The Night Kitchen has been an institution in Chestnut Hill for 30 years, but not always the same one. When Amy Beth Edelman bought the business in 2000, it had a core of enthusiastic customers and a reputation for hearty, seedy breads and signature challah. Edelman wanted to make changes, but she knew to tread carefully. “I didn’t remove any products for some time,” Edelman says. “I just added them.”
She added considerably, developing a reputation for elegant pastries, pies, cookies and cakes, and artistry with wedding and other specialty cakes. The Night Kitchen still offers breads, but cakes, Edelman claims, are now the real breadwinners.
The Night Kitchen has also developed a reputation for sustainability, both in its operations and in the broader community. Though the child of radical Mt. Airy lefties, Edelman’s environmental fervor was first stoked by Dr. Seuss.
“It was The Lorax,” she says. “We watched the movie, the original one, when I was in grade school at Houston School. ... It really changed the way I thought about things.” Another pivotal moment came in 2007, when she discovered the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which helps restaurants become more sustainable, and offers a Green Restaurant certification. Struck by the waste and inefficiency in the food industry, Edelman decided to do something about it.
While pursuing GRA certification—which she received in 2009—Edelman stopped using plastic bags, began composting with Philly Compost, bought local ingredients and started a garden behind the bakery, becoming more energy-efficient and less wasteful. She shared her enthusiasm with other area restaurants, and while none joined her in getting GRA-certified, they did change their ways. “It was great how receptive they were, even some that I didn’t think would be,” she says. “They saw how being less wasteful and more efficient could also save them money.”
Edelman then turned to the community, creating Green in Chestnut Hill (GRINCH) with her friend Jenny Reed. GRINCH established recycling programs for electronics, shoes and Christmas trees; held composting and rain barrel workshops; and brought “Big Belly” solar-powered compacting trash and recycling receptacles to Germantown Avenue.
So, what’s next for the Night Kitchen? “Izabella, our six-year-old, says she wants to be a baker when she grows up,” Edelman says. “So, perhaps you should ask her.”
Story by Jon McGoran.