The smell of baking bread wafts over gleaming steel countertops in the spacious South Fork Kitchens, a new commercial venture open to local food producers and businesses at the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University. Carissa Waechter of Carissa’s Breads has several flour-dusted loaves in the oven, trying out the facilities before they welcome businesses and farmers who have eagerly signed up to use the space.
South Fork Kitchens, which opened in April, was made possible by the Amagansett Food Institute, an organization that works “to support, promote and advocate for” food producers on the East End and by Waechter, a board member. Waechter and AFI executive director Kathleen Masters saw food producers and vendors needed to have a space where they could turn their wheat into bread, their fruit into jams and their fresh produce into juice.
“One vendor will come in and be excited about the ability to have products delivered and the amount of time it will save them; the next vendor is thrilled about the equipment available and that they now have the ability to make their sauces or jams in one shot as opposed to several rounds,” says Waechter.
Vendors who have signed up include wholesale artisan foods producer Josephine’s Feast, Gula Gula Emapanadas, mobile juice and smoothie bar Juice Baby and fishing co-op Dock to Dish.
The kitchen has several ovens, a Hobart mixer, a tilt skillet, ample storage space and more. It is large enough to accommodate multiple users; those wishing to use the space can sign up for four-hour blocks of time around the clock—a great advantage as the busy summer season approaches.
“The kitchen is helping me expand my business as far as working with my schedule,” says Theo Foscolo of Miss Lady Root Beer. Foscolo and his brothers brew batches of artisan root beer, and the kitchen’s steam kettles allow them to make more of their product faster. “I jumped at the opportunity.”
Finding the perfect space took time, Masters says, but working with Stony Brook made things go smoothly. The kitchen also marks another achievement in revitalizing the Stony Brook Southampton campus, a large part of which closed in 2010. Through the efforts of faculty and staff, enrollment has increased and organizations like AFI have been able to use the campus to serve community needs. AFI’s partnership with Stony Brook includes an arrangement where an on-site chef will operate a “farm to table café” for students, faculty and campus visitors. Vendors will be able to use the Small Business Development Center, which offers one-on-one consulting. The kitchen also features two offices spaces. Masters says AFI hopes to offer workshops that fit its mission of fostering the growth of food producers and vendors on the East End.
“It’s not just a place to cook but a place where you can really run your business,” she says.