Village Preservation is committed to supporting, protecting, and promoting small businesses. When we were lucky enough to be introduced to chef, author, and Village entrepreneur Fany Gerson, we were overjoyed. Fany is the consummate cook and a great example of an intrepid small business owner who is valiantly carrying on through the tough times. She also owns La NewYorkina at 240 Sullivan Street.
Fany recently, and very graciously, offered to give a talk to some of the supporters in Village Preservation’s Patron’s Circle, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear from her and learn how to make a phenomenal empanada in the process.
This evening was one of the few “happy surprises” that have come of the past few months of the pandemic. This humble writer has long been a fan of Fany Gerson. She’s the type of New Yorker whom I have always wanted to meet; energetic, entrepreneurial, smart, and a fantastic cook!!! She is so busy that were it not for the current situation, we might never have been able to spend such a sweet (and savory) evening with her.
As the country’s most authoritative voice on Mexican sweets, FANY has been featured in the New York Times, Food and Wine, Fine Cooking, Saveur Magazine, Fine Cooking, Fast Company and New York magazines, among others. She launched La NewYorkina, an artisanal Mexican frozen treats and sweets business, in 2010. She was the chef and co-founder of Dough, also located in the Village. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Fany has worked in a range of fine-dining kitchens around the world, including 3 Michelin starred Akelare in Spain and Eleven Madison Park in New York. She has written three books, My Sweet Mexico, which was nominated for a James Beard award 2010 for best baking and pastry cookbook, Paletas, and Mexican Ice Cream. Fany also opened her first brick and mortar operation for La Newyorkina on October 2016 in the South Village. She was a mentor in the WE NYC Women’s leadership program in 2016 and recognized as a Latin woman leader in 2017 by El Diario. She has recently been working with Feed the Frontlines, a nonprofit organization in NYC, which is helping sustain New York City through the COVID-19 crisis. You can purchase nutritious meals prepared by local restaurants (La NewYorkina included) that will then be delivered free to healthcare workers and New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity. This kind of organization is vital to both our frontline workers and to the small business restaurant owners in our city who are struggling to stay in business.
Fany has a fascinating cultural background, which greatly influences her taste and her cooking. In the late 1920s, her grandparents, Jews and facing anti-Semitic persecution, fled Ukraine and boarded boats bound for New York City. For whatever reason, they were not able to immigrate through Ellis Island, perhaps because of limits set at that time on the number of immigrants from certain countries. Instead, they settled in Mexico, which was the closest country that would allow them in.
The food they made at home: matzo ball soup, challah, gefilte fish — dishes that were typical of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, born of scarcity and cold climates — were vastly different from Mexican cooking, with its abundant produce and aromatic spices.
But over the years, the flavors of their adopted country crept into their family’s traditional Jewish dishes. The challah became laced with flowery Mexican cinnamon and tart apples, the matzo balls filled with herbs and onions, and the gefilte fish dressed in a guajillo pepper sauce.
“Growing up in Mexico you just grow up with delicious food everywhere so I just always loved food,” Gerson says. “And that was my favorite part of my childhood, just being in the kitchen while my family was preparing food.”
Fany came to the US in 1999. She studied at CIA and went on to become the go-getting entrepreneur she is today. It is remarkable to note that during this challenging time, Fany has successfully opened two new ventures: Fan Fan Doughnuts in Brooklyn, and La NewYorkina in the Village, which delivers Fany’s savory meals.
Be sure to visit Fany and taste her delicious dishes for yourself!
Village Preservation works to support, promote, and protect small independent businesses in our neighborhoods. We do this through our Business of the Month Program and our Annual Village Awards. We have advocated for businesses facing unfair evictions or rent hikes. And we advocate for legislative measures that would help to maintain small businesses. This includes the Save Our Storefronts legislation, which would provide relief to small businesses and property owners during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as zoning regulations that would restrict chain stores in certain locations.