Alison Cayne is the Founder and CEO of Haven's Kitchen, a company on a mission to make home cooking fast, fun and delicious. What started in 2012 as an NYC-based recreational cooking school is now a CPG company selling the first-ever line of refrigerated, globally-inspired sauces made with fresh, all-natural ingredients. Haven’s Kitchen sauces are in close to 2000 stores, including Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Target and several Kroger banners.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to start Haven’s Kitchen?
While working towards my Masters degree in Food Studies, no matter what I was studying, the same lesson kept popping up: home cooking is good for our personal health, our farmers, and our planet. But in 2012, so few New Yorkers knew how to cook, and despite growing interest in farmers markets and Organic food, there was this massive knowledge gap. So, I founded Haven’s Kitchen – a cooking school in a carriage house in Flatiron. For the next 8 years, we hosted over 1 million guests and students, taught 10,000 classes, planned 300+ unique weddings, and hosted culinary-focused product launches and events for hundreds of companies and organizations. Then, in 2018, we launched our line of sauce in Whole Foods and they’ve been growing like crazy. The goal of the sauces is the same as the school (which I closed this June, due to COVID): Help people make better meals, without all the work and build their confidence and creativity in the kitchen.
What does your typical day look like?
Very different than it did 6 months ago! It’s lots of Zoom peppered with walks with my dog, cooking like crazy and learning everything I need to know to navigate this insane time.
What was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
If fresh cooking sauce for grocery stores was possible, someone would have created it already.
What does success mean to you?
I feel successful every day watching people using our sauces and feeling like rockstars in the kitchen. There is no better feeling than helping grow peoples’ confidence and giving them a tool that makes their lives better. Of course, I am also actively working on becoming the best leader I can be, and building a conscientious, sustainable, BIG company.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
The key for me is normalizing my feelings and not adding layers of other, unproductive feelings to them. So when I feel like I’m ahead of my skis, or not up a task, I acknowledge that I am having a “normal” feeling – that this is a job I’ve never done before, that it is complicated and it is triggering uncomfortable feelings. Then, I remind myself of other times I’ve had these feelings and what has helped me conquer the issue in the past: research, calling on resources, organizing my team and our priorities. I remind myself that every time I go through the imposter-zone, I come out feeling stronger and more capable. That you need to go through that to grow.
Do you have any morning routines or evening rituals to help you stay balanced?
I do Kundalini yoga. It’s a little trippy and chanty and kooky, but it’s kept me strong and balanced for 15 years. It’s part poses and part meditation, and it really works for my body and mind.
What is your favorite Haven’s Kitchen sauce flavor, and do you have plans to release others and/or another product (other than sauces) in the future?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite! They’re all so different and work well with different meals and cravings. I am pretty obsessed with our newest flavor Golden Turmeric Tahini, and my long-standing love is our Nutty Lemongrass, which is like a Thai satay sauce. We are definitely introducing a sauce in 2021 – she’s fab – and yes, there will be other products that support people in the kitchen and help make cooking fun and creative.
Where can we find you?
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