Finding Space with Michele Ragussis

Hello everybody, welcome to our second installment of our Finding Space series, a monthly chat with the relocated Locals of the Catskills about what it’s really like to make the move. Today HUTS had the pleasure of chatting with Michele Ragussis, chef and Food Network star and now a full-time resident of Kingston. Michele has had appearances on Chopped, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle (Winner), Food Network Star: Season 8 (Runner-Up), NBC Food Fighters, Come Back Kitchen. She is currently a repeat judge on Beat Bobby Flay, where she recently scored a win of her own! Let’s dive in!

Photo from Michele Ragussis

“As a chef and Food Network star you’ve traveled all over the world, how did you discover the Catskills?” 

Actually from some customers of mine at a restaurant in Provincetown, people kept saying to me “I think you belong in the Hudson Valley” so I took it as a sign. Also I am smack dab in the middle of my sisters one in Connecticut and one in Cazenovia, NY. It just felt natural.

“Was the agricultural community in the Catskills a big factor in your decision to move here Full-time?”

Yes! It was a part of my decision for sure, the farming here is amazing to be able to mostly shop at farms instead of grocery stores is an amazing benefit of having access to so many great farms and farmers markets in the area.

“What were your steps to moving here Full-Time? How did you settle on your property/house?”

I actually came up 3 times and looked at a bunch of homes. Of course I wanted an old farmhouse like most of us that move here, but I ended up moving to a great neighborhood in Kingston with a house that is much more manageable for me. I live alone with my dog Maximus, so smaller made more sense. My sister was the one to say “who is going to take care of an old farmhouse all by themselves” and she was right.

Photo by Danielle Axelson

“What are your favorite ways to interact with the community, build meaningful connections, and stay inspired? 

I try to support small businesses and spend as much time at farmers markets as I can getting to know the people that drive this community. I also live in a neighborhood where we all hang out and have block parties, which is a great plus of living in Kingston. It’s such a lively place. Getting out there and interacting with the community is a sure way of carving out your own little slice of the Catskills.

“What were some of the unexpected highlights and challenges that you encountered while moving to Kingston? Is there anything you may have done differently?”

So far so good! I am very blessed to have ended up in such a great community. I’m always finding more friends that live here or have houses here that I met in my old days at the restaurant I ran in Ptwn (Provincetown) that’s always a nice surprise.

Photo by Danielle Axelson

“What is your favorite part of living in the Catskills now Full-time?”

The mountains and farms for sure, and the lifestyle is a little bit slower here.  Now that I am no longer running restaurants I have more time to enjoy my surroundings and I am taking full advantage of this more relaxed lifestyle. 

“How has Quarantine in the Catskills been? How are you keeping busy, and what projects are you working on?”

Quarantine has actually been amazing for me. I have been teaching myself pottery, and learning Italian. But I am working for a company called Hungry right now that offers virtual food experience’s to people and businesses for team bonding workshops. I have anywhere from 2-4 classes of ravioli making a day so I have been truly blessed to work from home during this time. 

“Thanks so much for talking with us today about your experience. The HUTS team is looking forward to taking a Ravioli making class with you!” 

Photo by Danielle Axelson

So here are some takeaways to keep in mind: 

  • Community: A super small town is sometimes too slow paced for some, finding the right town and community for your life is key. There are many mid sized towns like Kingston that pack that small town charm into a lively town and community.
  • Dreaming Big: Like Michele said, everyone dreams of owning a big old farm house but that’s not always realistic. You can still live out your Catskill dream life without all of the upkeep and maintenance of a fixer upper.
  • Get Involved: Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. It’s the best way to meet people and connect with your community. Whether you’re a family of four, a retiree, a young couple, empty nesters, or a single individual there will always be a community to welcome you and to enrich your life.