Springboard for Entrepreneurs

Due to the farm-to-table movement and the culinary artisans it has bred, a clutch of kitchens have sprouted up in East Hampton Town to provide a springboard for food entrepreneurs
Dru Raley began making Bonac Dog Bark as a way to raise money for the Springs Presbyterian Church. Morgan McGivern

   So, you’ve always wanted to make your fortune replicating Aunt Sally’s rhubarb shortcake. But the board of health might not okay your kitchen, given the dogs that sleep in the corners and the cats that trespass on counters. Due to the farm-to-table movement and the culinary artisans it has bred, a clutch of kitchens have sprouted up in East Hampton Town to provide a springboard for food entrepreneurs.
   The kitchen at the Springs Presbyterian Church is used by several local cooks who pay $15 an hour. “It’s a professional kitchen with stainless tops and a Viking stove,” said Ann Harper of Raw Oasis Foods, who prepares raw vegan items there such as cashew “cheeses,” Mexican paté (made with sunflower seed sprouts), “Better Than Tuna Salad,” which is given a fishy flavor with seaweed, and an array of sweets including lemon chia cocoa bars. To avoid the heat of the day, she arrives at 5 a.m. and stays three to six hours, “working around others’ schedules.”
    But Ms. Harper, who finds it inconvenient to have to take her supplies back and forth, is considering building a commercial kitchen in her own basement. “The product I make is all organic, which is pricey,” she said, “so adding on rent. . . .”
    Her offerings, which she has sold for two years, can be found at the Balsam farm stand in Amagansett, Provisions in Sag Harbor, and the Juicy Naams in Sag Harbor and East Hampton.
    Dru Raley, who began making Bonac Dog Bark — treats for man’s best friend — as Christmas gifts, continued the process to earn money for the church, to which she belongs. When she began, she said, she’d think, “Nobody’s going to buy these.” But they did. And now she spends three hours once a week making delicious-looking canine mun­chies. Her label declares that the biscuits come with “the crunch of the Springs.”
    “Not every dog loves every flavor,” Ms. Raley said, though Labs do tend to love “turkey-bacon.” The products are available at Mary’s Marvelous and Vicki’s Veggies in Amagansett.
    Balsam Farms has an in-house staff that makes “the fresher stuff” at the church, according to Alex Balsam, including potato salad and kohlrabi slaw, and baked goods such as zucchini bread. For their bounty of tomatoes, they use a kitchen in Kingston, N.Y., to can sauce.
    Several restaurants and stores here rent out their kitchens as well, though many are underground and would rather not have the word spread. Anke Albert, a fitness trainer, started baking her “healthy oat-based baked goods” at the Springs General Store, where the owner, Kristi Hood, still “occasionally” rents space. Using the space now is Mi Sook, who makes a ginger tea sold at many venues including the Green Thumb in Water Mill.
    Ms. Albert now has her own kitchen and ovens at Townline BBQ, but before that she rented space at East Hampton Gourmet on Newtown Lane. The proprietor, Kate Pratt, who also owns the beauty company Hamptons Botanicals, leases her kitchen to entrepreneurs “except in July and August.”
    “I also support people developing products,” said Ms. Pratt, who has worked with food purveyors such as Dean & Deluca. She helps clients with food safety, labeling, and packaging, and partners with the publicist Lisa Foscolo and her husband, Jason Foscolo, an attorney, to help clients fully launch their labors of love. “I’ve been doing it so long for my two companies, I know the ins and outs,” she said.
     Nadia Ernestus, a nutritional coach who demonstrates how to ferment vegetables at such places as Simply Sublime in East Hampton, where she will teach a class on Sept. 15, will begin soon to sell her own sauerkraut and has leased space at Stony Brook University’s Calverton Business Incubator in which to make the “super-healthy” slaw. At the facility, she not only has use of a kitchen, but also both dry and cold storage, and access to advice on labeling, finances, and merchandising.
    Dorothy Turka and Mike Stone, whose company, Dough, provides gluten-free baked goods to local farm stands, also use the Calverton kitchen. Before moving their enterprise there, the duo began baking at a Taste of the North Fork, a kitchen in Cutchogue owned by Jeri Woodhouse. Normally, Ms. Woodhouse and her staff cook and bottle product themselves, but she occasionally leases the space at $25 an hour to artisans. Some of the South Fork businesses she produces product for — think ketchup, marinades, sauces — are Townline BBQ and La Fondita.
    Dreesen’s, which left a big hole on Newtown Lane when it closed in 2006, is now a catering company with a commercial kitchen on nearby Lumber Lane. The proprietor, Rudy DeSanti, is careful about leasing out his space, however, and currently it is only being used by Luchi Masliah, owner of Gula-Gula Empanadas, and Carol Eintile of Dolce Nirvana. Mr. DeSanti is concerned about liability, and only admits cooks who are “insured and covered by the health department or agricultural department,” he said. (He does seem to appreciate certain delicacies that are prepared in his kitchen — both the empanadas and Key lime pie, Dolce’s best seller, appear on his catering menu.)
    All is not lost for those who are turned away. Several new kitchens are potentially in the works. As the Amagansett Presbyterian Church rebuilds Scoville Hall, there are plans to put in a commercial kitchen. And Loring Bolger, a board member of the Springs Improvement Society, said she would “love to see [the Ashawagh Hall kitchen] upgraded into a commercial kitchen” as a way to raise money. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” she said, “but I can’t speak for the rest of the board.”
    The Amagansett Food Institute, a nonprofit whose “mission is to support, promote, and advocate for the farmers, vintners, fishermen, and other food producers and providers on the East End of Long Island,” is currently looking for a kitchen space and campaigning for funds to equip it. “We’re polling farmers and those who own food businesses to see what sort of equipment they’ll need,” said Jess Engel, membership coordinator.
    One of the institute’s goals is to meet the varied schedules of food entrepreneurs. “Farmers are forced to work awkward hours,” Ms. Engel said, because so many are using restaurant kitchens after hours.