By Debra Liu
Have you ever secretly wanted to get a foodie love letter in the mail from your favorite chefs? The kind of letter (on real paper!) that you can feel with your fingertips? With KTCHN13‘s Kitchen Letters, now you can! These letters are filled with food stories and insider kitchen tips written by the chefs themselves. Kitchen Letters, founded by Bryce Longton, launched in September 2013 in Food52’s Provisions shop. I had a chance to learn more about Bryce, her favorite NYC dining places and what inspired her to start KTCHN13:
Debra Liu: Kitchen Letters is such a great idea and an awesome, unique gift for foodies. How did you develop Kitchen Letters and KTCHN13?
Bryce Longton: Kitchen Letters started with the simple idea of connecting foodies with chefs around the country. I’m obsessed with food. I travel with extensive lists of where to eat and what to order [sometimes in spreadsheet form], and I used to interview chefs for a living [it was a great gig while it lasted]. But I always felt that great chefs needed a megaphone for their stories. I also felt that people like you and me could benefit from their kitchen stories, personal recipes, and secret cooking tips. So I created Kitchen Letters. It’s a personal way for people who love food to connect with the chefs they follow. Why a real letter? The kitchen is personal, warm, tactile place. I thought a letter from a chef should be too.
DL: If there was one chef, past or present, who you could work with and receive penned letters from, who would it be?
BL: Oohh good question. I’d love to be pen pals with Cristeta Comerford, the current chef for the White House (and the first woman White House chef!), I bet she has some amazing stories. I’d also love to hear from Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame), although I’m not sure he’d be very verbose. Oh, and if I could also strike up a regular correspondence with Pete Gottgens (he runs a hotel in South Africa, and made one of the best meals I’ve ever had — in Scotland), that would be great, he has stories for days.
DL: What has been your favorite dining experience in NYC?
BL: In NYC. Hmm. I really loved my meal at Dirt Candy. As the chef, Amanda Cohen says, “Anyone can cook a hamburger, leave the vegetables to the professionals” — she makes vegetables taste absolutely incredible, without being too fancy about it. I also love Ed’s Lobster in Soho, it’s pretty much always lobster roll perfection. I’ll never turn down dinner at Joya in Cobble Hill, or a sandwich from Num Pang on the way home — eating and walking is such a New York thing that I love.
DL: At FoodtoEat, we work with a lot of Food Trucks. Do you have a favorite food truck? Do you plan on working with Food Truck chefs to have them pen letters?
BL: Food Trucks chefs would be a very welcome addition to the letters, I have such a soft spot for trucks (I have dreams of a food truck wedding someday!). Personally, I’m a big fan of the Van Leeuwen truck, the Taim truck, and the Milk Truck.
DL: KTCHN13 started with just Kitchen Letters and now has super adorable KTCHN13 posters and upcoming KTCHN13 kits. What inspired the creation of the posters and the kits?
BL: The posters started because I had one made for my boyfriend’s mom, of her famous chocolate cake that gets made for every birthday and holiday (and it is really amazing), and it turned out so well that I thought other people would like to hang family recipes in their own homes — it makes for a really great art piece in your kitchen, and I have to say, the majority of the recipes we get in for the posters are heirloom in nature — things like “Grandma’s Apple Pie” etc.
DL: I saw from your bio that you were a travel journalist and currently, now a Shop Editor & Stylist at Food52. How did you go from being a travel journalist to working at Food52?
BL: It was a circuitous route for sure. I started in travel writing when an editor friend of mine needed a writer in a pinch to travel to wine country and write a story (tough gig, I know) and so I started writing and traveling, which was awesome, although exhausting, and when I decided I wanted to stay put for a while, I spent some time working with BlackBook magazine writing about food, where I fell in love with cooking and interviewing chefs, and then a couple years later I was introduced to Amanda Hesser, one of the founders of Food52 (I was such a fangirl when I met her!) and when this position opened up she took me on and it’s been so much fun, I am part of a small team that chooses all the merchandise that goes on the site and then I manage our photo shoots and the overall styling of our products. It really is a dream gig.
DL: What do you see for the future of KTCHN13?
BL: Beyond the posters and the letters, I’m also working on a few other projects. I’m working on kits — where you’d get a “little black book” of a topic or an ingredient, say “pie” or “stone fruit,” along with a tool — like a pastry wheel or paring knife and a spice or two, so you can learn the quick and dirty about how to create amazing meals and learn good techniques. I’m also working on a food styling workshop with my photographer, and last but not least, I’m running a brand new supper club/salon that starts on March 9th — it should be so much fun.
DL: What has been the best and most exciting part of launching KTCHN13?
BL: Probably when I made the Food52 best seller list for the holidays! Also, working with Evan Kleiman, she is such a dream, and a real fount of knowledge.
DL: Any great customer stories and feedback?
BL: I’ve had some great feedback about some of the recipes (the Spanish Chickpea Stew was super popular, as was the Potato Latkes), and several chefs have gotten letters back from customers, sharing recipes, which is just so great.
DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com