If your idea of heaven is heirloom-tomato gazpacho or roasted organic chicken with collard greens, chances are you’ve already been to Leslie Lampert’s restaurant, Café of Love in Mount Kisco. Lampert has built a mini-empire around farm-to-table dining, and that empire includes her takeout soup shop, Ladle of Love, and the Love on the Run food truck and full-service catering branch.
Lampert started out as a journalist. During her time as a senior editor at Ladies Home Journal, she spent many hours in the magazine’s test kitchen. Along the way, she became an accomplished chef—inviting friends to enjoy her culinary experiments. “The party was always at our house,” she says.
Twelve years ago, Lampert decided to open Ladle of Love after making soups and stews for a loved one “who didn’t win the war with chemo and cancer,” she recalls. But just days before the restaurant’s opening, her marriage fell apart. Despite that setback—and, being left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt—the mother of three forged ahead. The success of the restaurant led her to open Café of Love in 2008, just before the recession. Today, her businesses employ 50 people and bring in more than $3 million in annual revenue. Still, she says, “This business isn’t for the faint of heart.”