Anya Peters is keenly focused on and passionate about sharing her family’s Caribbean story through Kit an’ Kin popup events, and her feasts and fetes have become hot tickets. Peters, at 21, has already been featured in Bon Appetit (September 2018) in the article The 25 Food and Drink Trends Taking Over Restaurants in 2018 and was a semifinalist for the national Eater Young Guns 2018 award, given to “front- and back-of-house rising stars who are early in their careers but already exhibit the drive, ambition, thought, and care necessary to take on the restaurant world.” Here she shares her startup story.
Founder/Owner: Anya Peters
Business Start Date: My first official event was on June 2, 2017. I haven’t incorporated yet; I’m working toward creating a cooperative. The name of my company is based on an old English term, “kith and kin” (meaning friends and family). My company is all about gathering my family and connecting with others to be like an extended family. When I told my aunt the company name, she called it “kit an’ kin” in her Trinidadian accent, so that’s what it became.
Describe Your Business: Through food popups and cultural events I honor and celebrate the traditions and customs of my ancestors and share them with friends and people who want to learn. I do parties for 200 people and smaller events. Most of the large events are held at Cafe Erzulie in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
My mother’s Jamaican and my father’s Trinidadian. My family’s whole essence and vibe came together around the Sunday dinner table, a good meal. Growing up, I learned how to cook from my father. My dad is not a professional chef but he loves to cook and was always in the kitchen. I now have a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and I’ve been the chef for Harvest & Revel (in Brooklyn) for 2 1/2 years now. My sister is also a chef (in Miami).
In October 2016, I did the catering for a 500-person lunch for Etsy’s corporate office, for the catering company. They liked the idea of a Caribbean theme. The event allowed my family to work in a professional setting for the first time. I asked my family for recipes—my grandmother on my mom’s side for her Jamaican curried chicken recipe, my dad for his Trinidadian Oil-Down recipe. (It’s normally made with fish. We did that and a vegetarian version with corn.)
That’s where I got the idea for my business. I had already been asking my family for their recipes. At Kit an’ Kin events, I share the food and customs from both sides of my family.
In April 2017, I then hosted a giant potluck for my extended family and asked everyone to make their best dishes. I announced that I was starting my company to them then.
I now have my dad involved more with Kit an Kin. He’s excited to recipe test and try new things. I’m working toward turning Kit an’ Kin into a cooperative, where my dad can be an owner and operator as well as two of my aunts, including Miss Monica, who bakes, so they can learn how to make money from their food and their passions.
What Compelled You to Pursue This Business? I like to bring people into traditions and history through food and fun. Everyone relates to the Caribbean as chill and about partying, but I also want to educate first-generation Caribbean people as well as people outside the culture on the rich dynamics and nuances and our diaspora as we experience it. Not only do I share food and cooking, I share cultural aspects such as the background of bush medicine and healing and how to do head wraps.
I have events about two time per month. I promote by word of mouth and via Instagram.
What Are Your Specialties? I have popular dishes but I also see what’s seasonal to use: I make breadfruit (chips), handmade beef patties, coconut-collard patties, callaloo vegetable patties. I make chow, a Trinidadian dish, which is spicy pickled vegetables and/or fruits with cilantro, scotch bonnet pepper, lime juice, and vinegar. I make it with seasonal produce: ramps, cucumber, radish, orange, grapefruit. I serve that with roti. People also love my curried crab and dumplings, which is Trinidadian.
We have even built furniture for the events to represent my mother’s home in Jamaica so people can step into that world, as if they are coming to our home.
Two Goals for Your First Two Years in Business? 1) Turn the business into a cooperative and become incorporated. 2) Partner with Caribbean-Americans and Caribbeans to bridge the gap between America and the islands.
I would like to work in Jamaica to learn the culture and document it to bring it back to America so millennials can understand what is going on there and why we should be connected with it. To cook and eat together is disarming. When people are able to break bread, they are able to talk out their issues. I want people to be proud of who they are and where they come from.
What’s Your “Secret Sauce”? (What Makes Your Business Stand Out and Primed for Success?) The secret sauce is that people are seeing everything. My events are completely unpretentious. I’m learning as I’m sharing with others; I’m both the chef and the student, so I’m inviting people into my education process. People appreciate that.
I also think my mom is the secret sauce. She brings the family together and sees the vision and future of Kit an Kin more than anyone. Her charismatic and loving presence in front of house allows me to handle back of house with ease knowing my guests are being taken care of and charmed. Everyone feels a part of the family when they've left a Kit an’ Kin event, and that has to do with my mother.