual Arts, I got a job in design at Penguin and moved through the large publishing houses until finally focusing on art books at Abrams, and now at Artisan.
What do you find the most interesting part of your job?
The authors and the creative team of people I get to work with to break through the challenge of shaping the content and capturing each author’s personality into a visual language.
How was the process of putting together The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School cookbook different than others you’ve directed in the past?
Knowing Ali, the team, and the vibe at Haven's Kitchen meant I had been thinking about this book for years prior to the actual making of it. The concept and guiding force behind our work was how to represent a cooking school in the form of a book. I knew it should be a manual with Ali's guidance and personality as the voiceover. Teaching through the photography was critical. At the photo shoot, I kept repeating to myself and sometimes aloud "we must teach through the beauty." The headnotes and the team really had to tease out the teaching moments for us.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
The Chocolate Cake to Commit to Memory! I've made that almost every week since the manuscript.
What's your morning routine?
My kids wake me up anywhere between 5 to 7am with a snuggle in bed. Then, it's a kid marathon before I get to my coffee (black with cinnamon) and an egg over medium. By eight, I'm out the door, dropping off the kids, drinking a matcha from Haven's (if I'm lucky), and biking through the West Village to work.
Where do you find serenity and inspiration when you're in a rut?
Serenity: Turning off my phone. Music. Yoga. Friends. Cooking with my kids. Running by the Hudson. Writing it out.
Inspiration: Deep dives. Books. I really lucked out in the friend department. Hashing it out with them always unlocks something.
What was the last book you read?
Pablo Neruda. always good for a shift in perception.
When Breath Becomes Air. I have been really focused on how death can inform the living after my dad died in June. Most days, it makes me more grateful and productive. Other days, I'm just pissed (but that's between us).
And the Krishnamurti books I bought in India have been my bedside bible for years.
What was the last thing you cooked?
Haven's Kitchen romesco sauce with roasted potatoes and Naomi Pomeroy's cauliflower.
Because the weather is getting warmer.
Because sometimes you just need a place for respite.
Because wine and popcorn are meant to be enjoyed together.
We're starting HK Happier Hours!
Monday to Friday, 4pm to 7pm
Wine by the Glass: $8 for red, white or rose
Spiced popcorn $3
Marinated Olives $5
Seasonal Spread and Crostini $7
Many of us will probably never be lucky enough to visit Anna WIntour's garden in the Hamptons, but if you were one of the lucky guests who attended (or worked at) Rob and Anna's verdant wedding, it seems like it would be a pretty close experience.
Their whirlwind planning took three months of solid planning. Working with the creative team of Rye Workshop and Haven's Kitchen, they created a wedding that began with an intimate ceremony for family members and close friends, and celebrated as newlyweds with an intimate dinner party.
Anna and Rob held an intimate ceremony in front of 12 guests before the celebratory dinner - reception for about 80 guests.
What was the most important part of the wedding planning process for you?
We did not want a traditional wedding, or to have a large affair that our parents had in mind. Rob and I don’t love being the center of attention, we didn’t want to stand in front of hundreds of guests or be formally announced and forced to dance into our reception. Our favorite thing is to eat delicious food with our family and friends, so it was a no brainer to go in this direction for our wedding.
It was challenging, but, with a lot of assistance from Haven's Kitchen and Rye Workshop, our families were blown away by the simple beauty of it all.
It seems that your families were against the idea of bucking the traditional format, how did you navigate their expectations and your own desires?
Our families were great with the concept of something non-traditional, until they realized that we only had 40 guests on each side, leaving them with barely any friends to invite. It took a lot of long phone calls, but Rob and I remained firm. Ultimately we were able to select only our very closest circle, which meant every guest was someone who we really wanted to share the day with.
At the end, my parents hosted a casual BBQ in their backyard at the end of August so they had a chance to celebrate our nuptials with all of their friends and extended family.
How did you plan the menu?
We wanted the menu to be light enough for guests to enjoy in the middle of summer, while still having room to indulge in dessert. Haven's Kitchen interpreted this into a cohesive Mediterranean-inspired culinary experience. At the tasting, Chef David Mawhinney and the kitchen staff spent three hours with us explaining their dishes and inquiring about our preferences. We were able to give them feedback on everything down to the size of the entree and level of sweetness and saltiness. Following the meal, they packed us up a box of tiny chocolate tarts to enjoy at home.
What were some of the details you were excited to see come to life as part of your wedding?
Rob has a passion for gardening—a zucchini he grew when he was seven years old won second place at the Monmouth County Fair! We always talk about one day leaving the city to have a garden to tend and cook from. It was fitting that our wedding would come to life as a vegetable and herb garden. I'm an illustrator, so I did the herb illustrations and a monogram that was printed on menus and a mural flanking the head table.
Anna designed the mural that was mounted to the wall as vinyl. Event design was done by the dynamic duo from Rye Workshop.
What was the creative process on doing the illustrations for your wedding?
I come from a family of artists and am an illustrator at heart and by degree. I could not imagine getting married and not having my work be an integral part of the day. Halle (the events director at Haven's Kitchen) and Molly at Rye Workshop really encouraged me to make my drawings a key part of the décor and helped with printing. Rob and I were both so excited about how the elements came to life.
Anna also illustrated the table numbers.
Where did you find your inspiration for the look and feel of your wedding?
We wanted the reception to feel like we were hosting a beautiful dinner at our home. The presentation of the food like the boards of crudité and flatbreads made the night feel warm and homey.
The big picture inspiration came naturally from the space at Haven’s Kitchen. It’s how we determined our white and charcoal palate with pops of yellow.
Thinking back, the aesthetic was taken from some of our favorite places like ABC Kitchen, Terrain, and a tiny garden store in Westport CT called Gilberties. I searched my childhood home for knick-knacks and antiques in yellow and white to fill the niche shelving with framed photographs of our childhood and relationship.
Yellow and white antiques and knick-knacks found in Anna's childhood home filled the niche shelving.
What have you learned about yourselves and each other in the last year as you’ve put together your wedding?
We went from engaged to married in just three months. During the process it became evident how aligned we were in our vision and taste for the wedding. We embraced the challenge of the short timeline with fervor—ultimately and thankfully the process united us instead of causing tension.
What made you decide to have a short engagement? (It's very romantic.)
We wanted to be able to get married and then enjoy being together as soon as possible. For us spending 18 months agonizing over flatware and guest lists seemed too stressful and exhausting. The short time frame also forced us to make really quick decisions—both our families were stunned at the speed, they couldn't keep up so we really planned it all on our own with Halle and the team at Haven's Kitchen.
Her Dress: Alexis
Her Shoes: Via Spiga
His Suit & Shoes: Zegna
Decor & Flowers: Rye Workshop
Photographer: Blue Jar Photography
Ceremony Music: Bon Musique
Hair and Makeup: Glam Squad
Wedding Cake: Momofuku Milk Bar
For more photos from Anna and Rob's wedding visit our new Instagram @weddingsathavenskitchen.
If you’re looking for a place where everybody you admire (small and big) in the food world are gathered under one roof, we would highly recommend attending the Food Book Fair. (Think: Amanda Hesser, April Bloomfield, Frank Bruni, Elisabeth Prueitt, Homa Dashtaki, and our very own, Alison Cayne.) This year’s fair alone, which will be held at the Ace Hotel from May 11 to 14, can make your mind dizzy with the breadth and depth curated speakers, workshops, and independent food media. The two women behind the four-day event, Kimberly Chou and Amanda Dell, run a tight ship to make this happen each year. But they are driven by the hope that FBF will continue to nurture new connections, satiate the curious, and ultimately, inspire.
Amanda Dell (left) and Kimberly Chou (right) (Photo by Mackenzie Anne Smith)
How did you two meet?
Kim: We met through Food Book Fair! I started working on the third annual fair in 2014, with the event's founder Elizabeth Thacker Jones. I was producing Foodieodicals — our signature food magazine festival within the fair – and Amanda was repping Small Thyme Cooks, "the world's first culinary coloring and activity book" at the event, on behalf of a friend and now client, Andre Hueston Mack.
We got to know each other because where other folks would simply email about event logistics, questions, zine needs, and what not, Amanda would pick up the phone and call — and she kept calling, and started working on Food Book Fair related projects later that year. Two years later, we took over the whole damn thing as business partners.
Amanda: Very accurate recounting of events! Quick shoutout to Andre: We're serving his amazing Mouton Noir wines at our Friday night "New Americana" dinner. If you're not down with O.P.P. (Other Peoples Pinot), you will be after the dinner.
For people who have never been to the Food Book Fair – what can they expect to see?
Kim: Food Book Fair offers something for everyone, but with a specific vision of what that is. The Fair overall is inspired by great food media — books, of course, but also independent magazines, TV, film, radio, visual art, performance — and aims to elevate and provide space for emerging and lesser-recognized voices and entities. We're especially hyped to showcase and support folks of color, women, queer folks in the food space, and emphasize independent publishing and zine making through Foodieodicals. Though we certainly have a few splashier events and chefs or authors who are household names involved, and certainly the former and latter are not always mutually exclusive.
There are tons of magazines from all over the world, dinners, hands-on workshops and intimate salon-style stalks, Literary Speed Dating with top agents and editors, guest chef breakfasts and dinners, parties, good music, a pop-up book shop with our partners Kitchen Arts & Letters. And of course, lots of food and drink.
Amanda: We also hope you'll see a lot of friends and colleagues too, plus those that you have admired or followed from afar and now have the opportunity to make that in-real-life connection. Nothing makes us happier than when Food Book Fair gives our community the chance to take a relationship off the page and into a face-to-face meet-up.
Photo by Liz Claymen
How did the Food Book Fair start?
Kim: Elizabeth Thacker Jones, Food Book Fair's founder, started the event as her graduate thesis project when she was in New York University's Food Studies program. There were two tracts in the program: food systems, or food culture. And she thought, what about an event that merged both and explored the intersections between them? And, voila.
What was that “aha” moment for you — what did you feel had been missing from the food world?
Kim: As Elizabeth described it, at the time when Food Book Fair started, there wasn't really anything that mixed food culture and food systems into one big event. The event is also equally inspired by other big creative expo events like the New York and LA Art Book Fairs as well as the pop-up Scholastic book fairs we used to have in elementary school. (Tangential shout out to Troll book-order form.) I think Elizabeth was a nerd, and I know I was a total nerd, and my sheer joy when the school library would be setting up for the book fair in the days in advance? I try to think of that when we're deep in the middle of load-in or load-out ...
What's essential in a creative and productive partnership? What makes Food Book Fair run?
Kim: We each know our strengths and play to them, as well as recognize what each partner prefers to do and would rather not do — like, if I handle X soul-numbing-to-you task and I don't mind doing it, and if you handle Y task that I would really rather not have to handle, great.
I think we're eternally working on being better listeners (I don’t think you can ever stop improving on that). We lift each other up. We always make sure there are snacks.
Also, we're friends outside of work! It can be hard to remember that if you like to hang out and go to events, or check out new bars or restaurants with people you work with... because that's sometimes what we do for work, anyway! But we try to remember to take the work hat off when it's time, or do fun stuff together we both like that isn't, say, checking out the latest pop-up.
Amanda: The ability to have open and sometimes wacky brainstorms. Often our best ideas have in some way started as an off-the-cuff thought that we have morphed into workable next steps.
Dividing and conquering is key, as well as delegating. We're in the stage where we both want to be involved as much as possible, but have begun to realize how much more we can do by trusting each other implicitly and staying in the lanes we have devised for ourselves.
Photo by Clay Williams
How do you curate your speakers? How have you been able to get such an all-star roster of speakers and presenters?
Kim: Amanda was in hospitality for a long time, and before this I worked in media and journalism. And working on this together, we've met more and more people. You get less shy — or try to. And you simply reach out. A lot of different chefs, writers, artists, designers, and wine makers from our past lives have also resurfaced in this current situation we're building together, which I think speaks to an ability and continued desire to build real relationships and friendships that last.
We make a long list of dream participants every year. Then we ask, and we see what happens. We also make a long list of books, recent publications, trends, historical topics, news, etc., and look at that as we build the program.
That said, for me as a woman of color working in food, I'm especially moved to create space for other folks of color and other folks whose voices have been historically marginalized in mainstream food and media spaces. Here's the thing: Queer folks and folks of color are making the most vital, boundary-pushing, straight-up interesting contributions to art, culture, food and media today, in my opinion. We're making the dopest shit! Why not amplify that as much as possible?
Has Food Book Fair evolved over the past five/six years? And where would like you like to see Food Book Fair five years from now?
Amanda: We think so! It's been super exciting to build on the foundation that Elizabeth started by expanding O.G FBF events like Foodieodicals, while having the chance to create new events like Literary Speed Dating and our guest chef collaboration meals.
Any major plans on the horizon for the both of you?
Kim: We're trying to take Food Book Fair on the road and figuring out how to do that with purpose and intention, and in a financially-sound way!
In June I'll be in Detroit for the Allied Media Conference, part of a group of fellow travelers coordinating a food track. This is a gathering of media organizers and is all about people using print, technology, music, and art to build a more creative and just world.
Photo by Liz Clayman
What do you do to recharge/reset?
Kim: I sit in the steam room at the McBurney YMCA on 14th Street for as long as I can stand it, drinking water and sometimes deep conditioning my hair. If I'm really lucky on the time-front and feeling leisurely, then I swim — all my best ideas come when swimming — and then get back in the steam room.
Amanda: I love visiting my friends at The Pantry in Cold Spring, NY — they have an incredible cafe, roastery and bottle shop. It's so rejuvenating to immerse yourself in the fresh air and treat your eyes to a brand new set of visuals.
In the summer and fall, the locale that helps me relax the most is Kismet, Fire Island. From the moment you step on the ferry in Bay Shore, your blood pressure automatically drops. My happy place is spending the weekend there, cooking every meal from scratch and not wearing shoes once.
Amanda: Dinner at the Long Table
What book/media (food related or otherwise) is your current obsession?
Kim: My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris. Grub Street Diet, always. Sweetbitter author Stephanie Danler's literary Instagram posts, specifically poetry.
Photo by Liz Clayman
What do you want people who come to Food Book Fair to come away with?
Kim: Inspiration. Concrete knowledge. Strategies for building the kind of food media world we wish to see. Lots of new books from Kitchen Arts & Letters, magazines from Foodieodicals, and other cool swag.
Amanda: Food Book Fair has also turned into an incredible, and genuine—I say that genuinely—place for friends, accomplices and peers in our food community to gather and meet — sometimes for the first time. We hear often of writers meeting their agents or editors, or epistolary relationships between food bloggers that are actualized IRL at our event. We love that.
Ali will be in conversation with Amanda Hesser, co-founder, Food52 on the topic of "finding community" moderated by Charlotte Druckman, author, Stir, Sizzle, Bake.
Friday, May 12 at 11am • For tickets, click here. Friends of Haven's Kitchen get 10% off with the code: HAVENSKITCHEN