Everyone warned me that the first few weeks after opening our doors were going to be a bit of a haze. What advisors, mentors, family, friends, and even complete strangers should've headed was that it was going to be a complete blur. We've become so in it, that I find myself missing the awesomeness (is that even a word??) we've built here.
But amongst the fuzziness since January 19 , a stroke of clarity hit me the other day while I was grinding through an inbox of 72 unanswered emails.
Downstairs, in the teaching kitchen, I could hear giggles. Our sous chef, Katie Carey, was teaching a class on soups, sauces, and stocks...not only were the students laughing, they were engaged and genuinely excited to be learning Le Fond basics. Talk about an AH-HA moment. Wow, people are really downstairs. People are downstairs and they are really taking a cooking class. And the best part...people are downstairs, they are really taking a cooking class and they are laughing.
And on top of the laughter, how about the emails? I've been humbled by notes from students who've visited Haven's Kitchen, taken a class, and walked away with a feeling of accomplishment, pride, and eagerness to get back into their own home kitchens. Between the happy snickers at HK and the genuine, thoughtful thank you notes, I know we're up to a good thing.
"This was my first cooking class I have taken in my life and I must thank you so much for a very fun day in the kitchen. I was drawn to HK after reading the NYT press piece. My expectations were met: simple and non-intimidating approach to cooking in a warm and friendly atmosphere, adherence to an inspirational philosophy to cook healthful, sustainable food. I look forward to my next class with you."
- EVELYN SELBER
“We had a fantastic time and it was a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year. My staff commented on what a good teacher Julia is. The flow was lovely…warm welcome from you and your staff…all fantastic. The support staff is great also, they are efficient and anticipate next moves. This is such a spectacular space, I know that I will be back for more. I will recommend this experience to everyone! Terrific!"
- EILEEN SOLOMON
Haven’s Kitchen market and coffee bar has made it through its first weekend! Thanks to some exciting press in the New York Timesand Daily Candy, we had a steady stream of visitors. Our customers were full of warmth and excitement, curiosity about our cooking classes, private event space, as well as our supper club.
Our baristas are composing beautiful cappuccinos, our retail staff is getting comfortable talking about Haven’s Kitchen and our purveyors, and class registrations are steadily streaming in! The pistachio-agave cookies and burnt sugar espresso shortbread from Ovenly were a huge hit, as were our espresso drinks and private blend drip coffee from La Colombe.
The café table was full of neighbors enjoying warm drinks as respite from the cold wind and dirty snow. Seeing friends catching up and sharing a pot of Bellocq's Queen's Guard Tea created a moment in which Haven’s Kitchen perfectly symbolized its namesake — a true haven.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been sharing Haven’s Kitchen with friends and family that are near and dear to us. Lately, they have been especially dear for having allowed us to treat them as guinea pigs as we experiment with the layout of our teaching kitchen, the format of our classes, and a few new fresh-faced instructors. The feedback has been the perfect balance of constructive criticism, encouragement, and enthusiasm for the project we are about to embark on. It has made us more prepared and even more excited to invite all of you in.
We know that you will become a part of our friends and family community soon enough!
It sounds ridiculous to quote Voltaire — I almost wish he hadn't been the one who said it — but in his words, "the perfect is the enemy of the good." In many ways, this sums up the way a lot of people I know feel about cooking. We're all inundated with Perfection. We're flooded with iconic celebrity chefs and perfectly quirky yet cool DIY-era master bloggers. We're surrounded by gorgeous food photography (sorry) and elegant cookbooks that look like coffee table centerpieces. On the other hand, we're bombarded with gloom and doom information about how much damage we continue to do to our environment.
We're stuck between the rock of gorgeous and unattainable and the hard place of holier-than-thou and admonishment. We're paralyzed between Perfection and Perfection.
I guess the French philosophers are THE FRENCH PHILOSOPHERS because they spoke the truth. No wonder so many of us feel uncomfortable trying to roast a chicken — there are too many 'shoulds' about the flavoring, the technique, the presentation. And add to that the other set of 'shoulds' about the kind of chicken, where it roamed, what it ate.
We're so worried about being perfect that we don't even aim for good.
Here's where Haven's Kitchen comes in. Our goal is Good. Not perfect, not gourmet. We want our guests and students to feel good about food, cooking, and their relationship with the environment. We want to demystify it all and get people back to buying food that they like and supports our local economy, cooking what is nourishing and delicious, and not feeling the pressure of perfection or guilt.