After ten years as one of the city’s premier spaces for buying kitchen equipment and great ingredients (as well as learning a new skill in one of their many hands-on classes), The Brooklyn Kitchen decided it was time to add a more community-oriented space. This coming weekend, The Library opens.
The space will host classes, discussions and workshops on a scale of free to $45, in addition to allowing guests to peruse a collection of cookbooks dating back to the 19th century and a full inventory of Gourmet magazine’s run—from 1943 to 2009. You’ll be able to browse with a cup of complimentary coffee, as they hope the space will kindle an even deeper, more historical understanding of what we eat and cook. “Come in, have a cup of coffee, sit down, read some books, get some ideas, get some inspiration,” says Brooklyn Kitchen co-owner Taylor Erkkinen. “The concept is that we’ll be able to offer some deeper dives into things that we do already.” We spoke to her about the inspiration behind the space, how it all came together and what to expect.
Edible Brooklyn: Will you be launching with any special events?
Taylor Erkkinen: One of the types of things that we’ll be offering is what we call a vendor showcase, which is kind of deeper and more interesting and more connection than just a vendor demo. We have our food vendors come and do demos and tastings every weekend, so you can always taste something that’s available on the shelf, but with a larger space, it enables the vendor to offer something that they might not usually offer—more space gives them the opportunity to get a little weird.
So we’re having Black & Bolyard Brown Butter come on January 14th. Andrew Black is a chef and he’s been wanting to teach a class with us for a while, but we haven’t really been able to think about how that fits into the curriculum. We really haven’t been able to conceive of a full brown butter class. But I feel like this enables us to kind of bridge that, to get deeper than a tasting and less detailed than a class, but to allow the chef and the creators behind the food that we sell to offer a more full picture of what they have.
The vendor showcases will enable the vendors to bring in better examples of what they’re able to do with the product. With the brown butter, we’re usually like, “Put brown butter on toast and it’s delicious.” This stuff is amazing and it’s dangerous and I can’t have a jar in my house, and people buy it just based on the taste of one thing, but to be able to offer maybe a taste that—I don’t know what they’re bringing, so this is just an example of what could be possible—but like a brown butter shortbread that’s been made with the product beforehand or some other examples of how the product could be used in baking or in food preparation that would give the customer a much broader understanding of the scope of the product.
E.B.: How did the collection itself come together?
T.E.: It’s a rather unorganized collection of our fascinations with cooking and food itself over the past probably 15 years. Once you start to collect things, people recognize you as an opportunity to offload stuff, too, so there’s a little bit of purging that needs to happen. But we’re still going through that.
A friend of mine donated her grandmother’s entire collection of Gourmet magazine from 1943 to 2009, so that is something that we have been organizing this past week. We have them all on display and available for your perusal. What we’ve done is we’ve organized them by month. We have January and February featured prominently right now, so you can come in and look at how winter cooking has been portrayed in Gourmet magazine through the last half century.
E.B.: That’s so awesome.
T.E.: You look back and you’re like, “Oh, these were the advertisements then. This is who was cooking these foods.” You can look through the history of the magazine and see that in the ’70s, they discovered mushrooms.
E.B.: Who do you see coming to The Library?
T.E.: I would love to have The Library be available to people who just want learn more about cooking and learn more about the history of cookbooks, but also the program that we will offer will be current as well. I’ve been talking to publishers about using this as an opportunity for different author events that don’t necessarily fit into any other kind of types of authors that we slot in usually. It’s more than a bookstore, but it is less than a full-blown cooking class.
I want this to be open. I want it to be attractive and interesting to anybody who wants to learn more about how to reference their food as part of the community. A lot of this concept came up after the election, when I just lost my mind and I wanted to find a way to be meaningful. And I think everyone does. At this point, anyone who hasn’t yet lost their mind needs to find a way to make things matter. So The Library is a location. The books are certainly an anchor to the concept, but I want this to be a community space and I want this to be a place where people can come together and formulate the bonds of what might become a revolution.