When Tom Kacherski opened Crew Restaurant & Bar ten years ago, he knew It was a risk. At the time, the Hudson Valley restaurant scene was far from the mecca of farm-to-table eateries that it is today. In fact, farm-to-table wasn’t even a thing ten years ago. Yet Kacherski knew that was the type of menu he wanted to create for his Poughkeepsie space.
So he forged ahead, scouting local markets and slowly, but surely building relationships with area farmers. By the time the demand for farm-to-table hit its stride and hyper-local ingredient delivery apps like Farms2Table got up and running, Kacherski was well established in Dutchess County and ready for a new way to innovate.
“Over the last ten years, I’ve continued to find and seek better product,” he says. To this end, Farms2Tables, which launched in 2015, has been instrumental to help him secure specialized, small batches of high-quality ingredients. “The quality of their produce is far superior to anything else on the market.”
A Hopewell Junction native, Kacherski has always been interested in the fresh, flavorful style of food that he serves at Crew. After spending his youth in the Hudson Valley, he moved to Colorado in 1995 to complete a two-year degree. During that time, he took on a job at a local restaurant, where he learned to make pizza and, inadvertently, realized how much he enjoyed being in the kitchen.
“If I was going to cook for a living, I figured I should probably go to the Culinary Institute,” he recalls thinking to himself. Sure enough, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park to learn the skillset he needed to venture out on his own. After graduation, he jumped into the local food industry and reopened The Derby in Poughkeepsie with a friend in 2002. Although the partnership didn’t work out there, Kacherski swiftly switched gears to focus on a new, solo project.
And so, on May 1, 2009, Crew was born. Since the day the restaurant opened on Route 9, Kacherski has prioritized his commitment to securing the highest quality ingredients possible, even if that means paying a bit more to get them. Of course, that also means he’s developed some wonderful relationships with his local suppliers. His go-to butcher, for instance? It’s Pat LaFrieda of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. His source for bacon? That would be Mark Elia of Hudson Valley Sausage Company. On the produce front, he collects most of his green-leafed goodies from Farms2Tables or from Bronx-based Baldor Specialty Foods.
“You can get deliveries just about every single day,” he enthuses, noting that easy access to such a range of ingredients is part of what makes the local food scene so exciting right now. It’s also part of the reason he changes his menu so frequently.
“I do seasonal changes on the menu, and every day we have a daily special sheet,” he notes. He works with his chefs, almost all of whom are Culinary Institute graduates, to come up with specials that spotlight seasonal ingredients like the ones found in the two organic gardens he maintains behind the restaurant. Notably, he doesn’t stick to any one cuisine or another, instead opting to embrace world flavors and – above all else – creativity. After all, a little bit of brainstorming outside the box seems necessary to come up with innovative dishes like goat cheese wontons with pineapple-cilantro dip or southwestern penne with locally-made chorizo and a Cajun-roasted garlic cream sauce.
While Crew’s ever-changing menu and commitment to top-tier cuisine has solidified it as a favorite among locals, it has also earned Kacherski recognition among some of industry’s leading organizations (Best Chefs America 2013-15 and 2017, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2018, Zagat 2011-12, and Best of Hudson Valley Best Soup 2010-2011). More recently, he was inducted into the Chaîne des Rôtísseurs, the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world. In the Hudson Valley, Kacherski also holds a place in the Society of Fellows at the Culinary Institute of America.
Kacherski appreciates the acclaim, to be sure. Yet he never lets it overshadow the humble, hardworking drive that pushed him to enter the local food landscape in the first place.
“My parents instilled that work ethic in me,” he says. “You have to constantly strive for excellence.”
Looking ahead, he’s excited to celebrate Crew’s anniversary with the Hudson Valley community. Yet he also admits to having a few ideas for future projects up his sleeve.
“I’m not in a rush to do anything,” he notes. Like with Crew, he assures that any new endeavor would maintain the same commitment to consistent, high quality cuisine and service for which he is known. “That’s the single most important thing for opening up [a new restaurant],” he observes. “Without consistency you have nothing.”
Crew Restaurant & Bar
2290 South Rd, Poughkeepsie