When Abbey Duke started Burlington’s Sugarsnap with NECI-trained co-owners Kirk and Katie Fiore, the two chefs envisioned the eatery as a “five-year plan,” says Duke. With those five years behind them and the business in good shape, the trio felt the operation was “mature enough … to make a transition.” They came up with a plan that allowed Duke to become the sole owner.
But she’s not the chef. Originally tasked with running the store’s three-acre Intervale plot and acting as business manager, Duke has made the shift to an overall management role, which includes focusing on Sugarsnap’s catering operation and wholesale soup sales. Anthony Grippo, trained at NECI and under the Fiores, is running the kitchen.
To further ease Duke’s workload, Jen Miller, formerly of Healthy City/a>, was recently hired as the business’ farm manager. She’ll care for the vegetables and herbs that show up in the farm-fresh fare, plus take care of the business’ six pigs.
Although Duke plans to look at the whole business and make strategic changes, for now only one directly affects customers: Sugarsnap is finally open on Saturday.
What are the Fiores up to? In July, they’re headed to Dijon as part of a cultural exchange between French and U.S. chefs. Normally, though, Kirk works at The Essex; Katie has taken a job at Sweet Clover Market in Essex.
SCM owner Heather Belcher says she was “informally” looking for a prepared-foods chef when Katie mentioned that she’d be leaving Sugarsnap. “We’d tried with limited success to get [a prepared-foods program] off the ground,” admits Belcher. “I think we can get one humming now.”
So far, Fiore has whipped up items such as red-pepper bisque, “fabulous vegan chili with lots of eggplant in it” and lasagna. She also makes the tuna, egg and chicken salads used in the small store’s sandwiches.
A pair of other new hires are helping the small store attract customers. New Marketing Manager Leah Fosco is working to create a “comprehensive calendar of events,” including demos, tastings and classes.
Paul Michel, former owner of Enosburg Meat Market, has stepped into Cole Ward’s shoes as butcher. “He’s incredibly nice and pleasant to work with,” Belcher opines. “He’s happy to be here in a small shop where he can get to know the customers.” As soon as he’s up to speed, Michel will teach meat-cutting classes as his predecessor did. “Our long-term goal here at Sweet Clover Market is to keep alive the idea that you can make your own food … [and] keep people in touch with where their food comes from,” Belcher says.
Phoebe Garfinkel is all about that at Shelburne Farms. In addition to teaching classes on preserving and backyard gardening, the 26-year-old food systems coordinator — considered a rising star in the food world — helped create a “farm cart” that sells baked goods and panini made from farm-fresh meats and vegetables.
Garfinkel is leaving the farm in August to pursue a master’s in public affairs at Cornell University. “I’ll be focusing on agricultural policy and community-based food systems,” she explains. “My end goal is to acquire the skills to be a leader in the food-policy realm.”
Although reluctant to leave Vermont, which she calls an “amazing, special place,” Garfinkel is excited about the offerings at the Ithaca Ivy. “The extension program is one of the best in the country,” she boasts, continuing: “It’s a land-grant university, so it has amazing resources.” Her self-designed program will blend courses from various disciplines, including business, law and regional planning. And regardless of whether she ends up moving back to Maine — her home state — or returning to Vermont, she plans to stay “very connected” to Shelburne Farms.
The nonprofit, for its part, doesn’t plan to hire a replacement for Garfinkel. Her tasks will be divided among current staffers, including Chef David Hugo and other members of the Farms’ “food team.”