The spark that started Charlie's Table was a conversation during a journey on a bicycle ride across Manhattan.
The riders were both coming from a hospital where they’d spent time caring for their mutual friend Charlie. Charlie was known for his compassionate, exemplar lifestyle, charitable work and sharing fresh, nutritious food and companionship with family and friends at his kitchen table.
One rider was Daniele Kucera, an Italian immigrant who started in the U.S. as a busboy, and arose to owning a well-respected New York theatre district restaurant. When diagnosed gluten intolerant, he was devastated at the thought of not being able to eat pasta and not being able to serve homemade pasta to restaurant guests with a similar situation. He spent a year creating a gluten free pasta that tasted and felt like the fresh simple pasta his grandmother literally used to make over her wood stove “in the old country”. He wondered how he could get his pasta to other gluten sensitive people who didn’t have his resources to create their own delicious gluten free pasta.
The other rider was David Landay, another socially conscious New Yorker who was a founder of several non-profit organizations and was ready for the next chapter in his life.
The result: Charlie's Table - a place where everyone is welcome.
There is nothing quite like sharing a great meal together with friends and family at the dinner table. Likewise, there is nothing quite like being excluded from that experience.
That’s why we started Charlie’s Table: to be sure there would be a seat at the table for everyone, including people who need to eat a certain way – whether because of a medical need or choice. It doesn’t take a lot of work to create a recipe with wheat. On the other hand, it does take hard work and creativity to make food that everybody at the table loves that’s not only gluten-free and kosher (pareve) -- but also as good as, if not better than, what would otherwise have been served.
We’re starting with a variety of fresh artisanal pastas, created by an Italian American restaurant owner who became gluten intolerant. Traditional Italian bronze-cut dies hold sauce better. We are also creating sauces to blend with the pasta. While all our foods will be gluten-free, we’re exploring what health conditions/food choices to consider next.
Celiac and gluten sensitive individuals must eat a certain way. Charlie’s Table understands that for many of our customers, eating gluten-free is not an option, but a necessity.
In order for Charlie’s Table to earn our customers’ trust, we will always follow safe business practices and be transparent in all of our communications:
• Certification: To help assure our products are gluten-free, we will maintain certification from a leading certification agency
• Facilities and Ingredients: We manufacture in a 100% dedicated gluten-free and SQF (Safe Quality Food) Level 2 facility which is dairy free, peanut free, soy free, Kosher Pareve and uses non-GMO ingredients exclusively
• Product ingredient changes: We will communicate these changes prominently on our product packaging, web site and social media platforms
• New Products: In addition to information available on product packaging, we will communicate detailed information on all new products on the web site and social media platforms
• Supply chain breaches: In the event of a breach, we will immediately communicate pertinent information on our web site, social media platforms, as well as sharing the information with other key stakeholders, including distributors and retailers.
More About Charlie
Charlie was the inspiration for the creation of Charlie’s Table. It was to keep him among us that led to name our new company after him.
Charlie was a friend of mine --- and hundreds of other people. Truly. As his nephew said at the concert celebrating Charlie’s life after he passed on: it was not possible to walk the streets of New York City without some friend stopping Charlie to say hello.
Charlie was a big human being (6’4”) with an even bigger red heart of gold.
His table at Etcetera Etcetera, his favorite New York restaurant where the recipes for our gluten free pasta and two of our sauces were created, and his Saturday night kitchen table, were always filled with friends – old, new and just met.
An eleventh generation American, Charlie truly lived “everyone is welcome.”
The words I associate most with Charlie were those of his constant refrain: “How can I help you?”
Charlie had a knack for bringing out the best in other people. His instinct was to do the right thing – even when it went against his own self-interest.
Here’s what the New York Times had to say when it profiled Charlie in 1998:
Born in Schenectady, N.Y., he attended Harvard, where he majored in French, and studied piano. He also played in the cello section of the college orchestra… After graduation, while teaching French at a private school in New Hampshire, Mr. Hamlen started a chamber music series. At the suggestion of some friends, he considered going into management.
In retrospect, Mr. Hamlen says that his bold decision to shake up his life at 34, move to New York City with no money to speak of, and begin a new career, was an outgrowth of confronting himself. Having previously been married, he now understood that he was gay.
''I was still uncomfortable about it,'' he said. ''But I subliminally had accepted it already. I knew that New York would help me figure it out.''
When his friends started dying, Mr. Hamlen felt compelled to respond with more than just personal care. There had already been occasional AIDS benefit concerts called Music for Life, presented by classical musicians. He thought that this work should be continuing, and national.
''I remember grappling with the possibility of changing my life and taking this on,'' he said. ''One moment you think, what a great thing; the next you think, are you out of your mind?''
What emboldened him was the reactions of many clients when he told them he would be leaving. ''The first person I talked with was Andre Watts,'' Mr. Hamlen recalled. ''Andre said, 'Charlie, I've wanted to be involved for a long time, but no one asked me.' The same happened with James Galway. The first words out of his mouth were, 'What can I do to help?' ''