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Gathering Around the Table at Eatsy

Nov 21, 2012

by Aleksa Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

It took 60 lbs. of beef, 40 lbs. of beans, 20 lbs. of chorizo, and 18 lbs. of freshly roasted pumpkins – all locally sourced – to prepare the two batches of spicy autumnal chili (one with meat and one without) that was served with a dash of cheese on a recent Tuesday at Etsy headquarters in Brooklyn. The meal, which was prepared by three dedicated prep cooks from Radish, required nearly 30 hours of labor; eight of which were spent solely chopping ingredients for the soup. With all the careful sourcing and thoughtful preparation behind enough chili to serve 350, it would be easy to assume the office was breaking bread as part of a rare celebration or special occasion. But no, it was just another Tuesday lunch called Eatsy.

In fact, the locally-sourced meals known to Etsy Admin and their guests as “Eatsy” happen every Tuesday and Thursday, which means that as of this week, the company has lined up in the kitchen to serve themselves 98 meals in 2012. The meals are comprised of all sorts of cuisines – from five-spice pork belly sandwiches to chicken meatballs dripping in tomato sauce; roasted pineapple tamales; vegan sushi with miso soup; and dozens of zesty seasonal salads to boot.

The program – which serves to nourish the stomachs and energize the minds of those who keep Etsy up and running – has deep roots, much like the vegetables being served up on compostable bagasse plates. Eatsy has evolved over time, growing with the company and staying true to the philosophy on which it began, says Eatsy Coordinator and Office Manager Katie Rose Crosswhite.

“It had very modest beginnings – for a long time there was just someone cooking for everyone out of their own kitchen. There were a lot of hard-boiled eggs and beets when it started, but it laid the groundwork for something that was going to become really big,” she says. “You can still see the roots of the program in the way I try to run things. We’re supporting local restaurants and caterers who try to, as much as possible, whenever seasonally possible, source locally from New York state, New Jersey state, and Connecticut farms. That’s what Eatsy was built on, and it’s a legacy I’m proud to continue.”

Tara Young

In addition to supporting local restaurants and caterers like Ted & Honey, Num Pang, The Meatball Shop, Chavela’s and Mile End, Eatsy also aims to take the same handmade, know-your-maker approach to food that it cultivates within the community.

“I think that the really great thing about Eatsy is that, at its core, it reflects what Etsy stands for,” Katie Rose says. “Supporting small businesses; allowing people to be self-sustaining as business owners. Also it’s handmade – all of our food is handmade, and I feel like that really rings true with what Etsy does. It’s really special. We talk about Code as Craft, and I think that Eatsy is its own craft; Food as Craft.“

Keeping track of where each and every ingredient comes from is very much a part of the process, as is making sure the plates and napkins are torn up and composted at the end of the meal. Trying to minimize the carbon footprint is huge for Katie Rose when she plans the meals with caterers, and it also reflects Etsy’s commitment to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems as a certified B Corporation. In the interest of transparency – and to give Admin a head’s up about what’s for lunch – Katie Rose sends out an office-wide email outlining the menu, the caterer, and the farms where the ingredients were grown and sourced.

Oftentimes these emails contain facts about the dish itself or the ingredients as well, like the time Radish served a side comprised of watermelon, Shishito peppers, blackberries and feta. The fact? “Only one out of every 10 Shishito Peppers is spicy, so take a bite at your own risk!”

And that’s another part of the magic. With all the vastly different vendors and seasonal variations, the program undoubtedly fosters curiosity and openness – whether that means inquiring about an unknown dish, asking about where a head of lettuce was grown, or trying an entirely new vegetable for the first time. It’s also about diversity; having not just one type of cuisine regularly, but many, reflecting the community we serve but also the community we are as a company of 300 strong.

Designing a meal to suit the taste preferences and dietary needs of such a large group of people is a challenge, but it’s one that both Katie Rose and the caterers she works with are eager to tackle head-on – sending out surveys after meals, conducting extensive research, and learning through trial and error how to push the creative boundaries of the kitchen in a way everyone can eat right up. With a staff that’s nearly 1/3 vegetarian (with some vegan, gluten-free and Paleo also in the mix) that task is no small feat.

“I feel like it is my goal to work with each caterer individually to allow them to shine – to do what they do best and then basically work within those parameters to make it right for Eatsy,” Katie Rose says. “There are no hard and fast rules, as long as everyone eats. I’m always very grateful to my caterers because they walk that flexible line with me.”

For Amy Marks, co-owner of Radish, creating meals for Eatsy since 2011 has been instrumental to expanding her business.

“The company has been great to work with – they recognize that we need to flex our creative muscles as long as we align our meals with their values,” she says. “This has allowed us to experiment with a lot of new recipes, and it’s paved the way for growth amongst, really, our entire staff. Another incredibly valuable part of the relationship is all the feedback we get from our meals. The (sometimes very!) vocal staff tell us what’s worked, what hasn’t, what we can do better. Every producer ultimately wants, and needs this feedback to get stronger at what they do, and we don’t always get it.”

And then there’s the math. For caterer Nahvae Frost, taking the leap to serve at Eatsy was about embracing the sheer challenge of feeding so many people. Before coming in to cater Eatsy last year, the largest group she’d ever served was 70. Suddenly thinking about portions and recipes was about more than just cooking.

“Never before have I done so much math,” Nahvae says. “Determining quantity for an event before Eatsy had always been an unwelcome challenge. I’m able now to see with confidence what it takes to cook for two to three hundred people outside Etsy’s walls, and have done so far more adeptly than I might have otherwise, on multiple occasions. It’s helped me to realize what it is I’m capable of, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”

At the end of the day, supporting real people making real food and coming together as a community of engineers and support staff, designers and analysts over a plate of locally-sourced fare is what it’s all about.

“There’s nothing about this program that’s faceless – whether it’s me, or the people who make this food,” Katie Rose says. “There’s not some giant looming corporation behind it all – it’s intimate. It’s nice. There’s something really cool about that.”

Eatsy is about knowing who’s behind your food; empowering your local farmers; trying new things; gathering as a community; consuming responsibly with meaning and conviction.

“Throughout all of history, there is a powerful magic behind getting together with people over food,” Katie Rose says. “While I feel super lucky that we’re here in Brooklyn, this program grows itself anywhere. There are amazing things happening in food around the world right now, and I’m excited that Etsy is part of that.”

How do you create community through food?

3 Featured Comments

  • BayouGirlPaintings

    Carolyn Finnell from FinnellFineArt said 4 years ago Featured

    Here, in the New Orleans area, great food is not just a tradition, it is a passion. Our local food heroine, Poppy Tooker, is one of the founding lights of the "Slow Food" movement. In our church we know that sharing a meal, especially a meal you have participated in producing, is one of the best ways to create, build and sustain a community. We seldom have any social occasion that doesn't begin with a potluck. We call it radical hospitality. Glad to hear you subscribe to the same philosophy.

  • sherrytruitt

    sherry truitt from sherrytruitt said 4 years ago Featured

    I can't imagine anything nicer than breaking bread with the people you spend so many hours a day with. What if more companies adopted this practice? Imagine the camaraderie and exchange of ideas that could take place. Locally sourced food and caterers is just the icing on the cake. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 4 years ago Featured

    Starting my own Etsy shop has helped me realize how important it is to support farmers, crafters and others who do things by hand. When I visit my local farmers' market each Saturday, I like to think the vendors get a little rush of happiness every time I buy something, just like the rush I feel whenever someone buys from me. I think of Etsy as a local and worldwide community of artisans and food makers. The horrifying deaths from the fire in the Bangladesh clothing sweatshop should remind us that we are all in this together when it comes to supporting good working conditions, human creativity and the power of little businesses to support their owners and any employees they have. Vote with your wallet for what you stand for! I'm doing all my Christmas shopping with Etsy and small, local businesses in my town.

57 comments

  • buffalogirls

    Ludmilla from buffalogirls said 4 years ago

    Hmmm ... interesting. Glad Etsy is mindful of local produce. Pretty fancy lunches:)

  • MamasHouse

    Sharon K. Shubert from GrayWolfGallery said 4 years ago

    My mouth is watering....great looking food!

  • mikelking Admin

    Mikel King from mikelking said 4 years ago

    #AwesomeSauce!

  • allthingsgranny

    Angela Curtis from AandBDesignStudio said 4 years ago

    looks delicious and sounds like it is very healthy too...

  • ahashim Admin

    Ahmed Hashim from ahashim said 4 years ago

    BEEF

  • newhopebeading

    newhopebeading from newhopebeading said 4 years ago

    Yum! Have a great holiday all :)

  • crochetgal

    crochetgal from crochetgal said 4 years ago

    Looks yummy!

  • BayouGirlPaintings

    Carolyn Finnell from FinnellFineArt said 4 years ago Featured

    Here, in the New Orleans area, great food is not just a tradition, it is a passion. Our local food heroine, Poppy Tooker, is one of the founding lights of the "Slow Food" movement. In our church we know that sharing a meal, especially a meal you have participated in producing, is one of the best ways to create, build and sustain a community. We seldom have any social occasion that doesn't begin with a potluck. We call it radical hospitality. Glad to hear you subscribe to the same philosophy.

  • CorrineONeill

    Corrine O'Neill from CorrineONeill said 4 years ago

    Sorry, you serve gourmet food every Tuesday and every Thursday?! Etsy is spending a piddly $250 K on advertising for a site with MILLIONS of items - but Etsy feeds gourmet meals to its staff twice a week?! How many hundreds of thousands of dollars are you spending on feeding your staff? You know what would be more in the spirit of Etsy? A potluck. Where people actually make the food they share. Just saying...seems like misplaced priorities.

  • emilybidwell Admin

    Emily Bidwell from emilybidwell said 4 years ago

    Brava! This is a such an important service to the community, as well a way for employees to connect to the Etsy mission and philosophy. Thank you for sharing this!

  • HPShabbyCottageRoses

    HPShabbyCottageRoses from HPShabbyCottageRoses said 4 years ago

    Congrats on this article! The photos made me very hungry! Happy Thanksgiving Etsy friends!

  • jhfabriccreations

    Janet Howard from JHFabricCreations said 4 years ago

    Looks like a nice place to work.

  • VeronicaRStudio

    Veronica from VeronicaRussekJoyas said 4 years ago

    All the food looks delicious!!! I would love to eat at Eatsy someday.... The photography and narration of this post are beautiful too!

  • shinysheepdesigns

    Jelayne from ShinySheepDesigns said 4 years ago

    Wow. I commend Etsy for the local sourcing of these beautiful meals and all, but really? Is that what you want to promote this holiday season? Never mind the rampant resellers or screwy feedback system or confusing Report an Issue button or the dozen other issues your sellers are concerned about.

  • sherrytruitt

    sherry truitt from sherrytruitt said 4 years ago Featured

    I can't imagine anything nicer than breaking bread with the people you spend so many hours a day with. What if more companies adopted this practice? Imagine the camaraderie and exchange of ideas that could take place. Locally sourced food and caterers is just the icing on the cake. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • ChuckEBrydWallArt

    Chuck from ChuckEByrdWallDecals said 4 years ago

    There is something special about breaking bread with someone. Folks that before the meal just worked together, now become friends. Like I said there is just something special about sharing a meal with others. Glad to see everyone relax and enjoy a good meal.

  • dayslonggone

    Gwynne Collins from DaysLongGone said 4 years ago

    What a great way to experience some wonderful dishes!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    Looks great!!!

  • wearever

    Jen from wearever said 4 years ago

    My mouth is watering!! Happy Thanksgiving Etsy Community!

  • BizzieLizzie

    Bizzie from BizzieLizzieHandmade said 4 years ago

    Fantastic post! Truly enjoyed reading.

  • patspottery

    Pat Parker from PatsPottery said 4 years ago

    This is amazing. Local food, eaten with love♥

  • SuzsCountryPrims

    Suz from CountryLaneHomeDecor said 4 years ago

    I would rather see Etsy donating that food to a local homeless shelter or foodbank. Sorry, Etsy employees, but you all have jobs and can bring a bag lunch. Some people are not that fortunate.

  • redthreaded

    redthreaded from redthreaded said 4 years ago

    You know what would be awesome? An article about Etsy employees volunteering their lunch hour at a soup kitchen in Brooklyn, or helping out with disaster relief--especially this week, when so many in your area are struggling with so much.

  • magicjelly

    Karena from magicjelly said 4 years ago

    I hope you all realise how very fortunate you are, to be provided with such lavish, plentiful meals as part of your salary job, where there are so many independent makers struggling to put food on their tables. From an eco standpoint, local is great, but did you know that focusing on plant-based foods has something like seven times the positive impact on your carbon footprint that local produce does? There are a few studies siting these stats - two from the UN. In other words, reducing the beef, etc. would be a move in the right direction if you're concerned about providing sustainable meals. Not sure if I missed something in the article, but I noticed the pic of the rubbish bin, but nothing mentioning whether those disposable plates & utensils were made from recycled materials or are biodegradable?

  • tatoke

    Emilia Pachomow from tatoke said 4 years ago

    uh reading this being on diet is quite challening i must say;)

  • TexturedINK

    Ankita Kejariwal from TexturedINK said 4 years ago

    looks amazing...wish I could get a bite :)

  • MirabilisColors

    Karen from PlusSizePlus said 4 years ago

    It looks great but I would sure feel better if the cost was coming out of your paychecks instead of our fees since few of us get to eat that way. Giving expensive perks to corporate employees is kind of tasteless no matter how good it tastes.

  • goingplaces2

    Ginger Oliphant from GoingPlaces2 said 4 years ago

    I would think that after a healthy meal spent together talking about projects and problem solving, productivity would go up - afternoons would be filled with renewed enthusiasm & creativity ~ a really good thing for Etsy as well as Etsy sellers!

  • BackyardBrand

    Jim McLean from BackyardBrand said 4 years ago

    YUM!

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl said 4 years ago

    How cool, it looks tasty, real tasty.

  • greatpaper

    Char Stephens from greatpaper said 4 years ago

    Great pics ... the food looks appetizing! What a fantastic way to support your staff and locals. Creativity breeding creativity!

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 4 years ago

    This looks delicious, and much more so than the Thanksgiving I went to. We didn't get any pie! I'm glad to see everything was composted and recycled too, but I wouldn't have expected any less from Etsy!

  • vinylclockwork

    Scott from vinylclockwork said 4 years ago

    Great Job Etsy food looks amazing and delicious

  • aiseirigh

    Cat Shanahan from aiseirigh said 4 years ago

    Long before I had my two kids and decided to give staying at home with them and running my own little business a go I worked as a Sales executive for a fortune 500 company. They provided us with catered breakfasts everyday and hot catered lunches 3 days a week. It is not at all unusual for companies with a large employee base to incorporate a meals for their staff. I understand that some can't see the rationale of why Etsy would do so but it does wonders for team building, employee moral, employee loyality, and productivity. Etsy is not the first company to initiate this type of meal program, nor will they be last. I think the focus in reading this should be that Etsy is a company that cares and that is supporting their local economy and their staff. I loved reading this and loved thinking about the positive workspace that this most likely fosters. Just my two cents.

  • OhFaro

    Faro from OhFaro said 4 years ago

    Awesome!

  • YoungMamaBoutique

    Shannon from StyleSupplies said 4 years ago

    Seems yummy and I am glad that this is available to the Etsy staff members, but I too have to agree with some that have stated their concerns.

  • asundrynotion

    asundrynotion from asundrynotion said 4 years ago

    Spend the funds used to bankroll this somewhat elitist perk on advertising instead. Very few working artists & craftsman, including the many on Etsy that are paying for this, can afford to buy the ingredients to prepare meals this elaborate. Go potluck, per above.

  • EscapePod

    EscapePod from EscapePod said 4 years ago

    Eatsy looks great, but I sure would have loved to see that locally grown food go to a local shelter or group that's busily feeding families displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Not that you guys shouldn't eat, but maybe Etsy could split the difference by buying staff a couple pizzas and donating the rest of the money usually spent to a local food bank. Also -- ohmygod with the plastic and (ugh!) styrofoam used. That trash can filled to the brim with styrofoam plates makes me feel all sadface. Eco fail.

  • ThePeacockFeather

    Bernadette from ThePeacockFeather said 4 years ago

    maybe these are good perks for the workers and maybe it is better for etsy as a business but maybe it shouldn't be advertised to the rest of us and especially those of us that can't afford to eat like that especially when our items stop selling because something else on the site has changed. you don't wave a wad of money in front of the face of a person that only has a quarter in his pocket, especially knowing they got the wad because of the other person's hard work.

  • GypsymoonChain

    Gypsy Chainmail from GypsymoonChain said 4 years ago

    Are we supposed to be impressed? How does etsy actually HELP the community? Especially with so many people hurt by the storm. Go help instead of spending our fees being spoiled hipsters.

  • brindlebaby

    brindlebaby from brindlebaby said 4 years ago

    EscapePod from EscapePod says: Also -- ohmygod with the plastic and (ugh!) styrofoam used. That trash can filled to the brim with styrofoam plates makes me feel all sadface. Eco fail. ________________________ Don't be sad, they addressed that! "Keeping track of where each and every ingredient comes from is very much a part of the process, as is making sure the plates and napkins are torn up and composted at the end of the meal."

  • thecyclingartist

    Tina Mammoser from GeologyArt said 4 years ago

    Wow, that's some posh food. It's be awesome if all those resources and time were volunteered somewhere instead - like a soup kitchen. I assume Etsy folk are all paid a fair wage and can afford lunch. (unlike the artists and craftspeople they are trying to promote who earn, on average, some of the lowest wages in the country) Maybe they could even hire young folk for internships to learn the catering/cooking trade, that would be an awesome way to hand down skills and a love for the handmade food.

  • magicjelly

    Karena from magicjelly said 4 years ago

    This is just so much spin. If Etsy didn't "support local restaurants and caterers" by providing elaborate lunches for their staff, what would the alternative be? Employees would bring food from home - bought from local businesses in their neighbourhood - or else go buy lunch - from local businesses near their workplace. That is absolutely not unusual. It happens everywhere, all the time. In fact, when people are left to their own devices to source their own lunches, a much more diverse array of local businesses would benefit than a select few hired by Etsy. More spin in declaring the food is "handmade" - well, unless you're having Twinkies for lunch, I'd say most people could say the same about what they're eating. I don't recall the sentence about composting the plates, etc - not sure if it was edited in? Anyway, what exactly are they made of? Even if they're biodegradable potato starch or something, it is not really desirable to use disposable plates as they're still energy-intensive to produce. If this programme is a permanent fixture at Etsy, why not have reusable cutlery & crockery. Why not commission Etsy sellers to make them for you?

  • PickStitch

    PickStitch from PickStitch said 4 years ago

    So, invite me for lunch why dontcha? I "work" here too!

  • joepapendick

    Joe Papendick from joepapendick said 4 years ago

    "In fact, when people are left to their own devices to source their own lunches, a much more diverse array of local businesses would benefit than a select few hired by Etsy." -------- Thank you so much Karena! I'm still trying to figure out what 350 people actually do there in Brooklyn the other 3 days a week... particularly given the fact that we're essentially taking about a business that generally functions 24/7 without a hitch. Didn't the "dot-com" bubble officially burst more than a decade ago?

  • MaryMaureen

    Mary Maureen McKervill from MaryMaureen said 4 years ago

    Very interesting to see some dissent instaed of the usual hip hip hooray.

  • DesiPillows

    Smriti from DesiPillows said 4 years ago

    OM NOM NOM ...

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits said 4 years ago

    Awesome! Although it looks like you have to be under 30 to work there. Good to know English majors have somewhere to go.

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 4 years ago

    Great! Looks fun to have a meal together!

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 4 years ago

    Sounds good! I'd be up for trying the vegan sushi, miso soup, and desserts. Yum!

  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 4 years ago Featured

    Starting my own Etsy shop has helped me realize how important it is to support farmers, crafters and others who do things by hand. When I visit my local farmers' market each Saturday, I like to think the vendors get a little rush of happiness every time I buy something, just like the rush I feel whenever someone buys from me. I think of Etsy as a local and worldwide community of artisans and food makers. The horrifying deaths from the fire in the Bangladesh clothing sweatshop should remind us that we are all in this together when it comes to supporting good working conditions, human creativity and the power of little businesses to support their owners and any employees they have. Vote with your wallet for what you stand for! I'm doing all my Christmas shopping with Etsy and small, local businesses in my town.

  • fatlittlesparrow

    Melissa R. from shesinpartiesjewelry said 4 years ago

    Um...can I get a job here please? ;)

  • tomlindesign

    Linda Marco from tomlindesign said 4 years ago

    Yey, Nahvae!! Etsy folks are so lucky to dine on your wonderful creations. Now, if we could just figure out how you can feed etsy sellers . . .

  • klb00e

    Mother Lark from MotherLark said 4 years ago

    thoughtful food= instant community. What a great place to work!

  • buttagal

    LC from cafedebutta said 4 years ago

    yum.

  • RECCIEatETSY

    Clarice Booth from RECCIEatETSY said 4 years ago

    WOW, Amazing. And I was stressing over cooking Christmas dinner for less than 20 guests.....now I think I will try to keep things in perspective. Blessings.

  • awsomediystuff

    L A from Awsomediystuff said 4 years ago

    looks very nice!

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