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If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, you can look back on the last couple of years and find the silver linings. If you’re not, then maybe the story of Cynthia Sestito and Trudy Craney’s The Cookery—a pandemic-spawned labor of baking love— might be the bright spot you’ve been looking for.
If you blink or just get a little lost in thought, you may well drive right on by and miss this demure, dove-gray clapboard building at 83 Springs Fireplace Road. And that would be awfully sad. What you really should do is put a permanent Google Maps pin in it, add their number to speed dial and make it a destination before the whole world discovers this four-month-old dessert dynamo.
When you walk in you’re greeted by the dazzling bounty and beauty of the cakes, cookies and pies, brimming with fresh fruit, lemony icing drizzles, sprays of nuts and edible flowers, golden biscotti, and plump, elegantly wrapped muffins. Bite into a soft, orange-and almond-accented pignoli cookie, slice of pillowy mascarpone cheesecake or sugar-dusted Valrhona flourless chocolate tart, and you’ll know it’s not just about the looks—these desserts are dynamite.
You’d think they’d been cooking together for years, melding their skills and honing their ideas, but these two women had already lived decades of separate but wildly successful lives and careers before a coincidental connection on a dating site brought them together.
Sestito’s good friend, Allan Feldman, was looking for romance on Match.com, and she decided to help him parse out the options. Straight-away she spotted Craney, a Grammy and Emmy-award winning, red-headed opera singer with a penchant for baking. Sestito told him unequivocally, “She’s the one!” And she was right: The couple met, fell in love and married in 2016.
Sestito, a self-described military brat who absorbed the smells and flavors of different cuisines from the places her family lived and learned her love of cooking and entertaining from her southern mother, is a renowned toque in the Hamptons. She’s been on speed-dial as a private chef for Jay-Z and Beyonce, competed on the first season of Top Chef and helmed numerous lauded South Fork restaurants, from Sag Harbor to Bridgehampton. She’d left the East End for Los Angeles in 2019, on a quest to stretch her skills by getting into the cannabis end of cooking but in March 2020, came back east to visit her dear friends. And then the world shut-down. With travel restricted, Craney and Feldman asked Sestito to stay on through the summer in their guesthouse.
“Allan told Cyn about my cheesecake and said we should bring some things to the [Springs] farmer’s market,” says Craney. “I also made some biscotti. And Cyn is generally a kitchen wizard, so we brought all these things.”
They were a hit, and Sestito and Craney started tinkering in the kitchen in earnest. In addition to traditional flour and butter baking, they worked to create gluten-free options that anyone would clamor for (“A lot of our pastries and tarts are gluten-free. People who need to eat this way shouldn’t be tortured. We worked hard on it and perfected the ratio for texture and flavor,” says Sestito). By the spring, they were selling their confections and baked goods at multiple farmer’s markets and were seriously considering a brick-and-mortar commitment.
Late last summer, they opened their shop, The Cookery, and now employ several bakers—both professionally schooled and trained by Sestito and Craney. They’ve lost count of the myriad baked goods they make, constantly tweaking and morphing and riffing on recipes, as they seek to further explore depths of flavor. When the shop is open, Thursdays through Sundays, they also offer about 10 rotating lunchtime soup options and sandwiches, too, often on bread they’ve baked in-house.
They put together a to-go Thanksgiving menu last month that proved so successful, they’re doing it again in December. Think luxurious beef Wellington; herbed lamb chops; creamy, brandy-kissed seafood pappardelle and, naturally, sweets—a roasted chestnut version of Craney’s famous mascarpone cheesecake, Buche de Noel and other celebratory sweets. “The vision is sweet and savory over-the-top flavor,” says Sestito.
“Cyn has such a breadth of experience as a restaurant chef, but also in managing a kitchen,” says Craney. “My strengths are discipline as an opera singer, hard work and organization—all skills I can transfer. And we both have a phenomenal work ethic. And Cynthia loves a challenge!”
Sestito laughs: “I hate that about me!”