Just over a month ago, Huntsman was in the business of selling premium specialty foods—from pheasant and venison to caviar and sea urchin—to high-caliber restaurants in D.C. and the Mid-Atlantic, including Albi, Masseria, and Bresca. Then COVID-19 hit, and most of their clients shut or transitioned to slimmed down take-out operations. Now Huntsman owner Javier Arze is delivering gourmet goods directly to consumers while helping chefs the pandemic has sidelined.
Huntsman’s new Furloughed Chefs box is a gourmand-level CSA featuring products made or raised by some of his former clients. With the a price tag of $145, the initial box includes handmade rigatoni and tagliatelli from Impasta, a new startup from John Wood, who was laid off from his executive chef job at Barrel and Crow in Bethesda. There’s also salad greens and French breakfast radishes from Mike Tholis, a one time chef de cuisine for The Dabney and The Red Hen, who now runs Rendezvous Farms in Frederick, Maryland.
“We’re exposing consumers to new projects from chefs,” Arze says. “These ventures are a way forward for them, both now and in the future.”
Ice cream sandwiches from Richmond, Virginia ice cream shop Nightingale, bratwurst and other products from Stachowski’s Market in Georgetown, and a smattering of coffee, quail eggs, and duck confit complete the box. The contents will rotate every two weeks or so.
Arze is discussing featuring products from a cookie baker, a goat cheese producer, and a farmer who mills his own flours, as well as ready-to-bake breads from Jan Van Haute, former chef de cuisine at Goodstone Inn, who is helping Arze with procurement and sales. Customers can add some of Huntsman’s other products to their orders, such as Delmonico steaks, saffron accented sheep cheese, and organic extra virgin olive oil, for an extra cost.
Delivery is free if customers spend $195 or more; otherwise it costs $15. Currently, the company’s refrigerated trucks are doing drop-offs on Fridays in D.C. and parts of Maryland and Virginia, though the company hopes to soon have enough business to make drops more frequently.
Getting involved in the Furloughed Chef boxes was a no-brainer for Wood, who was inspired to start Impasta after going to the grocery store at the start of the pandemic and seeing empty shelves in the pasta section. He joked to his wife he should sell his handmade pastas, which didn’t sound like such a crazy idea after mulling it over.
When dining restrictions are lifted, he won’t be going back to work at Barrel and Crow. He’s focused full-time on Impasta and looking for a permanent location for pasta production. “I’m making a little money and getting our name out there,” he says. “People miss going to restaurants, so we’re trying to give them a restaurant experience in a small way.”