Erica Wallace is living her dream.
A decade ago, she was working in the pharmaceutical field, using the business degree she earned—a route that seemed to make sense for someone who grew up in a family full of entrepreneurs.
"I was always surrounded by food as a child," Wallace said. "I thought I had to go to school for business."
Fast forward to today, and she spends her days running Erica's Kitchen, the Bedford Village eatery she describes as a "market cafe."
Thanks to a lot of encouragement from family, namely the man who is now her husband, Wallace decided to pursue her passion of "nurturing people through food." The Somers resident—who cried the first time she visited a farmers market at Union Square in Manhattan—enrolled at the French Culinary Institute, and graduated in 2005, just a week before her wedding.
When she returned from her honeymoon, she began cooking meals for friends. That evolved into a home-based catering business of sorts. Eventually, she had so many clients that she needed to use a relative's restaurant to prepare all the orders.
The space in Bedford Village was one Wallace always loved, so when it became available, everything else just fell into place. She opened the eatery in January 2011, and her focus on farm-to-table products hasn't wavered.
"You don't know what is in your food, and that's really scary," she said, adding that she knows "so many great farmers" who provide the local, sustainable food.
These days, she works in an apron, perfecting stews and braises that "take a lot of time, a lot of love" on the stove; tracking down local, organic food; and chatting with customers—many of whom started with her when she was operating the catering business.
They flow in and out of the bright, spacious shop, which offers casual seating: patio and wood furniture. There's a produce section, along with a bookcase, a jewelry display and more. One of the four walls is home to an array of prints that are for sale.
"There's spirituality mixed in with the food," Wallace said with a smile.