As we began work on my new book, Foster’s Market Favorites The 25th Anniversary Collection, I found myself looking back to the very beginnings of Foster’s Market. Now 1990 seems like a lifetime ago, when small upscale food markets in New York and Connecticut inspired me to bring the concept to the south.
In the unlikely space of a former lawn mower repair shop on a short stretch of highway in Durham, my vision of a charming market quickly took shape. Power washing oil and grease from the basement and replacing old lawn mowers with sugar and flour bins was the beginning of putting Foster’s on the map.
Foster’s Market was a different concept at the time. We started out with giant baskets of scratch-baked scones, muffins, cookies, pies and cakes. We made seasonal salads, sandwiches made from turkey we roasted in our own ovens and smeared with homemade mayonnaise and chutney. We sold produce, fresh flowers, specialty groceries, and carefully selected wine. We were one of the first in our area to serve locally roasted coffee and have an espresso maker. Our market has evolved and expanded to meet customer needs over the years, but the high quality, homemade approach to food and our casual atmosphere have never changed.
For many, myself included, Foster”s Market has been a place to enjoy the comforting and familiar, but also to indulge in the promise of something fresher, more tasty, maybe more sophisticated than was remembered. As we culled through seemingly endless recipes from our collection for this book, I realized that many Foster’s dishes are successful for the same reason: they are rooted in traditional flavors, but are stretched toward a modern edge; brightened in a fresh, unexpected way that it makes the experience new again.
Working on this cookbook and looking back over 25 the years we’ve been in business, I have come to realize that as much as Foster”s Market is a part of me, that I am only one small part of it. I am so grateful to the many talented cooks; hard-working staff and dedicated patrons who have left their mark and also made our humble store a part of their own personal stories.
This has been such a gratifying project and I am very proud of both the book and also everyone who contributed to it. This cookbook is partly an offering to the Foster’s faithful, to express my heartfelt gratitude for all who have journeyed with us. It is also an act of both privilege and discipline to reflect on my own life experiences and express my personal approach to developing fresh, complex flavors in simple dishes.