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Talking Top Tens: Alison Cayne

Founder, Haven’s Kitchen

01.06.15

While working towards a master’s in food studies at NYU, Alison Cayne became inspired by activist and teacher Joan Gussow. Alison focused her efforts on educating people about the importance of a healthy food system and our role as consumers, voters and cooks within that system. In January 2012, she opened Haven’s Kitchen, a cooking school with café and private event space, with the hopes of advancing Gussow’s ethos of education, sustainability and integrity. Alison is committed to promoting good food policy and community activism and serves on the board of Edible Schoolyard NYC, Just Food and Food and Environmental Reporting Network. She has written for Huffington Post, USA Today and Find Eat Drink, and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Vogue, Domino, Remodelista and Living Etc.

And more with Alison Cayne…

What do you love most about your work?

I love the people I work with. I love that we work professionally but still manage to feel at ease and happy together. I also love that no day is the same as the one before. And I really love that Haven’s is a place that our students and customers have made their own. It’s taken on a life of its own outside of my vision. 

One piece of advice you would give your 18 year old self:

Somewhere between 8 and 18 I stopped listening to my gut and started doubting my instincts. I guess that’s a natural part of growing up and learning to value and respect other peoples’ opinions, but I feel like I would say to that girl: respecting other people doesn’t always mean trusting their advice above your own instincts.

Your most recent culinary discovery and obsession:

I’ve had two amazing meals lately: Pearl and Ash, a newish restaurant on Bowery, and Café Cluny, an old West Village standby that seems to have gotten a breath of fresh air.

Midnight snack of choice:

Orange juice on the rocks and potato chips. I like the thirst-quenchiness of the ice-cold juice and the salty/crispy hit of the chips.

Your last great read and why you enjoyed it:

The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex by Sophie Fontanel. I read a ton for school and for research at work and as much as I love food and agriculture books, this book about a young woman’s quest to get herself back was super fun and beautifully written.

A secret talent we should know about:

I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.

Charity/charities you support:

I’m on the boards of three organizations I feel very strongly about: Just Food, Edible Schoolyard NYC and the Food and Environmental Reporting Network

Your (real life) hero:

Teacher and author Joan Gussow. She was talking about local and sustainable foods before it became trendy. She’s a tough cookie with a great sense of humor and a brilliant mind. And she writes like a poet. She’s the one who said we can’t expect people to use farm fresh ingredients if they don’t know what to do with them, that we need more teachers teaching cooking. That’s why I opened a cooking school for home cooks.

Cocktail of choice:

Hendricks and Tonic in a rocks glass with a hunk of lemon.

Your motto in life:

It changes, but this fall it’s been “good fences make good neighbors.”