Alison Schneider is all smiles in Chelsea.
Alison Schneider hates to get all “hippie/new agey” on you, but sometimes she just has to, especially when it comes to talking about the energy in Haven’s Kitchen. “The space is pretty, the people working here are happy and honest, the chef is psyched to be teaching — it’s palpable, and guests respond to it.”
Warm and fuzzy feelings aside, the interior of Haven’s Kitchen — a multifunctional cooking school, retail, and event space on West 17th Street — looks like something out of a Pinterester’s wet dream. Think white tile, freshly cut flowers, information artfully scrawled on blackboards and steaming mugs of coffee.
It’s a little precious, but Schneider is not. A Union Square Greenmarket fan girl and former tour guide, Schneider learned some invaluable culinary lessons by leading Greenmarket tours for kids. “The kids understood what I was saying at a visceral level, but grown-ups are much more disconnected,” Schneider says.
That didn’t mean they weren’t interested — after fielding call after call from chaperones (“What was the name of that delicious tomato again?”), Schneider realized that she was on to something.
The idea was simple: Get a bunch of adults together, break bread, open a bottle of wine, and “demystify words.” In other words — tricking people to enjoying themselves, and then using that as an opportunity for education about sustainability and agriculture.
“Sometimes you can’t just talk about what’s sustainable,” Schneider says. “You get someone to think, ‘This is pretty, I feel cool, I’ve got my apron on, I’m doing a good job'” and the rest falls into place.
Turns out those heavy-headed peonies and slick white subway tile aren’t just for looks and Instagrams — they’re Schneider’s gateway to promoting sustainability and saving the food system.
109 West 17th Street
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 18, 2012