Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 90 of 131

day in the life she says, pointing to the rolls sitting on a counter in the kitchen. Though Gonzalez and Levine like the taste—they silently gesture to each other that butter would be in order—she seems on the fence about their destiny for the day. "We just might have to get some turkey for turkey burgers or egg salad and make sandwiches out of them for lunch," she muses. "They won't just get by on their cute- ness. We have to make sure they taste good, too." A Philosophy of Focus While Gonzalez finishes the last phase of the dulce de leche cookies, a light sprinkling of sea salt, Levine shares her thoughts on today's culinary scene—which she says is an amazing homage to food, but not which she totally understands. "[Food] has become very tweaked. I don't really get it," she says, referring to herself as more of a purist who likes to indulge in a great vanilla ice cream rather than frozen treats spiked with hot chile peppers. "I can handle a little salt in my chocolate, but I'm not sure these new f lavors work." CREATING A BAKERY AND A BRAND S arabeth Levine could have been a dentist. But a secret family recipe for orange-apricot marmalade changed her path to create a wildly successful baking empire. Starting with that recipe in 1981, Sarabeth Levine and her husband, Bill, opened a tiny bakery-cafe on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City's Upper West Side. "I was very close to going to dental school, but this recipe got to me first," recalls Levine, whose first retail clients included the likes of Balducci's, Macy's, and Bloomingdale's. When marmalade production moved from her apartment to the cafe, equipped with a 40-gallon steam kettle, business grew, and Levine started making oatmeal, eggs, and French toast for the 15 or so patrons she was able to squeeze in at one time. "You could not get a [nice] breakfast in the early '80s unless you went to a luncheonette or were dining in a hotel," Levine says. "I knew I had something special—something that people wanted." Within the next five years, she opened up two more Manhattan restaurants bearing her name. Ten years later, Levine was approached by a management group to license her name and expand on her successful restaurant concept. "Never in my dreams when I first started in 1981 did I think I would ever be in the restaurant business," she says. "We started out taking baby steps and the steps just kept getting bigger and bigger and we got more adventurous." Levine acknowledges that a larger presence and multiple locations has its trade-offs. "You can't be everywhere all the time," she says. "Our restaurant partners and team are the keepers of the brand and they do an amazing job." Today, the Sarabeth empire consists of 12 licensed restaurants—including two in Tokyo—with more to come; a jam factory in the Bronx pumping out more than a million jars of jam each year; 17 sofi Awards for products that range from creamy tomato soup to the orange-apricot marmalade that started it all; and a bakery-cafe in Manhattan's Chelsea Market, with baked goods funneled to each restaurant. with a unique recipe and distinct shape. On this day, Levine's decision to dip cookies ensures Gonzalez and his team will not fall behind in production. She also makes sure to melt some extra chocolate to have ready for his next project, fin- ishing a batch of heart-shaped dulce de leche sandwich cookies—a recent popular creation of Gonzalez's. Levine sees the project would go faster with her help, so she quickly creates a paper cornet, fills it with melted chocolate, and jumps on the assembly line to add a chocolate drizzle to the assembled cookies. When finished she notices her design doesn't match the others. "Someone new did the drizzling, it was his first try," Gonzalez says, assuring her that the staffer will get to where he needs to be. Shirking what might have been disappointment, Levine says, "This is what we do here. We create, teach, learn from each other, and share our ideas and passion for baking. It's just how we work." With Valentine's Day a few days away, Levine's team has also made a batch of heart-shaped seven-grain bread. "Aren't they cute?" (continued on p. 124) 88 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com DayInLife_Sarabeths.indd 88 3/18/14 8:13 AM

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