HGS Home Chef: A Center For Foodies In Hillsdale
By Jamie Larson
He’s both a metropolitan interior designer and a rural shopkeeper, but Matthew White also is a master at balancing seemingly disparate styles. The owner of the Hillsdale General Store has embarked on yet another endeavor, converting an 1870s Victorian in the heart of Hillsdale, New York into a grand yet approachable kitchenware store. Not only can White coexist in two worlds, he can bring them together.
In a pink house with white gingerbread trim, HGS Home Chef sits across the street from its more demurely elegant mother-shop, the Hillsdale General Store (HGS). Where White’s now four-year-old HGS is an exercise in rural refinement, the appearance of Home Chef sings with a high-style confidence more akin to the work of White’s design firm White Web, or his personal palazzo in Hillsdale, where he lives with husband Thomas Schumacher, president of the Disney Theatrical Group.
To White’s great credit, the brightness isn’t over the top or even historically inaccurate to the style of Victorian paintjobs of the 19th century. Bold colors follow you into the house as well but never cudgel you. While you shop, White’s use of vibrant green walls only helps to highlight the amazingly restored building, which had previously been broken up into apartments and had serious structural issues. The experience of browsing the store’s thoughtfully curated wares is greatly enhanced by the work White put in to saving a structure important to the town and relevant to the architectural history of the region.
“I chose the color because I thought it expressed the character of the house,” White says, sitting in the stately upstairs dinning room. “Also, being a kitchen store, it kind of looks like a petit four. It all has to relate to food and appetite. I wanted to make it the most beautiful kitchen store you’ve ever walked into.”
Along with a selection of high-quality tools, appliances, dishware, linens and cookbooks, Home Chef also has two sleekly styled, fully functional, modern country, model kitchens. Anyone would love to cook here and Home Chef allows you to do just that. At this point it should come as no surprise that the cooking classes and cookbook events at Home Chef are exceptional, featuring some serious names of the food world. Upcoming events include food royalty Martha Rose Shulman, Madhur Jaffrey and Alana Chernila.
“I wanted the kitchens to feel like your dream kitchen,” White says, noting that most cooking classes are in sterile, overly lit, pseudo-industrial kitchens. “Taking a class here is like a vacation. It’s a complete experience. You learn but you do it in a space that’s beautiful.”
The schedule of classes is impressive and more are added regularly. It’s obvious from the way he discusses the business and the house he’s saved that White feels a strong desire to share the experience with his guests and his town.
Even with all it has going for it, you may be thinking HGS Home Chef is a risky endeavor. Opening his general store in the rural hamlet seems to make logical sense to an outsider, especially since White owns the building, which also houses the delicious Cross Roads restaurant, an architect’s office and art gallery. But committing to a high-end specialty store, off the side of a busy road? For White, Hillsdale is the perfect place — he’s just off the Taconic Parkway, accessible to patrons from the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires.
“I have a motto I follow for all my Hillsdale endeavors,” White says, “‘World class but low key.’ That is how many business owners in Hillsdale do things. We are not Hudson with its distinctly urban bent, and we are not Great Barrington with its elegance and history. I love both of those places (a lot), but in Hillsdale we are a very different animal. Truly and unquestionably rural, very connected to the land and yet with an expansive view. That’s Hillsdale and that is what I am expressing with both of my businesses here.”
HGS Home Chef
2635 Route 23, Hillsdale NY
Open Wednesday—Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Tuesdays.