As the owner and driving force behind western Pennsylvania’s first full commercial kitchen built in a shipping container, Jen Urich has married the concepts of farming and baking with her sustainably focused business. “I am inspired by produce. I try to make our food accessible. The vision of food is to have comfort and wellness collide,” said Urich.
Thus, Farmer x Baker came to be a few years ago, starting as a 160-square-foot shipping container converted to a window service café in Aspinwall, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. Known for dishing out wholesome, comfort-meets-wellness classics like the celery-root Reuben (popular for its novelty scenario), Urich and her team expanded last year to include a production facility, market and takeout spot nearby, where their highly coveted oat-milk soft-serve could be whipped up along with bagels and other featured goods sourced from a handful of local farms (everything is made from scratch with organic, non-GMO ingredients).
Said Urich: “You can eat the whole vegetable, like carrot tops. You can use onion skin to make stock. That comes down to how hard farmers and laborers work. Respect that labor and the planet’s supply of vegetables. Understand the connection.”
Urich grew up cooking with her relatives and comes from a family of artists. Her love of culinary arts dates to that time in her life. She previously owned a landscaping company and excelled at growing flowers. Eventually, she turned toward growing foods, which she said snowballed and resulted in her dabbling in selling food to chef friends.
Fast-forward to today, her focus at her woman-owned business, Farmer x Baker, is on spotlighting the work of others. An example of this is a dinner program running June through September at her riverside FxB location highlighting various Pittsburgh culinary enthusiasts.
Farmer x Baker’s creations showcase seasonal ingredients, including those grown by Urich herself (her farm, Root and Heart, supplements crops), and overall is a nearly zero-waste business. In the end, while it may be more costly for Urich and team, she’s dedicated to sustainable agriculture and uses compostable packaging and composts and recycles on her farm.
A few more fun facts:
In her fridge at home: Kimchi and eggs. Because I have chickens.
Best workhorse cooking tool: A floor blender. It’s a giant blender which gives me the ability to make huge batches. I once made 30 quarts of gazpacho in like 20 minutes.
Favorite ingredient for spring: Sorrel. It’s known as the lemon of the north. Stinging nettles. And the humble beet.
Top herb: Dill. I use a lot of it.
Ingredients she wished Pittsburgh loved: Grits. Probably my favorite grain.
Clutch dish she’s digging: Congee, an Asian porridge made of grains. Love to have it at home. Good with eggs, nettles, herbs.
NEXT ON THE DISH