Sometimes our kitchen is quiet. Sometimes it is very loud. At the beginning of the day, often before the sun has risen, it smells faintly of bleach and feels like a secret womb of safety where creative experiments can be spun out unencumbered by questions, by the prep list, by obstacles of your fellow cooks’ bodies who will always politely move out of the way– we have a polite kitchen– but it is just so nice when the floor is all your own. It’s the magic time of the day when you feel ahead of everyone else, like a superhero saving planet Heirloom, giving a kick start to get things going: the ovens heated, the new inventory signed off, your own tasks underway with whatever morning playlist that inspires you, we all have different tastes in music here. It’s a very powerful feeling to be the first in the kitchen.
Cooks trickle in at 6 a.m. or 7, some at 8. They strap on crisp white aprons greeting good morning in Spanish or in English as they peer into the boxes of vibrant produce being delivered before they prep it out which is what most of our cooks spend most of their day doing. It’s easy to forget what an important aspect this is to restaurants and catering companies who don’t open cans, this critical behind the scenes groundwork of prepping that is never featured on the olympic cooking showdowns of network television.
We get most of our produce not from a middleman but from the farmers themselves so there is much dirt and trimming to contend with. Our kitchen meets the challenge everyday, and if you should pass through in the midst of it, you will be struck by the color and uniqueness of it all. It never gets old.
In the middle of the morning we host a congested thoroughfare. The office is in by 9 and they enter the kitchen just long enough to pour themselves a cup of hot coffee. Breakfast orders have been fired and sent, and now the same is being done for lunch menus as well as any dinners we are serving. Everyone is buzzing because there is much work to be done and we all want to get it right. This is when things get loud and the kitchen is transformed into a cacophony of carts rolling, doors opening, doors closing, knives chopping fast, fast, fast. Outsiders visiting, as so very many do, are completely intimidated. It’s Grand Central Station during rush hour and you just better know what your destination is.
This is the day to day of our kitchen. It rarely lets up and we are all grateful for that. Those who are afraid of the electricity of it all don’t last that long here, neither do those who feel they are better than scrubbing the floors because we’ve all done that, scrubbed the floors. We all help each other out. We’ve seen each other through personal battles and public ones too. Our kitchen is four years strong and our office is just over a year. Everyone here has a fire in their eye and a commitment to what they do, making and selling really good food. We all approach it differently, but it’s there. You can feel it when you walk through the doors.
|Photos: Jennifer Emerling|
People ask us all the time, “How do you work these crazy hours?”
I don’t know. We just do. It’s exciting to be a part of something that is contributing to the greater good in this era where, to quote Michael Pollan, our eating is being outsourced to corporations. People who hire us for full service catering events, who eat off our truck, who order our drop-offs, are people who want real food that is carefully sourced and handled and exquisitely prepared. We are here to do all of the above and to change back the environment of how we eat. Slow food. Quiet meals meant for you to linger over and share and remember.
We’re just working to keep food simple.