FEATURES : FOOD / DRINK

A Sustainable Haven

By Craig Cavallo

Published July 24, 2012

The shop greets visitors to the first floor at Haven's Kitchen where a communal table sits in the middle encouraging interaction amongst its patrons.

Photo: Brent Herrig

The shop greets visitors to the first floor at Haven's Kitchen where a communal table sits in the middle encouraging interaction amongst its patrons.

The shop includes a pastry and coffee counter serving La Colombe coffee.

Photo: Brent Herrig

The shop includes a pastry and coffee counter serving La Colombe coffee.

Ridwan Syah manning the pastry and coffee counter.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Ridwan Syah manning the pastry and coffee counter.

Pastries will soon be made entirely in-house in the coming weeks. Pictured above are a mix of Haven's Kitchen's own and Ovenly's.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Pastries will soon be made entirely in-house in the coming weeks. Pictured above are a mix of Haven's Kitchen's own and Ovenly's.

An assortment of offerings including organic oats from Cayuga Pure, hot chocolate from Nunu, chocolate chips from Mast Brothers, and Haven's pancake mix.

Photo: Brent Herrig

An assortment of offerings including organic oats from Cayuga Pure, hot chocolate from Nunu, chocolate chips from Mast Brothers, and Haven's pancake mix.

The shop also carries Roost glassware, Roost Berry Baskets, Kobo candles, Fog Linen trays, and books from chefs/authors like Tamar Adler, Seamus Mullen, and Beatrice Peltre.

Photo: Brent Herrig

The shop also carries Roost glassware, Roost Berry Baskets, Kobo candles, Fog Linen trays, and books from chefs/authors like Tamar Adler, Seamus Mullen, and Beatrice Peltre.

Classes are conducted in a room just beyond the shop.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Classes are conducted in a room just beyond the shop.

Alison Schneider in the process of making a loaf of challa, lays the dough on the pan just before it goes into the oven.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Alison Schneider in the process of making a loaf of challa, lays the dough on the pan just before it goes into the oven.

In a few short minutes, the loaves of challa are ready for a brunch event at Haven's Kitchen.

Photo: Brent Herrig

In a few short minutes, the loaves of challa are ready for a brunch event at Haven's Kitchen.

Alison Schneider designed the interior on her own. The wall leading to the second floor is adorned with trinkets and artwork including a poster of Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard's <i>A Woman Is a Woman</i>.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Alison Schneider designed the interior on her own. The wall leading to the second floor is adorned with trinkets and artwork including a poster of Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard's A Woman Is a Woman.

Her home away from home. The second floor of Haven's Kitchen is where the bar resides along with a lounge.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Her home away from home. The second floor of Haven's Kitchen is where the bar resides along with a lounge.

The event space on the second floor also includes a kitchen in the back.

Photo: Brent Herrig

The event space on the second floor also includes a kitchen in the back.

Chef Dave Mawhinney conducting a class on summer wines and seasonal starters.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Chef Dave Mawhinney conducting a class on summer wines and seasonal starters.

Left to Right: Lela Ilyinsky Director of Marketing, Alison Schneider, and chef Julia Sullivan at Haven's Kitchen.

Photo: Brent Herrig

Left to Right: Lela Ilyinsky Director of Marketing, Alison Schneider, and chef Julia Sullivan at Haven's Kitchen.

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“I’m going to give the challah a punch and then I’ll be right back.” With that, Alison Schneider got up from the interview. The time it took her to go downstairs to the recreational kitchen, punch the swelling out of a rising loaf of challah dough and walk back upstairs to the event space, gave me a chance to take in my surroundings. I felt like I was sitting in her home, and in a sense I was. It was her home away from home she created and opened in January on West 17th Street in Manhattan.

Haven’s Kitchen is the result of Alison Schneider’s uncompromising passion and support for a sustainable lifestyle. She delivers her message through the specialty food shop, recreational kitchen, and event space that make up the venue. These components are structured around Schneider’s mission to teach the community about food sustainability, a topic likely to raise brows. “Especially in our country,” Schneider began, “where we tend to be on the left or the right, liberal or conservative. We tend to make these dualities and I think that’s happened a little bit with the food movement. People think when you’re talking about sustainability or ecology, that somehow you are a bit of a Luddite. I think that’s a shame because you end up missing the point.” Schneider strives to drive the point home through her educational approach, which has been seamlessly integrated into the three levels of Haven’s Kitchen.

Schneider grew up in the 70s with parents who were susceptible to fad diets. Food was never central to her upbringing unless there was a particular fear behind it. For her, “food was sort of a naughty indulgence. It seemed like all the people that had big happy families like the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family always ate together. They had these meals that I didn’t have. I feel like it was my little rebellion against my upbringing to start cooking. So I did.”

In the fall of 2010, she envisioned Haven’s Kitchen while working towards her Masters in Food Studies, “I was in class thinking, ‘What do I want to do?’ I know that I’m a teacher by nature, but I didn’t only want to teach and I didn’t only wanted to have a shop.” She was looking for a space that would house her calling as a teacher and her passion for sustainability. The only parameter was that it had to be within five blocks of the farmers’ market in Union Square, where farmers have gathered to sell their sustainably grown products since 1976.

In 1994, Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio brought the market and local farming to new heights when they opened Gramercy Tavern on 20th Street, relying on the market three blocks away for much of their menu. Colicchio’s market-driven success lives on two blocks away at Craft. Jean-Georges opened ABC Kitchen one block away in 2010 and chef Dan Kluger’s menu there is a template for sustainable food. The market’s influence has had a tremendous impact on shaping the city’s foodscape and Schneider’s awareness is 100% of the reason for Haven’s proximity to Union Square.

The immaculate stainless steel kitchen in the back of the first floor is a testament to Haven’s mission. It’s where Schneider would later work strands of dough into loaves of challah and insist I wash my hands to play with it. Her approach is hands on, fun, endearing, and in a way, maternal. The last of which is not surprising when you consider Schneider is a mother of five. She has a natural ability to make others feel welcome. Her warmth was immediately felt when she first introduced herself, extending a hand through an apron to do so, “Hi, I’m Ali.”

COMMENTS

patricia cayne
said at 5pm
July 24, 2012

absolutely true and sensational! Great article!

Joy Baruch
said at 5pm
July 24, 2012

After reading this article, it really sums up what Havens Kitchen and Alison are all about.
Yes!!! That is the feeling that you get - that you are sitting in Alison's home. Shame I live across the pond .
A great read .
Regards Joy Baruch - London, England

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