When Kristin Canty’s son started developing allergies, she became fascinated by where food came from — and how environmental choices can lead to health issues. This curiosity sparked Canty’s passion for small farming, local and organic foods, and sustainability. Also a nationally-acclaimed filmmaker, you may recognize her documentary, ‘Farmageddon – The Unseen War on American Family Farms’, where she explores the dangers of mass-produced crops and livestock. Dedicated to improving the quality of food and to make an impact on the environmental cost of expansion, she’s opened Woods Hill Table in her hometown of Concord, Massachusetts several years ago, ultimately earning a spot on the top 20 most sustainable restaurants in the world by the Restaurant Sustainability Association.
Now, she’s back again with a location in the growing seaport of Boston’s waterfront, with Woods Hill Pier 4. These two locations, along with another restaurant, Adelita, all focus on what they’ve coined an ‘ancestral diet’ by sourcing local ingredients and using the whole animal approach throughout the menu. This means you can expect everything from raw milk cheeses aged 60 days to raw fermented food and fresh, ethically-caught fish. Most importantly: you can trust that everything you’re eating is chemical-free and well, as the earliest inhabitants of the earth intended.
Though she’s not a chef by trade, she is a female entrepreneur and business owner who has carved a runway for change. Here, she took time to chat with Ladders on what’s next:
Did you ever imagine you’d end up as a restaurant owner? And not just any restaurant owner, but an influential one?
Kristin Canty: No, I never wanted to be a restaurant owner. My life mission is to support small farmers, raw milk farmers, sustainable fishermen, and artisanal producers while introducing people to the fact that nutritious and properly prepared food can also be delicious. Once I began working with farms, an opportunity to open a restaurant in my hometown using the small farm’s products became available and I was asked to take the space over which would allow me to support the farms and purveyors that I care so much about.
How did you become inspired by the small farm movement? How has it changed your perspective?
KC: I became motivated to fight for farms that are raising animals responsibly and not spraying their fields with chemicals when my son was cured of all of his environmental allergies when we switched from ultra-pasteurized skim milk to raw, straight from the cow, rotationally grazed whole milk.
After that happened, I bought as much of my food as possible from small farms and co-ops. I found out that farms and co-ops such as the ones that I was purchasing from were getting raided by the government, so I made a documentary about the raids, and today, it can be screened on Amazon Prime and iTunes. I did this to give the small farms a voice and a platform to raise awareness of this serious problem.
What hurdles do you believe females in the restaurant industry face?
KC: Females in the restaurant industry face the same hurdles that females in any industry face. All females need to fight harassment in every industry, as we’ve all recently learned from the #metoo movement that it affects women at all pay scales.
I have had many round table discussions with women who are CEOs of large companies and business owners who have surprisingly told me they didn’t feel listened to by men in their companies in lower-level positions. I don’t think we can single out the restaurant industry with having hurdles that are unique when all of these hurdles across every industry.
What are the predictions you have for female entrepreneurs in this space in the next decade? What are your hopes?
KC: I am seeing more and more female-owned and female chef-owned restaurants so I have high hopes that it will increase in the future. The female Boston chefs right now are totally rocking it and I am so happy to see them thrive.
What advice would you give to aspiring female restaurant owners?
KC: Don’t do it. Just kidding.
Make sure that you have a lot of passion for your concept, for your staff and for your guests. There are fires to put out every single day as in most businesses, but there are a lot more moving parts in the hospitality business than some others. The passion for what you are offering and serving, and for the people is the key ingredient to keep it all going and to keep yourself going.