“‘The future must enter us, long before it happens,’” says Sarah Gross, quoting the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
That “future” for Gross is a newly realized dream of building a community kitchen in the Saugatuck neighborhood of Westport. “I feel like I’m 18 again,” she says. “I’m doing something that I know is true.”
Gross, who clearly is enjoying life more than most imagine possible, runs C & K Community Kitchen to support and accelerate the use of organic, non-GMO, locally sourced products and services.
“You are what you eat,” she says, “and when you start understanding what that means, it’s overwhelming.”
The collaborative incubator kitchen offers affordable, certified commercial space and can be rented in eight-hour shifts, potentially as much as 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a wise and experienced mentor at the helm.
“There’s very little out there in the way of community kitchens,” Gross says. “I want to see more of this out in the world.”
Gross’s career spans working for Martha Stewart and running the high-end Cabbages and Kings Catering, under whose auspices the kitchen is being launched.
“I was always pro-organic, but never committed to it,” says Gross. “When I started learning more about food and health and began to understand how we grew up eating, it was revelatory. I’m becoming an activist; this is a way to do so.”
Production support staff, social-media networking, mentoring, business coaching, planning and strategy assistance, brand identity development and design, food photography and styling, marketing and bookkeeping services are also available. Gross is keen to lower the operational and market barriers for those looking to offer such products and services.
“When you’re catering, you’re teaching,” Gross says. “I’m a cheerleader.”
A core of providers---including an organic frozen-soup maker, a gluten-free baker, a chef making assorted bone broths off hours, and a local food retailer---are already in the certification pipeline to secure shifts with the kitchen. The specific steps vary with each situation; Gross emphasizes that she has a special passion for helping others to navigate these waters successfully. “There’s a place where support, understanding, and trust come in,” she says.
While Gross’s vision and experience uniquely position her to shepherd people through the certification process and the challenges of getting one’s product to market, she also has something to contribute to the national conversation about our toughest food-related issues. When she talks about the relationship between people and the earth, for example, she does so with the voice of a prophet.
“Soil is the groundwork of who we are,” she says, “The more I became aware of the permaculture of soil, I began to understand our own bodies as our own soil and how everything we have put into it and exposed it to affects who we are and how we are in the world.”
The energy surrounding her own choice to influence the local food scene for the better is contagious. “I’m more excited about this kitchen than I ever was about the catering business,” says Gross. “I just know that the right people are going to show.”
Her words reveal not only an activist sensibility, but also trust in the power of community.
“Build it,” Gross says, “and they will come.”
Facebook page: C & K Community Kitchen