West Taghkanic Diner (Ancram, NY)
West Taghkanic Diner (Ancram, NY)
When did you open West Taghkanic Diner, tell us a little bit about your journey?
I opened the diner last April 2019. It was a sort of homecoming for me. I grew up 10 minutes from the diner but have lived outside the Hudson Valley for the last 15 years. I left to go to Culinary school in 2003 at the CIA in Hyde Park after which I moved to Northern California and over 7 years worked for several prestigious restaurants most notably 4 years at Restaurant Terra in Napa Valley which I eventually became the head chef. It was during that time that I was running Terra that I met my now wife and we ended up moving to Copenhagen Denmark where she’s from. I took a job with Christian Puglisi of the Relæ restaurant group working as chef of his vegetable focused natural wine spot Manfreds. A few years later we together opened up Bæst which is an Italian inspired restaurant focused on house made charcuterie, fresh mozzarella made daily from milk from the restaurants own cows, wood fired sourdough pizzas and fresh pastas made daily. I left Bæst in late 2017 looking to open up my own place in Copenhagen but our plans changed when my wife who is a journalist was offered the position as U.S. correspondent which is what brought us back to New York and eventually what led me to open the diner.
Tell us about Ancram and where you are located.
It’s confusing but the diner isn’t actually located in Ancram, It’s located in West Taghkanic and it’s only the mailing address that lists us in Ancram. The diner was built in 1953 when the Taconic parkway was created and stopped here at the 80 exit. The original owner built two more diners off the parkway each time the road was expanded. WTD is located in the heart of the Hudson Valley, it’s surrounded by the popular upstate towns of Hudson, Red Hook, Chatham, Germantown and Catskill.
Have you pivoted your business during this pandemic? How have you pivoted?
Yes very much so. I closed the diner pretty early on. The staff and I had a conversation before they officially closed in house dining in NY and came to the conclusion that none of us felt safe even serving takeaway food. The diner kitchen is small and kitchen work leaves very little possibility of social distancing so we thought it better to close and regroup after a few weeks. The weekend after we closed I sold groceries, wine and beer through our web shop in hopes to sell off some of my inventory. It was hugely popular so together with my manager we quickly pivoted the diner into a general store with curbside pickup and local delivery. We loved that we could safely offer something important to the community and keep the lights on at the same time.
F&B is taking a hit from this pandemic like no other, give us your perspective of this industry’s resilience and perseverance during these times, and how you see all of this unfolding.
It’s been amazing to see the industry continue to do important work like feeding those in need and taking care of first responders even while the future of their own businesses are very much up in the air. What I would like to see is for customers to support these businesses when they hopefully all come back. And by support I mean paying the extra cost that restaurants should add to their menus to give their essential employees a proper salary and to give the restaurants themselves a little cushion to be able to support themselves through the next crisis. It’s no secret that restaurants survive on razor thin margins and I hope that at the very least this pandemic has shown how important these restaurants are to their communities. I understand this crisis has hit many people financially and the thought of higher food prices may seem insensitive to that but something must be done to keep these businesses that employ so many of the American workforce healthy and prosperous.