He brought the pastry prowess. She brought the locavore mindset.
Together, they opened See and Be Kitchen, the sweetest eatery to hit the Cairo community.
Before opening their very own café in Greene County in January 2019, husband-and-wife team Ben Salif Traore and Chrissy Traore were already culinary pros. Ben, the baker, was known for his finesse with pastries in kitchens like Saraghina Bakery in Brooklyn, where he was head baker, and Bien Cuit in Cobble Hill, where he served as head vienoissier. Chrissy, the chef, started at Roberta’s (yes, the Roberta’s) in Brooklyn before working as a sous chef at Pizza Moto. She met Ben at Saraghina, then led the kitchen at Westwind Orchard in Accord, where she developed a taste for all the Hudson Valley has to offer.
It was during this time, when the couple found themselves commuting back and forth between the Hudson Valley and Brooklyn for work, that they began to wonder why they were putting themselves through the hassle. They dreaded crossing the bridge back to the city each time and, eventually, decided it was time for them to open a place of their own upstate. Although they knew nothing about the area, they closed on a space in Cairo in 2017 and promptly began to renovate it as a home and business operation. Halfway through renovations, they discovered that Chrissy was pregnant.
By the time they opened See and Be Kitchen at the beginning of 2019, the Traores were balancing a new baby, a new business, and a new community. And they were ready to tackle it all. Prior to their grand debut, they made a presence for themselves at the Catskill Farmers’ Market to connect with locals and discover what people liked. They relished the opportunity to bond with neighbors and, in doing so, realized that See and Be had the potential to be not just a family-run café but a watering hole for the community at large.
“We try to connect people and be that place,” Chrissy explains. “We’ve made great friends.”
Inside See and Be (Chrissy and Ben, get it?), visitors walk into a space that’s much more cozy country than modern hipster. Chrissy and Ben envision a place that’s welcoming and feels immediately like home. That’s part of the reason why they named it See and Be Kitchen, not Café or Restaurant.
“You are entering our kitchen,” Chrissy says. “You should feel like you are our friend in our home. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Thanks to the couple’s respective backgrounds in the food industry, See and Be’s menu is a daily delight of breakfast and lunch staples that are at once approachable and innovative. Chrissy covers the savories and taps into her past life as a chemistry of cooking teacher at John Jay College to craft menu items that celebrate the beauty of food.
“Food is my ultimate life’s work,” she notes. “Everything about it. It’s bigger than being a chef for me.”
Utilizing as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible, she crafts dishes like BLTs – that’s biscuit, liverwurst, and tomato for you – and fried squash blossoms on super-seeded toast with mozzarella, pesto, and chanterelle mushrooms. She doesn’t let her 14-plus years as a pizza maker fall to the wayside, either, and uses her expertise to host occasional pizza pop-ups on the weekends.
If Chrissy’s passion is fresh and seasonal food, then Ben’s is most definitely bread. A baking extraordinaire, he whips up confectionary delights like seaweed croissants designed for pairing with smoked salmon and chocolate croissants with choco-butter lamination and hazelnut chocolate centers. His wood-fired baguettes and olive bread are top hits, as is his Arborio bread. The latter is See and Be’s signature loaf and is, as Chrissy describes it “a better white bread” done in a Pullman style.
“It’s super fluffy and a little sweet from honey,” she says. Notably, all of See and Be’s breads are sourdough, relying upon a long bulk fermentation to ramp up their nutritional value. The all-purpose flour is always from King Arthur, while the rye and spelt come milled fresh weekly from Sparrowbush in Livingston. Elsewhere on the menu, the café’s milk comes from Hudson Valley Fresh, while the butter is Cabot and the eggs are local and pasture-raised.
“We want [ingredients] to be local, we want to know who grew it,” Chrissy explains. “I don’t ever want to feel like I can’t feed my son something that we’re producing.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, See and Be Kitchen supplemented its café offerings, which now are available primarily through pre-order, with a curated selection of grocery staples to aid the community. The additional stock has been well-received, and Chrissy and Ben plan to continue offering pantry basics like milk, eggs, butter, meats, and locally produced artisan goods for Hudson Valleyites who want to stock up on the essentials in one place.
While See and Be is a one-stop shop for delicious bites in Cairo, it’s not the only place in the Hudson Valley to find Ben’s breads and croissants.
“Our croissants are around town,” Chrissy notes, listing off favorites like Moto Coffee Machine in Hudson, HiLo Catskill, the New Baltimore Capital Region Welcome Center Taste of NY, Josie’s Coffee Shoppe in Saugerties, Alberto Allegria in Windham, and Otto’s in Germantown as carrying them.
“We try to work with people who have the same philosophy as we do,” she says. “We stay within the community and farm-to-table. We support the little guys and the community that we’ve become part of. This is our community. It’s great.”
See and Be Kitchen
512 Rte 145, Cairo