Eat Your Way Around the World the Alumnae Way
The next time you go out to dinner in Manhattan or stop at a café in northern Costa Rica, let it be at a business run by a Mount Holyoke woman. All of these alumnae—from the class of ’59 to the class of 2009—have made careers for themselves in the food industry, whether running a beloved French bistro in New York’s Chelsea or a small farm-to-table restaurant in rural North Carolina.
Tina Carman ’01
Guardia, Costa Rica
SPECIALTY: quality organic coffee
SAMPLE ITEMS: paninis, salads, desserts
Melva Max ’78
New York City
212-675-0342; no website
SPECIALTY: French bistro
SAMPLE ITEMS: escargot au cognac, lobster bisque, trout amandine, omelette Parisienne, braised leek and French lentil salad
Jen Pearson ’96
Sylva, North Carolina
SPECIALTY: tropical fusion/mostly Caribbean
SAMPLE ITEMS: goat tacos, fried plantains, vegan/vegetarian options
Amanda Smith Englund ’06
Lion Heart Kombucha
SPECIALTY: high-quality kombucha (fermented, probiotic tea)
Priscilla Chung ’02
San Francisco, California
SPECIALTY: custom-order cupcakes
Rebecca Kelsey Roby ’94
Hard Rock International
SPECIALTY: 10 oz. burger
Joan Dembinski ’59
Albany, New York
SPECIALTY: Indonesian, French,
eclectic global cuisine
SAMPLE ITEMS: sautéed alligator, chicken saté, nasi goreng (a traditional Indonesian fried rice with chicken, beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin, shrimp and vegetables)
Eviana Englert ’09
New York City and D.C.
SPECIALTY: New England-style seafood rolls
SAMPLE ITEMS: lobster, crab, or shrimp rolls; seafood chowders
Kate Old Magnere ’90
33-014-33146-96; no website
SPECIALTY: traditional French food
SAMPLE ITEMS: boeuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau, pot-aufeu, coquelet au pesto, chapon, confit de canard
Nicky Mesiah ’77, owner of Mesiah Event Planners and Miss Nicky’s Gourmet Toffee in Upper Montclair, New Jersey
“What I bake does not taste like a twig,” says Nicky Mesiah. Indeed, her vegan oatmeal raisin cookies—named after makeup artist Bobbi Brown, who is a big fan—are crisp and satisfying despite not containing butter, eggs, or flour. Her Miss Nicky’s Cashew Toffee (also gluten-free) contains whole cashews, and no corn syrup, additives, or preservatives. (Maya Angelou, for one, has professed her love for these.) Mesiah, who was a sociology major at MHC, has fond memories of making custard on a hot plate in her room in the Mandelles.
Miss Nicky’s: Sales online via PayPal; the toffee is also available at three gift stores in Montclair—Noteworthy Stationery, The Banyan Tree, and Jacklyn Kling Gallery; 973-744-1788;
Abby Hitchcock ’94, chef owner of CAMAJE in NYC, and Abigail Café & Wine Bar in Brooklyn, New York
Abby Hitchcock spent her junior year at the University of Bristol in England and “absolutely fell in love with it”—so she stayed. A botany major, she was finishing her senior thesis—on moss as an environmental matter—when she realized that she just didn’t enjoy lab work. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is incredibly boring. I won’t be able to do this,’” she recalls. Her father, who had always encouraged Hitchcock to tinker in the kitchen, suggested she give culinary school a try.
Today, she serves as executive chef at CAMAJE, where she devises the menu—studded with dishes like housemade chicken liver pâté and Moroccan lamb tagine—and teaches many of the restaurant’s popular cooking classes. In conjunction with artist Dana Salisbury, she runs CAMAJE’s “dark dining event,” during which guests wear blindfolds throughout a four-course meal, which is punctuated by live music or tap dancing. “We want people to experience their other senses being heightened,” says Hitchcock.
In 2008, Hitchcock and her husband, Jason, opened Abigail Café & Wine Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The space is bigger, and the menu is seasonal American instead of French. In winter, you might find pumpkin risotto and cumin-crusted pork tenderloin on the menu; in summer, curried zucchini and basil soup and sautéed market fish with a vegetable ratatouille.
CAMAJE: 85 MacDougal St. (Greenwich Village); New York, NY; 212-673-8184
Abigail Café & Wine Bar: 807 Classon Ave. (Prospect Heights), Brooklyn, NY, 718-399-3200
Chloe Martin ’06 (kitchen manager) and Emma D’Amato ’11 (counter staff ) at Ula Café in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Initially, Chloe Martin had misgivings about her decision to go to MHC. Then her mom told her about the college’s tradition of nightly M&Cs. This small detail made all the difference to the seventeen year-old, for whom baking was a passion. “Mount Holyoke gets it!” she remembers thinking. A philosophy major, Martin spent a semester in Copenhagen her junior year. The academics were great, but it was the traditional Danish layer cakes sold at La Glace, the city’s oldest bakery, that inspired her to pursue baking as a career. Two years after graduation, she took a job as prep cook at Ula Café, where she’s now the kitchen manager. Ula Café won “Best Local Coffee Shop” in the Boston Phoenix last year, and it’s easy to see why. Located in the historic Heffenreffer brewery building, the café has exposed brick walls and comfy banquettes—and free Wi-Fi. Regulars come for the popovers (served with butter, Nutella, or peanut butter) and for the roasted sweet-potato sandwich, made with Monterey jack, tahini, avocado, red onions, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, and a poppy-yogurt spread. Among the panoply of baked goods are chocolate chip walnut cookies, vanilla-bean cupcakes, éclairs, and French macarons.
The woman-owned café is apparently a magnet for MHC alumnae, too. “Susannah Furnish ’04 and Caitlin Reed ’05 founded their law firm at the café. And Bekka Lee ’04 wrote many papers for her master’s in public health and her PhD here,” says Martin.
Ula Café: 284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain, MA; 617-524-7890;
—Hannah M Wallace ’95
This article appeared in the spring 2012 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
April 17, 2012