Page 31 - Vallet Table - Spring 2020
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                                SWEET SUCCESS
Yet even the roughest of stumbling blocks couldn’t dampen the sweetness of victory. With Jackson, for instance, establishing herself as a successful restaurant owner — with a Michelin Star, no less — made the endless hours in someone else’s kitchen worth it. The critical praise she received for Delaware and Hudson, her now-closed restaurant in Williamsburg, was
a personal win, and one that reaffirmed the strength of the place and culture she had created.
Such affirmation was also critical for Phoenicia Honey Co.’s Rebecca Shim, who, like Jackson, left the Brooklyn restaurant scene in favor of
the farm-to-table aura of the Hudson Valley. After a chapter as the owner of New City Café
in Brooklyn, she migrated upstate to become executive chef at Menla, a mountain spa and retreat center in Phoenicia, where she worked from 2001 to 2013. She later worked as a private chef in the Hudson Valley.
In her downtime outside the kitchen, she began keeping bees, a hobby that eventually introduced her to Phoenicia Honey Co. When its founder, Elissa Jane Mastel, retired from the company
and offered Shim the reins, she stepped up as an entrepreneur. Although the early days of business ownership were trying, since she had to learn branding, sales, and social media from the ground up, she found her footing. In autumn 2018, she celebrated one of her greatest successes to date when she moved Phoenicia Honey Co. into its first production space and participated in the Farm & Food Funding Accelerator through the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corp (HVADC). As part of the program, she received assistance to create a business plan, funding, and even a grant for marketing development.
“Growing sales is of course the most important, but until production, distribution, and marketing are mastered, sales can only grow incrementally,” she says. Thanks to the support she’s received from HVADC, she and her team have been able to a new production space at the Phoenicia Arts and Antique Center, which allows them a greater retail presence.
Although Shim is on a roll with Phoenicia Honey Co. nowadays, she’s quick to admit that none of it would have happened without a great deal of hard work and a few mentors along the way. In the early days of her career as a chef, she worked under the skilled eye of Edna Lewis, the acclaimed African American chef and educator known for her championing of Southern cooking in America.
“She was 75 when I worked for her right out of culinary school and a pioneer of the farm- to-table movement,” Shim says. “She helped
me to understand the importance of ingredients and simple preparations.” That understanding is integral at Phoenicia Honey Co., where each jar is a locally sourced, lovingly crafted affair that allows the pure sweetness of raw Hudson Valley honey to shine.
Just as Shim relied upon the expertise of a leading woman in her field to guide her, so too did Kasha Bialas. Yet where Shim drew on advice from an acclaimed chef, Bialas found a mentor close to home: her grandmother.
“She ran the farm with her husband until he passed away in 1965,” she says, adding that her grandfather’s death left her grandmother as a 45-year-old widow with six children and a farm
  to juggle. “She was a boss bitch who had to be tough and definite and make choices. If she could do that, [then] I’ve got that in me.”
Indeed, Bialas is one tough cookie herself. She runs Bialas Farms, a third-generation farm in New Hampton, with her mother and father, and is also a full-time mother to Thomas, her teenage son who loves all 55 acres nearly as much as Bialas does herself. In the early days of her career as a farmer and working single mother, however, she struggled to find balance.
“Almost 16 years ago, I made the difficult choice to keep my son with me at the farm, instead of sending him to daycare so I could
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