Driven by a passion for great-tasting food, Chef and Chief Food Preservationist Michaela Hayes is committed to making delicious preserved foods and sharing her vast knowledge to build a more caring food community.
Crock & Jar was founded in 2011 with two distinct and complementary goals:
– Offer top-quality preserved foods that rely on sustainably-grown, local produce and traditional techniques to create contemporary flavors.
– Build a strong real food community by teaching classic food preservation techniques to both home cooks and chefs alike.
As the daughter of a gifted home baker, Michaela grew up with an appreciation for the joy good food can provide. During her first big food adventure, spending a year as an exchange student in the former Yugoslavia, her lifelong love for food blossomed. “Life with my Yugoslav family included raising pigs and chicks, milling plums to make plum jam, and community chicken slaughters… I was living closer to the land than I ever had and I loved it.”
College awaited upon her return to the States and armed with a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Kansas, Michaela started a career in commercial photography. Her work took her across the country and around the world where her food experiences dramatically expanded. It wasn’t long before she realized that she relished her food explorations more than the photography!
BIG APPLE – WORLD’S COLLIDE
In 2001, New York City beckoned. While working in a photography studio that shared an office with an architectural firm which was opening a restaurant, Michaela’s world’s collided. “I was at a crossroads. I had just turned 30 and knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in photography. I was far more interested in the restaurant plans and proposed menus. I researched my options and headed off to The French Culinary Institute. Finally I was working in the food world!”
FOOD IN THE CITY
Armed with her culinary credentials, Michaela started working with a catering firm before moving into the restaurant scene. It wasn’t long before Michaela landed a position with renowned Chef Floyd Cardoz at Tabla. “My favorite part of working at Tabla was creating massive batches of various chutneys, often using local fruit – the rhubarb chutney was the best – in combination with Indian spices like cardamom and nigella.” After a short London foray, Michaela’s commitment to sustainability lead her to Gramercy Tavern, where under the leadership of Chef Mike Anthony, she fulfilled her desire to become part of the local farming community.
Not content just to share her culinary talents in the restaurant, Michaela continued her learning with the non-profit, Just Food, where she completed the Training of Trainers program. “Cooking was my life at that point and I wanted to teach something a little bit different. It was the canning that got me, specifically a class taught by Classie Parker, the grande dame of canning in New York. Canning was a perfect intersection of my passion for food, art and science.” Michaela took that lesson and ran with it, teaching canning workshops all around the city.
Michaela’s worlds collided a second time when she had the opportunity to introduce Just Food and Gramercy Tavern. Upon realizing her commitment and her expertise in food preservation, Chef Anthony worked with Michaela to develop a new position in the kitchen specifically for her: Receiver, Forager, Pickler. “It was great to see all the food coming through the restaurant, and make sure our food costs stayed on track. I loved going to the Greenmarket, discovering new things and building relationships with farmers. And I was super excited to be creating (and eating!) a wide variety of pickles, sauerkrauts, kimchis and nukazuke – all of them new additions to the menu.”
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Starting to eat lacto-fermented pickles on a daily basis was a bit of a shock to Michaela’s system, but eventually her stomach environment adjusted and she “began craving those foods to feel balanced. My gut had never been happier and I was energized to learn even more about fermented pickles.”
LEFT COAST A CALLING!
In 2010, California beckoned and the opportunity to hone her preservation skills. Michaela worked with the extraordinary Kathryn Lukas at Farmhouse Culture in Santa Cruz. “It was from Kathryn that I learned the importance of a balance between incredible drive and building a sustainable workplace.” Michaela also worked with Alex Hozven at Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, and with the folks at Happy Girl Kitchen Company. “I experienced three different systems of production from super creative, passionate preservationists. It was awesome.”
In late 2010, Michaela returned to New York with the goal of building a preservation based food business that would be an asset to her community. Bringing together a variety of people from the community she hoped to support, she created a stellar Advisory Board to help her reach that goal. “My mission is to support local farmers, to teach people food preservation methods, and to bring some more fermented foods to the East Coast.” Crock & Jar was the realization of that mission and you can now find Crock & Jar products in specialty markets and at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC.
BRING ON THE FARM
In 2015, Michaela, along with Jane Hodge, Karen Washington and Lorrie Clevenger broke ground at Rise & Root Farm. Rise & Root Farm is a cooperatively run farm in the black dirt region of Orange County, New York. The farm team is made of of four strong women, teachers, leaders, learners, and growers. Rise & Root grows a variety of vegetables, flowers, and herbs that inspire and inform new Crock & Jar creations.