Having the right tools at hand in the kitchen can be the difference between cooking as a chore to be endured and cooking as a skill to be joyfully executed, but the right tools aren’t always easy to find. Selections at the big box places can be sadly limited, and online ordering can be a gamble.
Solutions to your every kitchen hassle can be found at The Culinary Warehouse, a venerable chef’s supply house in Kingston that’s been serving the Hudson Valley for 80 years and is now in the hands of Declan and Tracy O’Brien, Irish imports who’ve made their home in Kingston since 2009. They took ownership of The Culinary Warehouse on March 17, 2018 (“The irony’s not lost on us,” Declan observes).
Long-established Hudson Valley kitchens like Savona’s Trattoria, Le Canard Enchaine, and Santa Fe rely on the Warehouse for their needs, as do hundreds of restaurants from Westchester to Albany. The general public is equally welcome. “Everybody who comes into the store says they love looking at all of our merchandise,” says Declan. “They’re thrilled that they don’t have to go down to the city for the latest, trending items or hard-to-find supplies.”
“Everybody who comes into the store says they love browsing the merchandise. They’re thrilled that they can support a local business that offers hard-to-find supplies and keeps up with the latest and trending must-have kitchen ware.”
–Declan O’Brien, co-owner
Pots, pans, and handy implements you may never have encountered before; a baking section with pie carriers, cookie cutters, and pastry boards; a full pizza section with pizza peels, stones, trays, and slicers; cocktail and bar equipment from shakers in all sizes to ingredients like bitters and elixirs—The Culinary Warehouse has all of it and more in its 5,000-square-foot space, and the staff is happy to help you figure out which of it will serve your needs.
And if they haven’t got it in stock, they’ll order it for you. “One time, we had a customer call in looking for 50 nutcrackers that had been overlooked and were needed that day,” says Declan. “We took care of it. We’re here to keep it community-based, and we get interesting calls all the time. My favorite thing about Hudson Valley life is the people; there’s anabundance of community spirit and a great energy which makes it so much fun to work and live here. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be located in one of the most beautiful places in the country.”
Tracy grew up in Dublin, and Declan in Carlow, but the two met in New York. “I grew up in an entrepreneurial family in Ireland and have always been in the service industry, which is what THE CW is all about,” says Declan. “My family did all sorts of things, from farming to several retail businesses, an equipment import and distribution business for the hospitality industry, and a travel business.”
"Because the business has been around for so long, we are a go-to for restaurants, home cooks, chefs, caterers, and CIA students—and now a whole new range of pandemic bakers!”
-Declan O’Brien, co-owner
New York in the 1980s was magnetic, and after his first visit Declan knew he wanted to go back. He set about getting a green card and established his own travel enterprise, Destinations Ireland, which led him to living and working in the East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, and Brooklyn.
Destinations Ireland (which is now Destinations Ireland and Beyond, with a sister business, Destinations Golf and Leisure) was a hit, and when he interviewed young Tracy Lane from Dublin for a job, he soon knew he’d found a teammate. “I never thought I’d leave the city,” he says, “but then we visited the Hudson Valley and realized how much more relaxed life could be.”
The travel business set up shop in the Millard Building in Midtown Kingston, which just happened to be the home of The Culinary Warehouse. When their landlords wanted to retire from the business, taking it over felt just right for the O’Brien’s, especially as the travel business had long been organizing custom itineraries for immersive food trips.
“We felt that with a bit of energy and vision, we could make it more exciting and get more people to know it’s here. I don’t think the business was getting the exposure it deserved, so we’re doing what we can to change that,” Declan says. Non-restaurant-owning humans have been known to ask humbly whether they’re allowed to enter; they’re most certainly not just allowed, but warmly welcomed.
“And Declan is humbled by the warmth with which they’ve been received. “There is so much good will coming through our door every day, much more than we bargained for. We are thrilled!” he says. “We have a really varied clientele. Because the business has been around for so long, we are a go-to for restaurants, home cooks, chefs, caterers, and CIA students—and now a whole new range of pandemic bakers! We are delighted to see new customers coming in that have moved to the area, and we’re happy to advise and help them with outfitting their kitchens.”
Declan and Tracy want to keep building those relationships and figuring out fresh and tasty new services. “Our newest offering is a wedding gift registry service,” says Declan. “For newlyweds looking to outfit their kitchens with the latest and greatest in kitchen and culinary ware, their registry list can be packed full of wonderful, practical items that they know they will need and use for years to come. More and more customers are coming to The CW to buy cool gifts for the foodies in their lives; we want to encourage and grow that trend.”
“Our newest offering is a wedding gift registry service. For newlyweds looking to outfit their kitchens with the greatest in kitchen and culinary ware while supporting local.”
-Declan O’Brien, co-owner
So don’t be a stranger, and don’t feel like you have to ask permission to come in, although you can certainly make a personal appointment or shop by phone or email. The Culinary Warehouse is open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 6pm, with a warm welcome for all and new goodies all the time.
“Retail is always changing,” Declan observes. “Being Irish, it’s not untrue that we are friendly, forward, and curious, so we’ve learned from engaging our customers what works and what doesn’t. We also reach out to our community of makers and artisans to help us diversify, stocking pottery, breadboards, and dry goods. Most importantly of all: Every day is an opportunity, a gift, really, to spend time with people and have fun doing it.”
the culinary warehouse
17 Grand Street, Kingston