We are obsessed with Alison Cayne, owner of Haven’s Kitchen, sauce queen, author and mom to 5! Alison launched her cooking school and cafe, Haven’s Kitchen, to share her philosophy that improving our food system starts with showing people how to source and utilize sustainable ingredients. As a modern day super-woman we felt that she was perfect to include in our Work & Play series. Check out her daily routine and how her get-shit-done attitude has led her to success:
What was the motivation to start Haven’s Kitchen? What has been most important to you throughout your growth and success?
When I opened Haven’s, the word was starting to get out about buying local and non-processed food. People were starting to get into home cooking and knowing where your food comes from. The problem was that even though there was a will to cook, there was very little way: many people just didn’t know how to begin and what to do with farm fresh produce. I wanted to teach as many people as possible how to cook because it brings them together, keeps our communities healthier, and supports our farmers and local economies. That mission, of supporting a better food system through the power, joy and creativity of home cooking, has always been the guiding principle behind everything we do. Even our weddings and corporate events, where guests aren’t learning how to cook, ultimately promote the idea that our food choices both affect and are affected by a larger food system.
What were you doing before Haven’s Kitchen?
I was a stay at home mom for 15 years before I went back to school to get my masters in food studies at NYU. I had been teaching cooking classes in my home since college, and for a few years while I was getting my degree, I taught at the Union Square Greenmarket. I had a super fun job at the 42nd Street Development Project right after college (way back in the 90’s) which sparked my interest in community building and social justice.
Tell us what a day in the life looks like, and first thing you do in the morning, and last thing you do at night.
I wake up at 6:55, paddle downstairs, make my kids breakfast and pack my son’s lunch. The kids leave for school at 7:20, so then I take a shower, get myself together and head out for coffee and oatmeal at Nourish Kitchen, my morning ritual. After that, I’ll either head to the flower market or to work, and my days are spent doing all sorts owner-y things. Getting the sauces off the ground is like starting an entirely new business from scratch, and such an education! I get to do a lot of tasting – for the café and events, and a lot of creative work too – designing all sorts of stuff and working on fun food projects. We have staff lunch together every day and I try to work out or get to yoga around 5 each evening. Dinner with my kids at 7, bath, then bed. Hopefully I’m asleep by latest 11 every night.
How do you find balance between running Haven’s Kitchen, being a mom to 5 children, and staying healthy (both mentally and physically)?
The balance question, in my case, is totally a function of mindset. There are plenty of women who don’t have the option to be balanced: I know how lucky I am that I get to choose my work, my hours, and that I get to live close to my business. I’ve been reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and it’s all about less, but better. I’m trying not to agree to meetings and collaborations and projects just because they’re offered to me. There’s a fear that invitations will stop coming if you say no. And, to some extent, that’s true, but the ones that do come your way are more valuable. I have a priority list and I’m trying to refine my time working on those priorities as productively as I can – that includes friends and family time. Quality sleep is a priority. I think the world would be a much happier place if everyone got enough sleep. I know it makes all the difference in every aspect of my life.
What does self care mean to you? What do you do to keep sane? What products do you enlist to help?
My first rule about self care is not feeling guilty about self care. I’ve stopped beating myself up about going to a trainer 2x/week and other boosts like acupuncture and facials. I don’t need to run myself ragged to prove that I’m hard working or motivated. Martyrdom and guilt create nothing of value. As for products, I love Sunday Riley Luna night oil and an Epsom salt bath followed by a rub down in F. Miller oil every evening. I drink about 2 liters of water a day spiked with our turmeric/ginger elixir, I think it really keeps the skin glowy.
How do you feed yourself? What is your philosophy when it comes to food? Favorite foods?
I have always loved good food. And I really dislike food trends or labels that make people feel guilty about eating. There’s no silver bullet and eating a killer cupcake every now and then can be a really positive experience. Personally, when I hit 40, my metabolism changed. Now I need more protein and I need to eat more frequently. That means I can’t “forget lunch” anymore. I’m a nutty, crunchy person…I prefer savory to sweet, and I will never say no to a roast chicken for staff meal.
Do you have any suggestions for the NYC home cook with a small kitchen but big ambitions? Favorite recipes?
Learn how to make savory eggs. Like a Persian omelet with herbs and chilies, or baked eggs in ramekins. They’re healthful and easy to clean up, and don’t require a lot of counter or oven space. Don’t buy a lot of gear — all you need is a good pan, a good knife, a good wooden spoon and a spatula.
Congrats on the launch of your sauces, so exciting! What is next for Haven’s Kitchen?
Well the sauces are a BIG DEAL for us! We’re thrilled to be able to get more people in the kitchen beyond what we can teach them at Haven’s or through the cookbook. The sauces are an easy, convenient, delicious way of helping people take their food to the next level. No need for meal kits, no need for hassle. We’ve had such a great response from retailers – you’ll be seeing them at Whole Foods and on Fresh Direct soon!!
Click HERE to shop the Havens Kitchen sauces!