Anastasia Cole Plakias is the co-founder and Vice President of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm in New York.
Who are you?
Anastasia Cole Plakias, co-founder and Vice President, Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm. Native New Yorker, storyteller, and veggievangelist. Always hungry.
Where do you call ‘home’?
I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and I love too much about it to list. But I call New York State my home, and I feel equally at home upstate as I do on the bustling streets of my neighbourhood. From the idyllic rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley to the secluded woods of the Catskills to the epic peaks of the Adirondacks, the eastern part of New York State takes my breath away. And I think we have some of the best food in the world! Of course when people think about New York food, they think of pizza. And they’re not wrong, we have amazing pizza, and Italian-American cuisine in general. But we’ve also got addictive cider donuts served warm all autumn, perfectly paired with a cold glass of fresh, whole milk from an upstate dairy. And the Appalachian range has become quite famous for ramps–wild, foraged baby leeks that pop up almost as soon as the ground has thawed, heralding spring each year. We have a unique and very agriculturally-based regional cuisine here on the East Coast, between New England and the Mid-Atlantic. It’s often overlooked, but I think it stands up to more famous place-based food-ways.
Describe your favourite place to work and the view out the window.
I love that my laptop and my mobile hotspot on my phone allow me to work anywhere. I’ve had a call come in while riding my bike across town, hopped off, pulled my computer out of my bag, and sent a document to a colleague from a street corner. But my favourite place to work is on a train. I’m currently writing this from a very cushy seat on an Amtrak, chugging past the shores of the mighty Hudson.
Where do you ‘get lost’ and find inspiration?
I have a terrible sense of direction, so I literally get lost pretty much any time I try to navigate without using a map. But there’s something really grounding about that! I find so much inspiration in those moments of being totally present in a place, orienting myself using the tree line, the change in vegetation and direction of the light. My partner is an excellent navigator, but we try to lose our way on a hiking trail whenever possible, then use our senses, rather than our phones to find our way back.
What is your favourite way to get around?
I ride my bike everywhere. I love the flexibility it affords me. Aside from an occasional flat tire, I’m never blindsided by delays because of traffic, or a late train. And I love seeing my neighbours and fellow community members on the street and shouting a passing “Hey there!” from the bike lane. It helps make New York City feel like a small town.
Describe a trend in your industry, or in society more generally, that fascinates you.
I’m fascinated by the shift away from restaurants towards events and “experiential dining” of late. There’s been a lot written recently about the decline of the restaurant industry due to competition, changing labour models, and of course the rising rents that come with the revitalisation – or gentrification, depending on who you ask – of urban centres. I talk to a lot of young, talented chefs – the very people who, 15 years ago, would have been opening restaurants of their own – and they’re launching catering businesses, pop-ups and supper club series, or taking corporate gigs because they want a life, they want a family, and restaurants are less able to offer those benefits. On the one hand, it’s exciting to see the creativity and innovation that comes from this shift away from the traditional restaurant concept, but it also begs the question, what is the breaking point? How can we create an equitable food culture that provides a livelihood to those that feed us without becoming accessible only to an elite few? Because it is so essential to our lives, food is so interwoven with other facets of our culture, like real estate pressures, health care systems, and so on. But our food sphere should be autonomous in determining its own direction. How do we support that?
Name your favourite spot to hang out when you’re off work.
I’m a homebody, and I’m never happier than when my partner and I are in the kitchen whipping up a meal together. We make a decadent brunch almost every weekend. We’ll throw WKCR, the local college station, on the radio and whip up a farm salad, toast with local jam, and fresh eggs with bright, deep orange yolks scrambled with handfuls of chopped herbs. Maybe we’ll split a bottle of cider, if we don’t have anywhere important to be later that day. Taking the time to honor those products and enjoy the process of preparing them with thought and care in collaboration with someone I love is a ritual I really appreciate. We also realise all of this will go right out the window once we have kids, which is something we’ll probably do in the next couple years, so we’re enjoying it while we can!
You have exactly one minute to share your vision with our readers about anything you want.
It is the greatest tragedy that access to fresh, healthy foods is a privilege and not a right in our country, and in many countries around the world. We need to make radical changes to our food production and distribution systems. Democratising the way we eat would have a huge impact on everything including health care, education, and of course, our environment.
Website: Brooklyn Grange