THE BLOG
04/03/2011 10:38 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2011

Speak Easy: A Food Panel in Brooklyn

As a freelance writer covering small business and food, I've met hundreds of fascinating and inspiring entrepreneurs over the past decade. This panel, the second in my Speak Easy Series: Conversations with Artists & Entrepreneurs (my first event was a live interview with the best-selling author Colm Toibin in February), brings together some of the most talented, passionate, and hard-working people I know. I'm excited to provide a forum for them to tell their overlapping stories of building successful businesses through partnerships with other Brooklyn-based companies.

Three years ago, I started a food-focused book club called Four Burners, where my childhood friend Agatha Kulaga met Erin Patinkin, now her partner in Ovenly. Erin, an avid baker, hosted the meeting in her Clinton Hill apartment, where we discussed the book Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Agatha brought her signature pistachio-cardamom cupcakes with chocolate ganache icing (in keeping with the book's spicy theme), and the two knew immediately that they would collaborate. The wild success of their business Ovenly is due in large part to support from their neighbors.

"I'm from Chicago, where there's a perception that New Yorkers are cut-throat. I've found it to be the total opposite," Erin says. "People are surprisingly collaborative here, especially in Brooklyn. There's a real community. We've had so much support, and now we want to help people grow their businesses, too. It's gratifying."

"Brooklyn has the benefit of having more available space and opportunity than Manhattan for gardens and rooftop farms, so restaurants can source hyper-locally," Agatha adds. The wood-fired pizzeria Paulie Gee's sources produce, including baby kale, from Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, a 6,000 square foot organic vegetable farm located atop a warehouse in Greenpoint. Erin and Agatha were introduced to Paul Giannone, whose kitchen they use to bake for him and other clients, by their friends Evan and Oliver Haslegrave, the team of brothers behind hOmE, which designed and built Paulie Gee's, along with other Brooklyn destinations Manhattan Inn and Duckduck.

Christopher Nicolson, who will be joined in conversation with fishmonger Sean Dimin of Sea2Table for their portion of the panel, is a fifth-generation wild sockeye salmon fisherman and cofounder of Iliamna Fish. Co. He splits his time between Bristol Bay, Alaska and Brooklyn, where he and his wife host a wild sockeye "CSA" and he also makes wine at the Red Hook Winery. He credits the borough's accessible, word-of-mouth, neighborhood culture -- a vestige of what he calls "'old' Brooklyn, or 'old' Jane Jacobs-style urban culture" -- for much of Iliamna's growth.

Come here about all of this and more on Tuesday. Satisfy your curiosity during the Q&A with panelists and your tastebuds with tastings from Ovenly and Paulie Gee's. Hope to see you there!