Remarkable Women 2013: Women of Cuisine
The 2013 Remarkable Women are turning food into a positive force.
While leaving the kitchen behind was once a key concept of female liberation, today's women of cuisine transform food, from farm to table, into a positive force of creative expression, community strength, economic empowerment and pure delicious joy.
This year's women:
• Kin Schilling: Local food advocate behind the Cornucopia Project
• Liz Jackson: North Country chef
• Mary Ann Esposito: Chef, show host and cookbook author
• Kath Gallant: Owner of Blue Moon Evolution
• Carol Sheehan: Red Arrow 24 Hr. Diner owner
• Kristy Amman: Chef and owner of Butter's Fine Food & Wine
• Teresa Stauber: Owner of Simply Delish
• Amy LaBelle: Wine maker and owner of LaBelle Winery
• Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier: Owners of Throwback Brewery
• Morgan Morano: Owner of Morano Gelato
• Michele Wright: Owner and Executive Chef of Michele's Ristorante
• Erin Gardner: Chef and owner of Wild Orchid Baking Company
Photo by Mark Corliss
Kin Schilling has always loved to cook, but she was never fond of sticking to the recipe. That independent spirit may explain why she was making her own butter and selling raw milk to neighbors back in the 1980s. Or why she convinced Toadstool Bookshop to open Aesop’s Table, the first bookstore café in the state, back in 1992 and locally source their menus. Or why when the rest of the country is fretting about the obesity epidemic in school-age kids, she's busy growing her Cornucopia Project that gets kids to design and build their own community gardens, raise their own produce and even cook their own meals with healthy, organic veggies. “When they pick a carrot out of their garden, it’s like watching a kid open a Christmas present,” says Kin.
All eight elementary schools in the area now have their own gardens. For “Natural Food Day” each year the kids cook three soups, make bread and a dessert and serve it to their families and neighbors. On July 20, the Cornucopia Project will partner with Peterborough’s Mariposa Museum for International Food Day fundraiser. Local farmers will provide the materials for cuisine from nine different countries. It’s a good time to see the kind of magic that’s contained in a seed. – Rick Broussard
Photo by Mark Corliss
Owning a restaurant was always part of Liz Jackson’s plan. Today, she and her husband, Steve Jackson, run the successful and ever-popular Libby’s Bistro and the SAALT Pub in Gorham. Liz’s childhood forays into cooking and entertaining developed into a passion for travel and discovering good food. In college, she spent spring break hunting for fresh ingredients instead of spending time on the beach and later embarked on excursions around France exploring quaint, off-the-grid restaurants that you’d have to hunt for. These small and remote bistros spoke to her. “There was a moment in France that I knew we could achieve what we wanted as a family, to raise our children in a small town with family nearby and maybe, just maybe, if we did it right, people would seek out our restaurant.”
Remarkably, Liz was able to recreate that atmosphere in Gorham, which became a dining destination. As the restaurant continues to develop, Liz strives to work towards a more intimate food culture in the northern region of New Hampshire that she has come to call home. The business owner and chef prides herself on the relationships made with purveyors, farmers, customers and the community. Through challenges, Liz says that the best part is raising her children around a business so that they know, and truly understand the hard work and sacrifice that comes with loving what you do. – Breanna Edelstein
Photo by John Hession
Ciao New Hampshire
As a teenager Mary Ann Esposito watched Julia Child’s cooking show, never dreaming that someday she would host a show of her own. “It never entered my consciousness,” she says. “I hated cooking.” Especially Italian cooking.
At home she was surrounded with it — her family consisted of two Italian grandmothers who were professional chefs; her mother was a dietician. Mary Ann’s school lunches were things like fried frittata on coarse bread. All she wanted was to be like the rest of the kids, eating Wonder Bread and Hostess Cupcakes.
But that changed over time, with a trip to Italy a pivot point. She began to appreciate the wholeness and goodness of the food from the different regions of her ancestral land. “I wanted people to understand what Italian food is and is not,” she says. “It’s not spaghetti and meatballs, not together anyway. It’s not deep dish pizza.”
After training in Italy and teaching locally, she approached NH Public Television about an Italian cooking show. It was the right time, right place — “Ciao Italia” went on the air in 1989, eventually carried by PBS stations all over the country. Now in its 24th season, 499 shows later, it is the longest continuously running cooking show on the air. “Me and ‘Bonanza,’” Mary Ann says.
Ahead she plans to focus on the younger generation, those who may not know even the rudiments of cooking: “I see a place for being an educator on the Internet and on social media. I think it’s important to do that.” – Barbara Coles
An Evolving Dialog
It takes a certain passion to be a pioneer, and Kath Gallant of Exeter’s Blue Moon Evolution is a textbook example of passion at work. She began her first stage of “Evolution” back in 1995 when she realized there no place in the progressive and upscale community of Exeter to purchase health foods and supplements. A café attached to the store was an early leader of the local sourcing movement. And it’s been a family affair all along.
In fact, it was at the encouragement of her daughters that she take the next step, closing the shop and reopening as a fine dining destination, still featuring and encouraging healthy whole foods from local sources. Such movement and growth — evolution — is essential in such a fast-moving world, Kath says. “Complacency is so dangerous to living in this culture. I try to do my best each day to implement change.”
Blue Moon features a lecture series on food that she considers the most dynamic thing she’s helped to create. Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Yogurt, long a nationally recognized advocate for whole and organic foods, gave the first talk the day after he stepped down as boss (or “CE-Yo”) of Stonyfield. He was meeting with President Obama the very next day, says Kath.
She also takes pride in her work in the local Kensington Elementary School where students are so taken by her message that “you get strong if you choose the right thing to eat” that they reward her with bundles of thank-you notes. Her new passion is for permaculture, so naturally the restaurant will be hosting a course on permaculture design, taught by an expert. “We’re for education, gentle change,” she says. “Give people the knowledge to make their own choices. That’s what we’re committed to: fostering the conversation.” – Rick Broussard
Photo by Jodie Andruskevich
It’s not every 22-year-old that would look at a dusty old diner — its doors closed for two years — and see a business opportunity. Carol Sheehan did.
“I know it sounds crazy, but it was a natural thing to do,” she says. Natural because her father, who also got involved in the diner, had owned Belmont Hall & Restaurant in Manchester and Carol grew up in the business.
The Red Arrow 24 Hr. Diner had been a fixture in the Queen City’s downtown since 1922, and Carol wanted to bring it back to life, make it the focal point that it once was. That she did by providing home-cooked, made-from-scratch comfort food — baked beans, pork pie and meatloaf sans green peppers to name just few of her dishes — in a lively, fun environment.
In the beginning she worked the line, waited tables, whatever it took to make a go of it. The diner — soon operating 24/7/365 — was catching on (it became a favorite spot for Adam Sandler and presidential candidates), but in 1998 she made a decision that filled the place with customers. She went smoke-free. “It was unheard of in those days,” Carol says.
Five years ago she and her dad opened a new Red Arrow in Milford, and three years ago started to offer franchises. No bites yet, but she hopes the opening this fall of yet another Red Arrow in Londonderry will provide the impetus. “We’re setting it up to be a showcase,” Carol says. – Barbara Coles
Photo by Mark Corliss
It's Better with Butter's
A childhood spent moving from base to base with her father, a Navy chef, gave Kristy Amman an early appreciation for different foods and cultures. Now Kristy’s days of moving around the country are seemingly over. With the opening of Butter’s Fine Foods & Wine in Concord back in 2006, she put down firm roots in her community.
And the community was very grateful. So grateful, in fact, that Kristy just made one last move — Butter’s relocated from the Main Street store to a larger, freestanding space on Sheep Davis Road where she can stock more inventory and serve more customers.
Recently she noted that more people were taking a greater interest in homemade and local ingredients, something her business caters to but that she hopes to improve upon. Now, with the move complete, she’s in a position to do so.
Though the food, wine, beer and groceries (a good portion of all that is local too) are mouth-watering, her real passion is cheese — the cheese case at Butter’s is truly a glorious thing. Reading cookbooks is a hobby of hers that she takes very seriously. “I read cookbooks like someone would read a novel," she explains. Creating a cookbook is on her bucket list, as she believes that “every cheese has a story to tell.”
But you don’t have to wait for her book to see what she’s cooking up. The launch of her food blog, “Salt and Vanilla,” is around the corner. – Ashley Volkens
Photo by Susan Laughlin
Simply Going Places
Ask Teresa Stauber of Simply Delish how she comes up with the recipes that have made her Mediterranean-influenced food products — quiche, salads, homestyle prepared meals and baked goods — such big sellers and she has a quick answer: “I create them.”
She starts with fresh ingredients and then adds a twist to the taste — not just lasagna, for instance, but white garlic parmesan lasagna. Her couscous has cranberries and almonds. Her orzo, feta cheese. It’s all yummy enough to build a customer base that required her to move her solo business into a commercial kitchen in a 2,000-square-foot space with five employees. “It’s a growing market,” she says. “Moms who are busy can feed their kids a pick-up meal that’s a lot healthier than McDonald’s.”
Teresa’s five-year-old business started as a hobby. Though she had wanted to go into the culinary field when she was young, her parents encouraged her to choose the medical field instead. While she was working as a nurse, she started taking her food creations to farmers markets and then started to sell to specialty stores in NH and eventually Massachusetts and Maine.
Her goal is to open a cafe with wholesale and retail space attached to it. One thing she doesn’t aim for — selling her business to a larger company. “I’ve had offers,” she says. “But no way, this is like my child.” – Barbara Coles
Photo by Susan Laughlin
Passion can come out of nowhere, as proven by Amy Labelle, winemaker and owner of Labelle Winery, now housed in a beautiful new building in Amherst. “I practiced law for 16 years before one experience made me suddenly realize that everything was about to change,” she says. At a winery in Canada, Amy can’t explain the overwhelming goosebumps she experienced, saying only that “I just knew that I had to make wine.”
That was back in 2001 and it was followed by a few years of learning the trade and practicing the art of winemaking. Since then she has established a business in which she prides herself on making wines featuring only local fruit, choosing to showcase the best and brightest ingredients that New England has to offer. Amy also seeks to provide jobs and share experiences with people who love wine as much as she does. Today, she is a successful business owner who continues to expand her trade.
LaBelle Winery is now a spectacular showcase for her products— even featuring a café that offers light meals featuring her wine — and has become a popular site for events. The business continues to expand as LaBelle develops a culinary line featuring her cooking wines and several other fresh ingredients. A cookbook is due this summer as well. Amy’s mission has always been to help better the space around her, and it appears that she will continue to do just that. – Breanna Edelstein
Photo by Mark Corliss
Takes Two to Brew
Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier prove that beer isn’t just a “guy thing.” The brewing duo recently founded one of the only female-run brewing companies in the country, Throwback Brewery in North Hampton.
Though they are new at being business partners, their friendship formed over 18 years ago while playing rugby in Boston. The two soon shared their passions for brewing great beer and supporting local agriculture and founded the brewery in 2010.
All of the ingredients used to create the beer at Throwback come from within a 200-mile radius and most of them come from farms right here in NH. One of their most popular beers that seems to be bringing most of the heat these days is their “Spicy Bohemian,” made with fresh jalapeños. A “sweeter” choice is the chocolate peanut butter “Fat Alberta,” which was recently chosen as Draft Magazine’s draft pick of November/December. Bon Appetit magazine also just named Throwback as one of their “10 Favorite Nanobreweries” in the US.
Big things are in store for the future of Throwback. Annette and Nicole have recently purchased Hobbs Farm and within the next year plan on moving the brewery over to the farm. They hope to increase their small, three-barrel brewing system to 15.
Annette says that the favorite part of her job is “having the freedom to be creative and try new things, knowing that your fans and customers will be there to support you.” Nicole adds that she loves the sense of community that Throwback has created and seeing “friendships form over beer.” – Ashley Volkens
Photo by John Hession
“Do one thing and do it better than anyone else” has long been a mantra of business success. Morgan Morano, creator of Morano Gelato in Hanover, takes that minimalist approach seriously, making her gelatos fresh every morning, basing flavors on seasonal local offerings, using local milk and obtaining all other ingredients directly from Italy — a place she knows well. It was during the six years she lived there, mostly working in gelaterias, that she realized how oblivious Americans were to the delightful flavors and textures of good gelato.
Upon her return to her hometown in New Hampshire, she started making small batches of the stuff, selling at first in farmers markets. ‘I started with nothing but experience,” says Morgan. “No money, no one willing to invest in me, so I started as small as I could.” Now her Morano Gelato on Hanover’s Main Street is famous both with locals and college students who frequent it, but increasingly so with regional and national food critics. Forbes Magazine even featured a story about her product titled “The Best Gelato in America?” (The critic decided, yes.)
Because of the reputation and the careful design of her shop and logo, many customers assume it’s a franchise. Though she never had that in mind when she began, Morgan says she’s thinking about it. “So many places are ruining gelato for people by using pre-made mixes. They’ve never tasted the real stuff.” – Rick Broussard
Photo by Mark Corliss
The world of fine cuisine isn’t exactly overflowing with women — executive chefs and restaurant owners tend to be male-dominated positions. Enter Michele Wright, a driven and talented woman who has both those titles as owner (along with co-owner Stephen Gunseth) and executive chef of the excellent Michele’s Ristorante in Keene.
Michele’s, a quietly-elegant and warm restaurant located in downtown Keene, serves her unique blend of Italian, tapas and even vegetarian and vegan fare or, as it’s described, “a hint of Tuscany, a whisper of California, the soul of the Mediterranean in the heart of southern New Hampshire.” This particular fusion of food she’s crafted with Chef Cassandra Davis must be working — the restaurant has been open for seven years (it debuted back in 2006), even weathering the economic downturn that claimed so many fine establishments in New Hampshire and beyond. We fully expect Michele’s to continue to make Keene a dining destination for many years to come. – Erica Thoits
Photo by Mark Corliss
Chef Erin Gardner makes spectacular art with cake as her canvas. The winner of the Food Network show “Sweet Genius” spins flowers from sugar and paints with frosting at her Dover bakery Wild Orchid Baking Company.
As Erin says, when you own a business “you are your own engine — you have to be really self-motivated.” Judging by her list of accomplishments, she’s definitely of the jet engine variety of businesswoman. In addition to meeting the high demand for her cakes, she’s working on a cake decorating book, will participate in a Brides Magazine photo shoot, writes her “Business of Baking” column for Cake Central, volunteers at Icing Smiles (an organization that provides birthday cakes to seriously ill children and their siblings) and recently she discovered she’ll appear in the queen of wedding style’s magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings. In September she’s also due to compete once again in the National Wedding Cake Competition in Oklahoma.
Though the professional accolades continue to pile up, it’s still all about her passion for cake decorating and making people happy. “The thing I like best is my interaction with my clients,” Erin says. “It’s really rewarding when I get to make a cake for someone and then the couple calls me back for the baby shower, then the baby’s first birthday and then tells me to mark my calendar for once a year for every year after that.” – Erica Thoits