Chrissy and Ben Traore met while working in a New York City restaurant. Soon, they were commuting upstate on weekends for a cooking gig. To their great surprise, they began dreading going back to Brooklyn during the week. “We’ve always worked 70 to 100 hours a week,” Chrissy said. “And the city and the expenses just added stress to all of that.” Something had to give. So, by 2017, they settled in Cairo, a small, rural town in Greene County, about ten miles outside of Catskill.
Together, they founded See and Be Kitchen and Cafe. Their funky, functional, multi-building “compound” met all of their dreams. There’s a prep kitchen inside of a storage container (they insulated it themselves) and outdoor wood-fired oven for baking bread. Plus, there’s a chicken house and pen, and café / retail shop. Additionally, outdoor seating plans are in the works, in the shaded, rustic grounds.
See and Be’s Breads and Business Plan
Ben began baking bread in Burkina Faso, a West African country near Ivory Coast and Ghana. He uses a sourdough base for all of his products, including gorgeous croissants, pastries, and a full line of breads. The starter is fermented for 48 hours, making a refined and gorgeous loaf that even gluten-sensitive customers can digest (yep, this writer can vouch for that — and it’s fantastic).
The baking life isn’t easy. Ben goes to bed by 6 or 7pm, in order to tend to the wood-burning oven by 2am every day. Chrissy has pivoted their baking and food businesses from farmers markets to wholesale distribution, and now to online ordering and curbside pickups during COVID. Oh, and did we mention that they’ve also got an 18-month-old son in the mix now? These bakers are BUSY!
Chrissy utilizes Ben’s breads in all of her food creations, including a weekend sandwich selection. You can place online orders here, and pick them up at See and Be from Wednesdays through Saturdays.
“We’ve always taken things one step at a time,” said Chrissy. “We have room to grow here, and space to breathe. I want to let people know that they should not be afraid to try something new. We’re building something that is ours.”
Connect with See and Be Kitchen
I did not exactly plan to have a working vacation during Freelancing February. I’d booked this trip to Portugal last year, long before I knew that I’d be up to my elbows in the Regional Brand project (it’s a new initiative that we’re launching in the fall — more about that soon!). I also didn’t know at that time that I’d be traveling alone (I’d had the trip planned with a friend). I was tempted to cancel. I’d never taken a major trip by myself, let alone a two-week excursion to a foreign country. But here’s what I thought about:
- I’m in no position to go on a two-week vacation right now because of work commitments, but what if I worked part-time from Portugal? My official contract is for 7 hours a day. If I worked two hours in the morning and 90 minutes at night, that would still leave me plenty of time for touring.
- In my ACE (and now the additional Regional Brand role), I sometimes spend more than 20 hours a week driving to and from meetings. What if I didn’t drive for two weeks?? I’d potentially have more “desk time” in Portugal than I have in the Capital Region!
- The price was right – plus, my Airbnbs were all booked and my flight was paid for, so I’d lose over $800 if I canceled this trip. Off-season prices in Portugal are fantastic – wonderful apartments in perfect locations for less than $30 per night. I could swing that.
So, should I stay or should I go?
The answer is, I decided to go. I’d freelance, on a part-time schedule for two weeks, from Portugal. Crazy? For sure. But, why not give it a try.
I started my trip in Lisbon on a Sunday, after a super-easy, five-and-a-half-hour flight from JFK. It took less than five minutes to know that my month of studying Portuguese had not done much good at all, because they speak way too fast, and it’s a notoriously difficult language to begin with. It all worked, though. I got a $15 Uber to my apartment, and within an hour of landing, I jumped onto email, just to make sure I was set. Everything worked. I spent the day walking up the ridiculously hilly streets, and took an “Airbnb Experience” tour, where local people show you their city. It’s much more personal than a corporate tour. I’ve become quite enamored of them.
Monday was the moment of truth – would I be able to work? I woke at 8 a.m. and worked for two hours as planned, making cappuccino in my lovely apartment. By the time I finished my “shift”, it was 10 a.m. in Lisbon, and 5 a.m. in New York. I headed out for an amazing day, then came back after supper and worked 90 minutes til 9 p.m. By the time I finished, it was 4 p.m. in New York. I’d spent about the same amount of time working as I do on a normal work day, if I’d had two meetings that were 30 minutes from my home.
While working and doing email, I rarely mentioned that I was in Portugal unless it was pertinent to the conversation – it actually didn’t matter where I was. I scheduled phone calls at mutually convenient times, and used WhatsApp when it was someone who knew I was away.
I’m on Day 11 of my working vacation. The usual things go “wrong” and need to be worked out, same as any other work week, AND I’m in my fourth Portuguese city — it’s in the south, called Evora. I’ve also been to Lisbon, Coimbra, and Porto. All have been wonderful.
Like I said, I did not plan this as a working vacation, or my first big solo trip. Life just happened that way. It’s been a life-changing experience. I feel brave and competent and bad-ass, because there have been some damn challenging moments – like driving the wrong way down ridiculously narrow, cobbled streets — that totally worked out.
This working vacation NEVER would have happened if I’d not become a freelancer. I wouldn’t have had the imagination and gumption for it. It’s been fifteen years since my last traditional job. Fifteen years without health insurance, paid vacation, or 401K. And it’s been the best fifteen years of my working life, AND my personal life. Here’s to Freelancer February! Freelance forever. That’s my goal and motto.
I’m very happy to share travel tips on Portugal – it’s been absolutely gorgeous, stunning and affordable! Hit me up, and share your travel stories with us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: May 29
Time: 5:30 – 7:30pm
Location: Arts Letters & Numbers Studios, 1548 Burden Lake Road, Averill Park, NY 12018
Join us for our May Creative Economy Mixer at Arts Letters & Numbers for a campus tour, artists’ showcase, and a special “food” installation!
Arts Letters & Numbers is a nonprofit arts, education, and publishing organization dedicated to creating creative exchanges across a wide range of disciplines including Architecture, Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Film, Music, Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences. Arts, Letters & Numbers conducts workshops in educational and cultural institutions worldwide in collaboration with theatre companies, artists, writers, actors, musicians and filmmakers. It operates an ongoing series of educational workshops, performances and film productions at ‘The Mill’ located in Upstate, NY.