GREENWICH — Customers of local brew pubs almost certainly never think about where the soft pretzels, spicy cheddar corn crackers, cheddar beer cheese dip and spiced nuts they are munching on come from.
But Sue Quillio knows, and she knows how important that food is to the people who make it.
Quillio, director of Battenkill Culinary Services, has a crew of about eight workers, all clients of Battenkill Community Services, which provides programs for adults with developmental disabilities, making Battenkill Bites.
Now, every Friday (after a week-long process of fermenting and preparing the dough), soft pretzels and other items are baked, bagged and delivered to area breweries, which include Argyle Brewing Co. in Greenwich and Cambridge and Common Roots in South Glens Falls — as well as a variety of new tasting rooms sampling the product line each week.
Last year, Battenkill Community Services invited Quillio, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and former owner of Spoonful Kitchen and Catering, to pilot a cooking class.
The eight-week class ended with a capstone lunch for 50 guests at the Cossayuna Fire Department.
Now, Quillio and her crew are in the Fire Department’s approved commercial kitchen preparing their products.
“(Chief) Pat Donahue has been great to us, letting us use the kitchen here,” Quillio said. “And the Comfort Food Community has a satellite food pantry here. He’s really helping the community.”
When Quillio did her first program with the group, she realized some of the clients already had food-service experience.
“They used to do placements in restaurants, then see if the people could keep working there,” she said. “Here, we all know we are working together.”
Battenkill Community Services offered to lend startup money for a more permanent program, and Battenkill Bites was born.
The key, Quillio said, is that developmentally challenged adults work side by side with non-disabled adults to create an integrated workspace where clients feel supported.
“It’s a good team. We have a great sense of fun and many happy cooks,” she said.
For pub customers, it’s all about tasty snacks.
For Quillio and her workers, it’s about more than that.
“It fulfills the goals that they designed for themselves,” she said. “They love what they do and are determined to work, and they hope that one day Battenkill Bites will be a self-sustaining, full-time business.”