Photo by Camilla Ffrench. Photos courtesy of Rebecca Ffrench/The Upstate Table
Owner Rebecca Ffrench dishes on her Midtown Kingston culinary studio and its secret ingredients—togetherness and fun.
For decades in the early- to mid-1900s, The Fuller Building in Midtown Kingston housed a successful shirt factory. Today, small businesses of all sorts are headquartered there, including The Upstate Table, a multipurpose culinary studio. The airy space, with whitewashed walls and rough-hewn wood beams, is presided over by owner and food-industry pro Rebecca Ffrench.
Launched in 2020, the venture is the culmination of Ffrench’s eclectic background. For more than 20 years, she worked at media powerhouses Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Condé Nast, specializing in marketing and food. But she’s worn many other hats: cooking instructor, cookbook author, recipe developer, and events planner. In recent years prior to opening The Upstate Table, her time was mostly spent writing cookbooks—she helped pen the 2018 title Joe Knows Fish, which features recipes by Citarella owner Joe Gurrerea, and co-authored The Complete Vegan, published in 2019.
Despite keeping busy, Ffrench, who lives in Phoenicia, felt a void. “Working alone at home is a bit of a vacuum,” she says. The Upstate Table has helped restore some much-missed, in-person interactions. She also uses the studio for recipe development. Her focus, she says, “is on the bounty our region provides, including fresh, seasonal foods as well as local makers and producers who are creating high-quality foods and edible goods.” When she isn’t busy innovating, she uses the kitchen to bake custom wedding cakes.
The Upstate Table is more than just a home base for Ffrench’s private projects, however—the studio is impressively multifunctional. She and her team host public cooking workshops, communal cooking events for companies, and food-focused gatherings. “We’ve had 45 people here making dumplings, and one time a group of flight attendants for corporate jets came to learn how to present meals on a plane.” The space is also popular for special occasions such as baby showers, for which The Upstate Table provides in-house catering. At other times, Ffrench rents the studio for photoshoots that may or may not spotlight food. “Someone just did a fashion shoot,” she says.
The business shares a nurturing relationship with the local YMCA Farm Project. “The Y hires local high school students—many from underserved communities—and the kids grow vegetables, harvest them, and then sell them at [their own] farm stand,” says Ffrench. She buys as much of her produce from them as possible, and also helps the kids in the off season. “In the winter they have a cooking program, so they come here and use our kitchen. Cookbook author Julia Turshen helped them write a cookbook called The Farm Project Cookbook and they tested those recipes here, too,” she says. (Flip back to page 16 for Turshen’s favorite chicken soup recipe.) Last year, Ffrench helped the children host a pop-up restaurant they named Y-Homegrown.
Through filling so many community needs, the studio is thriving. The boom in upstate travel also benefits the business, says Ffrench. “There are more Airbnbs and hotels, and people are looking for things to do,” she says. “I didn’t foresee what cooking together could do, but I hoped that it would bring people together.” It has.