The Rural We: Dan Budd
Dan Budd is the owner of Taste Budd’s Chocolate and Coffee Café in Red Hook, New York. Budd has created a classic, welcoming coffeehouse with great food and a comfy atmosphere perfect for grabbing breakfast to go, working on your laptop through the afternoon, or catching live music late into the evening. But where Budd really surprises is the pastry. The sweet confections at the cafe are the product of years of study and work experience at the top of the industry. Budd’s knee-weakening confections are as much a Red Hook staple as the café itself, which has become a community hub in the center of the village.
One of the things I’m proud about is that Taste Budd’s is probably unique in that we are a small coffeehouse but we have really high-quality, handmade desserts. There are not a lot of coffeehouses that have a whole pastry team.
I’m from West Rutland, Vermont and I was actually a breakfast cook on the ski mountains growing up. After high school, I went right to the Culinary Institute of America and that was my first experience of the Hudson Valley. I had a great time. Upon graduation, I worked at the River Café in Brooklyn. It was 1987. I got to work with some of the greatest. I was then the pastry chef at the Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue. Then I opened Park Avenue Café Restaurant with David Burke.
I was named a top ten pastry chef in the country by Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazine. I was nominated for pastry chef of the year by the James Beard Association. I didn’t plan on any of it. It was a great experience and I was well rewarded but I got married, and I was sitting on the BQE in a stinky car service and my wife is on the phone crying in the apartment and I was like, you know, this is not the life I want. So we made a plan to escape New York in '96 and I came up to be a professor at the CIA for six years.
Three years into it I had this idea to make some of the famous desserts I'd made in NYC, without all the fancy flair but with all the flavors, textures and all-natural ingredients, and serve them at festivals. So I started Taste Budd’s as a concession business in 2000. I was pastry chef turned carny.
In 2005 we bought this building and it’s gone by fast. I’m fortunate to have a lot of CIA-trained staff. My manager was my first extern from the Culinary and she’s never left. She’s been with me 10 years. My pastry chef has been here six years and is a culinary grad.
Nowadays I’m more of the captain of the ship and I’m trying to guide the café to what I think it should be for Red Hook and northern Dutchess County: a unique family-owned small business that focuses on community and culture, and welcomes everyone from moms and babies to businessmen to teenagers and college kids. In this digital world, this is the kind of place where people can get together and be face to face. I think when someone walks into Taste Budd’s, they can say, 'Wow, this is what Red Hook’s about.'
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