A Quick Bite with Alison Cayne of Haven's Kitchen (& More)
Alison Cayne wears many hats. She’s the entrepreneurial mind behind Haven’s Kitchen (a cooking school), the taste buds for her own line of gourmet sauces, and creator of the podcast “In the Sauce” on Heritage Radio Network. When her life isn’t occupied by the daily responsibilities of her aforementioned ventures, she enjoys time with her family and is an advocate for home cooking.
Bowery chatted with Cayne to learn more about her food-centered career in the fifth installment of our Q&A series, A Quick Bite.
Where does your passion for food come from?
As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to food for its power to bring people together and create warmth and community. It wasn’t until I went back to get my masters in Food Studies that I became fascinated with why certain cultures and regions eat what they do. Now I want to know everything about what those foodways say about the environment, politics, religion, and values of a certain place. Food is the best storyteller - it reveals so much about people and places. It’s amazing.
Speaking of storytelling, how did In the Sauce, your podcast on Heritage Radio Network, come to fruition?
The CPG (consumer packaged goods) world is an entirely different business than my brick and mortar business, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it and share that knowledge with whoever was interested. I had (and still do!) a lot of basic questions that I wanted to ask when I was starting the Haven’s Kitchen sauce line and the podcast was a way for me to flesh out the information and get the equivalent of a freshman class in consumer packaged goods. I like learning and I like teaching, so the podcast is a great place to do both.
Which guest taught you the most on the podcast so far? Who is your dream guest?
Honestly, each piece of the business is so radically different that the guests can’t even be compared. One guest teaching me about supply chain is a totally different learning experience than another talking about digital media or field marketing. The part I like the most is how we can trace what they wanted to be as kids into their jobs now. It’s fascinating. My dream guests are on the show!
Since your podcast is a nod to your own recently launched sauce line, can you tell us if you have a favorite flavor? We know, this might be like picking a favorite child.
I love the Nutty Lemongrass because I have never been able to make that at home! It’s challenging to use kaffir lime leaves and fresh lemongrass and ours is amazing. I am super excited about the new Gingery Miso and Harissa, which have recently launched. And the Romesco is amazing… but then again so is the Chimichurri… I guess I don’t have a favorite.
At Bowery, we are always thinking about the importance of sustainability, and constantly thinking of ways to do more with fewer resources. Haven’s Kitchen, your cooking school, puts great emphasis on this as well - can you share more about this aspect of the culture there?
First and foremost, my mission has always been to support and inspire home cooking because it is the single most impactful thing a citizen can do to support a healthier food system (and their own personal health). People who cook at home are not only eating better, but more likely to support equitable farm labor practices, seasonal and ethical agriculture and create less waste. Everything that Haven’s does is directed at that main goal. On a more granular level, we make purchasing choices based on sustainability and ethical standards, compost waste to feed an amazing pig farm, and support our staff with fair wages and excellent health insurance.
Okay, we’ve covered the hard hitting stuff. Now tell us something about your career we won’t find on a LinkedIn profile.
I didn’t go back to school until I was 38, and I opened Haven’s at 40. I feel a little like I lived my life in reverse and bloomed on the later side. BUT, I’m so grateful that I’m almost 47 and learning something totally new every day. I find this all so deeply gratifying because I am learning so much and that is SO MUCH FUN.
Where we can find you when you’re not running the world as an entrepreneur or superhero mom?
I am pretty much at work or at home. I like to go to sleep early and chill with my kids. They’re all older now and it’s mostly just enjoying their company and supporting them as they navigate teenager-dome.
How have you translated your passion for food and the industry into your family life?
All my kids love to eat and we love to eat together and cook for each other. Not all of them love the farmer’s market, but my 20-year-old son and I go whenever he’s home from college, so that’s pretty awesome!
Okay, last question (it’s a hard one). If you could only eat one veggie or herb for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Celery. It’s always refreshing and much more flavorful than people give it credit for. It’s also adaptable - so I feel like I wouldn’t get board. I’m glad it’s having a bit of a moment now; it’s been underrated for too long.
Alison Cayne contributed to this article in her own personal capacity. The views expressed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bowery Farming, Inc.