September, 2015. Industry Headlines.
Taste of Red Hook is the annual fundraiser for the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), a community-based nonprofit that confronts poverty in Red Hook, Brooklyn, through a model focused on youth development, community building, and local hiring. The event now has its home at Liberty Warehouse, 260 Conover Street.
Over 50 restaurants, distilleries, and wineries based in Red Hook and immediate neighborhoods will offer a broad selection of their signature dishes and drinks. Among some of the many highlights include Grindhaus, Fort Defiance, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Brooklyn Crab, Fleisher’s, Defonte’s, Buttermilk Channel, Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, Nightingale9, Shelsky’s Smoked Fish, The Good Fork, Van Brunt Stillhouse, Red Hook Winery, Saxelby Cheese, Brooklyn Ice House, Baked, and Blue Marble.
Red Hook, a neighborhood lacking a subway stop and separated from the rest of Brooklyn by a towering highway, has long been home to an isolated and close-knit community. In the past 15 years, the neighborhood’s demographics, especially along Red Hook’s waterfront, have changed dramatically, giving way to restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. RHI is working to leverage the new growth, wealth, and population in the neighborhood, and to create connections between long-time, low-income residents and newer, wealthier ones.
RHI serves over 2,000 community members each year, and its youth empowerment pipeline serves more than 350 participants each year with academic support, professional development, and leadership opportunities. 90 percent of RHI’s growing staff are from Red Hook.
At the Taste of Red Hook, local restaurants and bars, wineries, distilleries, donate their time and product to raise money for the whole neighborhood. And the local restaurants have hired young community members that are referred by RHI for apprenticeships. Kevin's, a Red Hook favorite seafood spot, has actively employed youth from the community over the last three years. "We are proud to participate in Taste of Red Hook," says Kevin Moore, owner of Kevin's. "Taste is an opportunity for the neighborhood to unite not only around food and drink, but also around Red Hook Initiative's mission of youth empowerment.”
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated Red Hook, leaving residents without electricity or heat for nearly a month. In the immediate wake of the storm, RHI operated as the neighborhood recovery hub, distributing food and supplies, delivering meals to homebound residents, and organizing volunteers to clear water and debris from local businesses. Its mission drastically changed from focusing on empowerment programs for the disadvantaged to bailing out water, saving businesses and ensuring the health and safety of residents.
One such business is Red Hook Winery, located attractively right on the waterfront. Mark Snyder, owner of Red Hook Winery, says, “Quite simply, we wouldn’t be here without Red Hook Initiative, especially after the storm.”
In the last few months, Red Hook Winery crafted three wines specifically for RHI, which will make their debut at Taste of Red Hook. RHI’s “Digital Stewards,” young adults who are trained in technology and media, designed the labels, researching the history of the neighborhood and consulting with industry experts in the process. Red Hook Winery will donate all proceeds from these wines to RHI.
Another way RHI marries its mission of youth development to local businesses is through the creation of videos publicizing restaurants, shops, and bars. Young adults trained in media and video production work with local establishments such as Hometown, Fort Defiance, and Brooklyn Crab to help them tell their stories on camera. Businesses gain free exposure and a finished video, while RHI young adults gain experience in production.
And the Taste of Red Hook funds all these programs. “Taste of Red Hook is a unique event in our neighborhood," says Jill Eisenhard, RHI's founding executive director. "It is one of the few occasions where small business owners, home owners, public housing residents, elected officials, and local supporters are all gathered under one roof. Not only is it a fun event, the proceeds also contribute to true systemic change and pathways out of poverty for Red Hook youth."
This year's event includes an inaugural culinary committee, featuring Carla Hall, co-host of The Chew and owner of Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen; Evyn Block, the founder of her eponymous food and lifestyle media company; and Sohui Kim, co-owner of acclaimed Red Hook restaurant The Good Fork.