As a freelance chef, Casey Corn may not have been laid off from a restaurant kitchen, but she knew she was about to face a bleak dry spell of future jobs once the current crisis unfolded. While paychecks from private events, recipe development jobs and other in-house food gigs evaporated, she decided to launch a new pop-up food service called 4th Floor Foods—yes, out of the fourth floor of her Greenpoint apartment building.
Before diving into the unpredictable gig economy, Corn was classically-trained in restaurant kitchens like the now-closed LA restaurants Leona and celebrity chef Evan Funke’s Bucato. While she may no longer have the luxury of a walk-in fridge, she's found ways to run a business from a small kitchen in Brooklyn.
Chefs and entrepreneurs have gotten creative all over Brooklyn. New York's so-called hamburger expert installed a slide from which burgers are being sent down to customers. But Corn uses a pulley-system to lower the to-go items to her customers with a basket, out the window from her apartment. It’s contactless and all takes place in the open-air—hope for a sunny day.
“I wanted to provide a less stressful and more exciting way for people in the neighborhood to get their groceries, as an alternative to grocery stores right now,” she tells Time Out New York.
Each day, she announces the menu on Instagram, which largely includes pantry items like pickled veggies, homemade oat milk, ramp butter, truffle everything bagel seasoning, and, lately some savory mini waffles (almost everything is priced at $5). This week, she is also raising funds for Black Visions Collective (a dollar from each sale), and she’s personally matching every dollar. Customers can DM her to place an order and pay via Venmo so it's all contactless. Next week, she has plans to make her special mac ‘n cheese, hinting that she actually has a mac ‘n cheese cookbook in the works.
Hospitality workers like Corn also see this as a potential new future for the restaurant industry, which for so long, “has issues with tipping and payment of staff,” she says, adding she is in no way surprised the food world is “finding new ways to innovate right now.”
As someone who studied food anthropology, she’s also quick to point out that these more DIY food programs are in no means new, not even in Brooklyn. “It’s really sad that it took a pandemic for people to feel closer to their neighbors. In smaller, cultural enclaves—for lack of a better term—people have already been doing this, selling things like homemade empanadas for the neighbors for so long.” Nevertheless, she hopes that newfound community is a lasting measure.
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