Girl with a Van

There was a time in New York when most foods were delivered by cart. Amid the tenements of the Lower East Side, vendors used horses to drag wagons over cobblestones to feed the masses.

Having worked for a major food distributor, Remsenburg resident Tracy Slotkin knew well the difficulty small, even cult producers have getting their goods to consumers. One could make the best sausage—with silky, fat quality pork and just the right amount of truffle—in the tristate area, but without a distributor more time would be spent knocking on kitchen doors than in the kitchen.

So Slotkin (shown above) bought a van and contacted all the artisanal producers she knew looking to expand their market. Then she started knocking on kitchen doors, reconnecting with all the chefs she had met during her long career in the food business. Red Bell Foods was born.

Soon that delicious sausage by Charlito’s Cocina was making its way into the hands of chefs on the East End like Amerigo Mintegui, who runs the kitchen at a private golf club in Riverhead and who dug out a piece of that fat and let it melt on his tongue. Chef Jason Weiner, who uses Red Bell to buy Peconic-based Sang Lee Farms produce for Almond restaurant in Manhattan and Bridgehampton, has called Slotkin’s ingredient connections “a game changer.”

Claudia Helinski of Salamander General Store in Greenport has been buying from Red Bell—she loves the ricotta di bufala from Italy—but mostly appreciates Slotkin’s extensive food knowledge. “She has a tremendous background in food,” she says, “and is extremely excited about her product.”

A cooking school grad, Slotkin counts stints behind stoves in Charleston, South Carolina, and New York, which led to the cheese counters at Dean & DeLuca and Fairway, and even the now-shuttered Red Horse Market in East Hampton.

Today, as she makes her rounds, Slotkin’s van doubles as display case, lined with organic produce from Sang Lee, butter from Goodale Farms in Aquebogue, organic coffee from the Center Moriches–based Tend Coffee as well as her own brand of spices, beans and dried fruit. There’s also gourmet soda syrups and agave-sweetened sour mix for the bartenders.

Charlotte Klein Sasso of Stuart’s Seafood Market in Amagansett buys her biscotti, made by Biscotti di Vecchio of New York. “[Slotkin] has a wonderful food aesthetic,” she says. “She knows what works from a cook’s perspective, a marketing perspective and the Hamptons perspective. She really sees the whole picture.”