Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street | Milk Street Faces

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Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street | Milk Street Faces

Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street | Milk Street Faces

The stories of the people who feed us
  • Ercole Maggio, of Molino Maggio in Salento, Italy

    “All the stuff I have learned about grains, I learned from my father and grandfather... read more
    “All the stuff I have learned about grains, I learned from my father and grandfather, and also from old farmers I talk to” says Ercole Maggio. But that’s only partly true. Farmland forgotten for generations has taught him much, as well. Maggio is a seed saver of the highest order. Obsessed by ancient grains, since 2012 he has traveled around Italy to find abandoned farmland, teasing out wild seeds, some nearly extinct, from crops abandoned decades or more ago. Grains from Africa, relatives of kamut some 2,000 years old. Others that can be traced to ancient Rome. Each variety “tells us more about our land and history.” Once Maggio finds a species, he works with farmers near his home in Salento, Puglia—the heel of Italy’s boot—to cultivate and bring them back. At his mill—Molino Maggio—in a shop that smells of bread and yeast, he grinds the grains with marble stones. Some of the flour goes to local bakeries. Some he sells bagged onsite. Some his mother turns into pasta and cookies. “We’re not big, obviously, but we serve the people who care.” — Ercole Maggio, of Molino Maggio in Salento, Italy, as told to J.M. Hirsch (Photo: J.M. Hirsch) ... less
  • Serigne Mbaye, Dakar NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana

    “Every time I go, my brain just gets restarted. Plus, there’s nothing like home,” Serigne... read more
    “Every time I go, my brain just gets restarted. Plus, there’s nothing like home,” Serigne Mbaye, the Senegalese chef behind New Orleans popup Dakar NOLA, says of traveling to the country where he was born. “For me as a young cook, it’s very important to constantly, constantly get inspired. To not forget the reason I’m doing what I’m doing.” Having worked for restaurants like New Oleans’ Commander’s Palace, San Francisco’s Atelier Crenn and most recently at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in New York City, Mbaye wants to open his own fine-dining restaurant that features West African cuisine. “I’m doing a popup in the meantime until that time is right. I’m patient. I know what I’ve got is very solid and distinctive… I’m still young. I realized recently that chefs 30 or 40 years ago would never have this kind of opportunity that I’m having. Now, we get over our head—you could work in one Michelin star restaurant for a year and you think you’re the big dog. Meanwhile, you didn’t pay your dues... It’s causing me to be more humble and more aware, because sometimes you can be so hungry and so inspired and so career driven… Once I start growing, I want to keep growing.” — Serignee Mbaye, of Dakar NOLA, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo courtesy of Dakar NOLA). ... less
  • Beaver Shriver, Rise Coffee Co. & Nye's Cream Sandwiches, Sarasota, FL

    “People see one disability the person has and they overlook all of the abilities,” says... read more
    “People see one disability the person has and they overlook all of the abilities,” says Beaver Shriver, co-founder of Rise Coffee Co. & Nye's Cream Sandwiches, which offers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities jobs crafting homemade ice cream, baked goods and coffee drinks. After advocating for people with disabilities for years in the nonprofit sector, Shriver partnered with chef Christian Nye to expand his efforts in the food space. “For these guys, the employment piece of the puzzle is a tough one,” says Shriver. “We’ve got one guy in our shop named Caleb. He has Down syndrome. I’ll just let people know: ‘Here’s Caleb, he has a black belt in Taekwondo and he’s a competitive ballroom dancer.’ You can just see these people's faces change. People are being touched by what we’re doing on both sides of the coin. It’s just really moving to see these guys finally be included and realize they’re really appreciated for who they are.” — Beaver Shriver, Rise Coffee Co. & Nye's Cream Sandwiches, Sarasota, FL, as told to Cathryn Haight (Photo: Jenny Acheson) ... less
  • Crystal Coser, Bites & Bashes, Los Angeles, CA

    “What I’ve realized over the years, especially recently, is how much of a privilege it... read more
    “What I’ve realized over the years, especially recently, is how much of a privilege it is for me to be able to choose to be in the hospitality industry. For so many immigrants, especially Asian immigrants, it wasn’t a choice. It was an act of desperation,” says Los Angeles restaurateur Crystal Coser. She runs Bites & Bashes catering company and cafe with her mom, also a restaurant industry veteran. As was Coser’s grandmother, who immigrated to California from South Korea and sold burgers to longshoremen on the port of Long Beach. Motivated by recent waves of hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islanders, Coser has been working to support her community and help #StopAsianHate. On Wednesday, LA Food Gang, a club she co-founded on rising social media app Clubhouse, will host Let’s Eat Together, a virtual event to raise money for Asian American Pacific Islanders’ restaurants across the country. “Small business owners, we’re here to nourish our people,” she says. “When we see our own people being treated in that way, it’s heartbreaking and the natural instinct is to help nourish and do something about it.” — Crystal Coser, of Bites & Bashes in Los Angeles, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo courtesy of Crystal Coser) ... less
  • J. Fox and Kevin Haverty, Hudson and Charles, New York City

    “It was kind of like a self-identity. It was almost like coming out of the... read more
    “It was kind of like a self-identity. It was almost like coming out of the closet, because I also came out when I was very young. It’s one of those things that’s inside and you don’t know what about it is... It’s hard to put into words,” says New York City butcher J. Fox on deciding to eat meat again after being a vegetarian for 16 years. Fox and his husband, Kevin Haverty, also a vegetarian for 10 years, now own Manhattan butcher shop Hudson and Charles. Though neither started out as butchers—Fox was a photographer at Christie’s Auction House and Haverty a cameraman in the film industry—Fox explains, “My grandfather was a butcher and Kevin is a fifth generation Irish butcher... It’s kind of in our blood.” After pivoting to shooting food to broaden his portfolio during the economic downturn of 2008, Fox’s interest in sustainably raised meat grew, and in 2013, the pair opened their neighborhood butcher shop, which sources meat only from farms that practice regenerative agriculture. “All our farmers are raising their animals by healing the soil,” Fox says. “What we do at Hudson and Charles and the way Kevin and I feel about animals and the way our farmers feel about animals, it’s the same way vegetarians feel about animals. We’re on the same side.”— J. Fox and Kevin Haverty of Hudson and Charles butcher shop in New York City, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo: Courtesy of Hudson and Charles) ... less
  • Mike Shaw, Loco and Fat Baby, Boston, MA

    “The loyalty of our team and our neighborhood and the amount of compassion that we’ve... read more
    “The loyalty of our team and our neighborhood and the amount of compassion that we’ve seen has been the most uplifting and positive experience. It’s still there, that sense of old school passion for where you live and supporting the people who live next to you, who work next to you,” says restaurateur Mike Shaw, who lives in South Boston with his wife and daughter. Shaw helms two eateries in the neighborhood—Mexican mainstay Loco and sushi spot Fat Baby. When business slowed this season, he received a slew of calls from regulars asking how they could help. In response, he created the Winter Fund, collecting donations to support his staff and other local businesses. “All we did was open a door, that’s it,” says Shaw. “Your neighbors in South Boston quickly become your friends and, soon after that, they become your family. ... I think I’m most excited to have a kid who is going to be raised in a place with that sense of community.”— Mike Shaw, Loco and Fat Baby, Boston, MA, as told to Cathryn Haight (Photo: Single Light Media)
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  • Vivien Sansour, the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library

    “Growing up in a little town, very rural, in Palestine, I never saw myself as... read more
    “Growing up in a little town, very rural, in Palestine, I never saw myself as something separate from nature,” says Viven Sansour, founder of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, an education and art project that preserves heirloom seeds and fosters conversation around the biodiversity and heritage of Sansour’s birthplace. “The seed library is an actual library with shelves, and it also hosts the traveling kitchen, and it’s from there that many collaborations sprout,” says Sansour, who has traveled from London to Chicago for her project. Currently, Sansour is focused on restoring agricultural terraces in Beit Jala, the town where she war born. “I would come home from school and my playground was all these terraces and all these apricot trees... My mom would cook the fruit and turn it into jam... When the jam was still hot, my mom would drizzle olive oil and we would dip bread in it... Whether it’s my mom making jam or me sitting under a tree eating almonds or me cooking something with my grandmother, [these memories] all inform me and they’re moments that I long for and cherish and inspire me to continue to do this work so that new generations can also taste the fulness of nature.” Vivien Sansour, the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, as told to Alison Spiegel (Image by Samar Hazboun. Courtesy of @Qastina.Designs)
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  • Rasheed Philips, Philips Barbeque Co., Lawrenceville, Georgia

    “Once the show aired ... I got an email from a teacher thanking me for... read more
    “Once the show aired ... I got an email from a teacher thanking me for being a representation that he could show his students,” says Jamaica-born, Georgia-based Rasheed Philips, who credits his roots with his second-place success on Netflix’s “The American BBQ Showdown.” The teacher “mentioned that they had lost a lot of books during COVID and he loved pointing out that I had read so much and connecting that with his students. So I decide, OK, I’m going to do a popup menu and use all the proceeds to buy books for his students… ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad,’ ‘Financial Freedom,’ ‘Shoe Dog,’ by Phil Knight, ‘The Millionaire Next Door,’ ‘The Intelligent Investor.’ I got them books like that, that I wish I had,” he says. “I’m very big on giving back and that is 1,000 percent my mother’s doing.” After Netflix, Philips left his career in IT to focus on his popup, Philips Barbeque Co. “All the meals I make now are still based on dishes I grew up making with my mom or my grandma or my aunt.” — Rasheed Philips, Philips Barbeque Co., Lawrenceville, Georgia, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo: Lee Garmon) ... less
  • Kim Nolen, Redbird Cafe, Homewood, Illinois

    “Sometimes someone comes in with a handful of change and when they ask how much... read more
    “Sometimes someone comes in with a handful of change and when they ask how much is something, it’s always a real obvious clue that they’re someone who should have a magnet,” says Kim Nolen, owner of Redbird Cafe in Homewood, Illinois. “Magnets” represent free meals other customers bought in advance for those who can’t afford them. It’s one of the many ways Nolen gives back to her community. Another is Sunday meals where families pay only what they can afford. “If families are struggling financially, they can pay nothing and that would be fine. It’s their day to be sure everybody eats.” The cafe, now also stocked as a market with products from struggling organic farmers, is so beloved that volunteers from a local bike shop offered free delivery to help it make ends meet. “I approached them because I wanted to help since they have their shop closed, so I had a $2 delivery charge that was supposed to go to them. They donated it back. It’s an awesome group of people.” — Kim Nolen, Redbird Cafe, Homewood, Illinois, as told to Albert Stumm (Photo: Redbird Cafe) ... less
  • Cheryl Day, Back in the Day Bakery, Savannah, GA

    “My great-great grandmother was born enslaved in 1838 and I found out she was a... read more
    “My great-great grandmother was born enslaved in 1838 and I found out she was a pastry cook,” says Cheryl Day, a cookbook author and co-owner of Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. “She was known for making the best biscuits in the whole county, and it was just so awesome to realize baking was in my DNA. That was definitely a moment of clarity.” Growing up, Day used to bake with her mother. “She loved to share stories about our family history when we spent time in the kitchen together and what it was like growing up in the South.” But it wasn’t until her mother passed away and left Day and her sister a journal of letters that she realized how far back her heritage of baking went. This legacy inspired Day to pursue baking as a career, and also to inspire others in the culinary world to stand for justice. She is a founder of Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice and a leader in the Bakers Against Racism movement that began this summer and raises money for social justice causes. She also sits on the board for the James Beard Foundation’s new initiative supporting Black and Indigenous-owned businesses. “To us, it wasn’t a political issue, it was a human issue,” she says. “We’ve always been a neighborhood, community bakery and we always do things to stand up for what’s right.” — Cheryl Day, Back in the Day Bakery, Savannah, GA, as told to Cathryn Haight (Photo: Amy Dickerson) ... less
  • Nina Weithorn and Nina Anakar, Ziza Urban Farm, Los Angeles

    “It was definitely a scrappy start, but we made it work,” says Nina Weithorn, co-founder... read more
    “It was definitely a scrappy start, but we made it work,” says Nina Weithorn, co-founder of Los Angeles-based Ziza Urban Farm, a 2,000-square-foot urban agriculture project aimed at celebrating restorative farming methods. Weithorn and co-founder Nina Anakar recall working late into many nights, planting by headlamps while still working their regular jobs. Their goal: teach people how to grow their own food, cook from scratch and restore the soil, all while highlighting the origins of traditional cooking techniques and agricultural practices. “Language is really powerful,” adds Weithorn. “Calling a practice that falls under indigenous land management ‘regenerative agriculture’ or calling it ‘permaculture,’ takes a lot of the power and visibility away from people who have been disenfranchised.” While recognizing the roots of the growing methods they practice, the pair has also become closer with their own roots. “I’m inspired by my Moroccan heritage and there are some things that we’ve gotten to grow that are used in traditional Moroccan dishes—turmeric is one of them—and it’s so important to me because it’s the food I grew up eating,” says Anakar. “This isn’t a project about innovation. It’s about tradition and honoring our ancestors.” — Nina Weithorn and Nina Anakar of Ziza Urban Farm, as told to Cathryn Haight (Photo courtesy of Ziza Urban Farm) ... less
  • Liz Yee, Tonii's Fresh Rice Noodle, New York City

    “I’m Asian, but I’m not a virus,” reads a sign inside Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle... read more
    “I’m Asian, but I’m not a virus,” reads a sign inside Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle in Manhattan’s Chinatown. “At the beginning, a lot of Asians were getting picked on because they were considered the source of the virus. So we let this organization put the sign up because we wanted people to know that we’re proud to be Asian,” says Tonii’s owner, Liz Yee, who was born and raised in the neighborhood. “We wanted people to know that this was a safe haven for them. That if anything happened to them, they could run to this spot and we would help them.” Yee started Tonii’s—which sells comfort food such as rice noodles, ramen and sandwiches—in 2019 as a branch of her family’s 30-year-old family bakery, known for its sponge cakes. “We lived on top of the storefront,” Yee says of the bakery, which is just three blocks away from Tonii’s. When the pandemic hit, both businesses lost so much staff, they consolidated. “We had to do everything ourselves. It would be me and my husband upstairs making the rice rolls and my dad and my younger brother making the sponge cakes, and then my mom and sister would help me watch my three kids, because at that time we had remote learning and I wasn’t able to help.” Recently, though, Yee has been able to hire some part-time help, allowing her and her husband to rotate with their children. “Right now it’s a little better because we have more time to spend with the kids. And that’s what I really care about.” Liz Yee, Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle, New York City, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo courtesy of Liz Yee) ... less
  • Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest, Butcher Girls Co., New York

    “There were moments where we were showing up to people’s lobbies and they were rushing... read more
    “There were moments where we were showing up to people’s lobbies and they were rushing down out of a shower with a towel wrapped around their head,” says butcher Erika Nakamura of the early days of Butcher Girls Co., a meat subscription and delivery service she launched with her wife, fellow butcher Jocelyn Guest. After working in New York City for over a decade, Nakamura and Guest moved upstate in 2018 to start a family. When the pandemic hit, they launched their delivery service and discovered they enjoyed the intimacy it offered. “In a butcher shop, you have the physical boundary of the meat counter between you and the customer,” Guest says. “Now people email us, they call us, they text us. ... We’re more involved in people’s lives than we ever thought possible.” And that has made this unusual year a little better. “It feels really special to touch people where it matters the most, providing nourishment and also providing some level of security and safety.” — Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest, Butcher Girls Co., New York, as told to Cathryn Haight (Photo by Heidi Harris) ... less
  • Ayesha Abdullah, Round Midnight Dinner, Oakland, California

    “Even if he was coming home late, even if he was tired and didn’t feel... read more
    “Even if he was coming home late, even if he was tired and didn’t feel like cooking, it was almost like a requirement for him to make sure that everybody got fed,” chef Ayesha Abdullah says of her father, the source of her culinary inspiration. He died last summer. “I can’t remember a time that he wasn’t cooking. The desire to make sure that we were fed, but also fed a good home cooked meal, was really important to him. ... Chilies and tacos and things that were more like comfort food.” Her own cooking—which the Oakland, California, chef describes as soulful and fresh—marries comfort with brightness. “I always need a fresh component on the plate. ... It’s hard for me to have something that is completely rich, whether that’s savory or sweet. If I’m eating a pot de crème with whipped cream, I want some lemon zest to give me that citrus and bite that will cut through all of the fattiness.” Abdullah was on the verge of launching a pop-up dinner series, Round Midnight, when the pandemic hit. Instead, she started filming cooking videos to stay in touch with and build her community. Core to her culinary beliefs is the need to give back. “Even if I’m not able to help in such a large scale, as an individual, I am able to go out to the corner and support vendors that need support. It’s important for me to invest back into my community. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn't feel whole.” — Ayesha Abdullah, Round Midnight Dinner, as told to Alison Spiegel ... less
  • Jamiah Hargins, Crop Swap L.A., Los Angeles, California

    “Some organizations aspire to grow in low-income areas and sell to the rich, but this... read more
    “Some organizations aspire to grow in low-income areas and sell to the rich, but this is an institutional movement (in which) people get used to food being excellent,” says Jamiah Hargins, founder of Crop Swap LA. “If you’re used to always having high-quality, crunchy lettuce in the fridge, you’ll want it always.” Crop Swap LA began when Hargins’ Los Angeles garden was too productive. He found others with the same problem who were willing to share their bounty. The idea now is about to become a network of water-recycling home gardens around the city used to grow produce for restaurants, chefs and home cooks who order farm share boxes, similar to a CSA. It’s all part of Hargins’ effort to educate people about the joys and benefits of food grown locally and to perfect ripeness before it is harvested. “I hated having to always succumb to a system of food that harvests before it’s ripe, then requires refrigeration, transportation and handling, all before it gets to me. We know how much better fresh produce tastes,” he says. “We should be aiming to eat vegetables that grow right under people’s feet.” — Jamiah Hargins, Crop Swap LA, Los Angeles, California, as told to Albert Stumm. ... less
  • Maia Monaselidze, Tblisi, Georgia

    “We have the way of life that if you don’t sing, you get mad. What... read more
    “We have the way of life that if you don’t sing, you get mad. What else can you do?” says Maia Monaselidze, a housekeeper from Tblisi, Georgia. Following a meal of satsivi, an herbaceous stew of shredded chicken coated in a thick puree of walnuts and onions, she and her daughter and son harmonize a song that translates to “Why Are You Killing My Heart?” She used to own a cafe in Tblisi, but it closed several years ago for lack of business. Before that, she taught kindergarten for 23 years. Today, she cooks only for her family and friends, drawing on her training in all the traditional dishes of the Caucasus region. “It’s a pity I don’t have a better kitchen. The cafe had an amazing kitchen,” she says. Still, she sings. “The way of living here is really poor, but the culture is very rich. — Maia Monaselidze, Tblisi, Georgia, as told to Albert Stumm.
    Read more about Maia and find her recipe for Georgian Chicken with Walnut-Cilantro Sauce here.
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  • Kristin Stahr, Gelson’s, Rancho Mirage, California

    “Being on the front lines, we don’t have the ability to work from home or... read more
    “Being on the front lines, we don’t have the ability to work from home or wear sweats all day on a Zoom call. We’re with customers all day, on our feet until we’re beat and go to bed. Then we wake up and do it again,” says Kristin Stahr, store director of the Gelson’s supermarket in Rancho Mirage, California. That’s why Gelson’s is among a handful of supermarket chains closing on Black Friday to give employees a break. “Obviously, no one is traveling. But closing Friday after the holiday means we can all have a day to just relax.” As another token of appreciation, the company has begun giving store gift cards of up to $200 per employee per month. But Stahr also tries to go the extra mile, feeding her workers lunch three times a week. “I’ll get back there and make enchiladas for 100 people. I’ve gone out and barbecued outside and made 100 burgers. But you have to try to do something special like that. … As a manager, you have to be part therapist, not only for your customers but more so for your employees.” — Kristin Stahr, Gelson's supermarket, Rancho Mirage, California, as told to Albert Stumm ... less
  • John Peterson, Ferndale Market, Cannon Falls, Minnesota

    “My bet is that people are just so hungry for tradition right now, and a... read more
    “My bet is that people are just so hungry for tradition right now, and a big Thanksgiving turkey feels like an anchoring thing,” says John Peterson, a turkey farmer in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, whose grandfather started raising turkeys in 1939. “Going back to July and August, talking to grocers, most bet there would be more demand for smaller turkeys, but it doesn’t appear to be skewed as dramatically as we imagined.” Not that he could have done much about the size of his fresh turkeys anyway. “We order our day-old poults a year in advance to hit the right sizing for Thanksgiving, so we ordered them long before we knew what COVID-19 was.” Instead, the biggest change this year will be in how they sell their birds and other products. “Normally, we move a lot of people this week through a very small space, but this year we moved to all drive through. So customers are going to do a little loop through the farm, pick up their turkey in one place, and then drive over to get their other groceries. … Even in a year with so much disruption, you can still feel safe while you’re filling the table with all the good food produced by all the makers around us here.” — John Peterson, Ferndale Market, Cannon Falls, Minnesota, as told to Albert Stumm. (Photo by Becky Church) ... less
  • Evelyn Skeete, Marly Vale Hot Pepper Sauce, St. Philip, Barbados,

    “I know what I’m doing. But I never tell anybody what I’m doing,” says Evelyn... read more
    “I know what I’m doing. But I never tell anybody what I’m doing,” says Evelyn Skeete, of Barbados, a half smile on her face. A single mom of six, she’s known for a number of talents, including owning a small fleet of 37-foot commercial fishing boats that go out two weeks at a time. All six of the kids fish, but the family also gets to work in her garage. There they make a marinade and a hot pepper sauce under the label Marley Vale. The first is an herbal, bracingly oniony seasoning paste that’s heavy on chives and a dozen more herbs and spices. The second is a hearty splash of shockingly orange hot sauce unlike any other, with a powerful mustard-turmeric base that cuts through its vinegary heat. Combining the two is the island’s signature way of seasoning grilled fish. “As long as you love doing something, it will come out right.” — Evelyn Skeete, Marly Vale Hot Pepper Sauce, St. Philip, Barbados, as told to Albert Stumm

    Read more about Evelyn and for a recipe for Barbados Grilled Fish. ... less
  • Rhiannon Menn, Lasagna Love, San Diego, California

    “When you give a family a home-cooked meal, it’s not just sustenance. ... Getting a... read more
    “When you give a family a home-cooked meal, it’s not just sustenance. ... Getting a home-cooked meal communicates ‘I care about you,’” says Rhiannon Menn, founder of Lasagna Love, a San Diego, CA-based organization that connects volunteers with nearby families in need. Volunteers cook lasagna—their own recipe or one from Lasagna Love—and they get matched with recipients based on proximity. In turn, taking care of herself is the only way Menn, a mother of two who has another full time job, can keep up with the network that’s grown to over 2,000 volunteers since she started it this spring in response to the pandemic. “It’s instinctive when you become a mom to want to take care of people around you. That’s beautiful and wonderful... But it’s actually OK to put yourself first. By doing that, you’ll be able to take care of others in a much better way.”— Rhiannon Menn, Lasagna Love, San Diego, CA, as told to Alison Spiegel (Photo credit: Slava Menn)
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MAY 2021
JIA WOK + WOK SPATULA + SPIDER SKIMMER

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