For Kelly Dewey of Rex’s Perogies, it’s not organic vegetables or local cheese, but tradition that brings the crucial ingredient to her perogies. Perogies are “a tradition we brought from Pennsylvania and Michigan to the Southwest,” she says, and the flavors bear her story out: potato, cheese, and roasted green chile are her best sellers.
Her story follows a corporate-to-culinary tale of Alice in Wonderland madness, ending with Dewey’s improbable image of an outdoor table, laden with her perogies under a beautiful, madcap, starry night. While her former life as a supervisor and banker for a large worldwide bank helped sustain her financially, she left the job to discover a less linear lifestyle: “When I had my son, Rex, I felt like change. I wanted to spend time with him.” Imagination, and a child-like delight in “food for foodies,” became the vision behind her culinary dream life.
Sitting at Dewey’s found-family table is the extended world of the Heirloom Farmers’ Markets, where Rex’s Perogies got its start. The business, named for her son, incorporates farmers’ market flavors as much as re-imagined tradition. Like many vendors, Dewey sees the farmers’ market as a community “really like nothing I’ve ever worked with.” The community was partly her inspiration to integrate organic, non-GMO, local vegetables into her traditional recipes.
In the Polish tradition from which the flaky, savory tarts have branched into diaspora cuisine, the table where they’d be served would also feature fresh cucumbers, dill, handmade kielbasa, onion, and sour cream dressing.
Her style has a lot of tradition plus innovation, seen in her suggestion that customers try her perogies for breakfast, not just as “a singular item for a meal.” Even as she’s cooking up tradition, Dewey looks to ultramodern resources such as GoFundMe and Facebook to build her business. “I’ve never taken a bank loan,” she says.
As the busy holiday season approaches, Dewey plans to offer Thanksgiving perogies and Christmas perogies; for Dewey, perogies suit any special time because she knows them from the treasured times in her life—“Nana teaching us in the kitchen … it was a special time for my sister and me, snacking on the stuff and her joking that if we ate everything, there’d be nothing left to make the perogies.” She believes in Rex’s Perogies as a way to “take a step back to remember what we did with our families.”