A product born from a rich foundation of sharing food with community, Ayako & Family aims to brighten your pantry with a small jar of love. A Tokyo native and now long-time Seattle resident, Ayako cherishes the time spent around the dinner table. In the summer of 2010, she founded her company, partnering with Japanese organic farmer Katsumi Taki to bring the rarest of European and Asiatic plum varieties to the pantries of preserves lovers around the globe. Hand selecting her fruit in small batches, the nuances of each flavor become clear, changing the perception of the plum and leading inspiring food sharing of your own.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
I have always been drawn to beautiful, organic fruits grown and harvested by farmers who give respect to their craft. I had made raspberry jams for friends and family prior to starting Ayako & Family. Overtime, I came to realize how much I enjoyed and valued the relationship between the farmer and the taster. If I could somehow be involved, I knew I could continue doing something beautiful that I knew I loved.
Tell us about your products.
Each jar of jam is carefully hand-crafted by Ayako, with all of the jams made from the organic fruits of Mair Farm-Taki. It always starts with the produce! We love to showcase the nuances of each variety, as we produce over a dozen different plum jams of both Asiatic and European origins. Some of the plums are exclusively grown at Mair Farm-Taki, making them distinct to the region.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Artisan” Mean To You?
At the core of it, it means finding harmony between oneself and the ingredients with which you work. In the case of jam, the expression of harmony comes through upon the moment the jam hits your tongue. You must taste the personality of the fruit.
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
Traditional Japanese tea ceremony sweets. You have to try them!
What Drew You To Food?
I have been deeply curious about the science behind food, but I know inherently that science cannot capture the artful soul. I am not a scientist, but I know how to connect with the soul of food.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
My food inspiration comes from the farmers and producers. I also think I have inspiration from the disciplined approach of Japanese craftsmanship - a harmony between hard work and artistry.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
I am continuing to hone my current jams; I strive for them to be unforgettable with the ability to transport people back to certain food sharing memories.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
All flavors are truly my favorite, but each has a different personality. It depends on I am feeling, I suppose!
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
BLT with Avocado. Once in a while the fatty taste of a good BLT is just divine.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
My grandmother and my father who both passed away a long time ago. They were larger than life kind of people. I often wonder what they would say about my product.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other artisans?
The advice I would give is to find your philosophy, know who you are, and value the process, through all the ups and downs. The best advice I have received are from those that inspire me.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce, Corson Building, Bar Sajor, London Plane) Maxim Bilet (Modernist Cuisine), and Molly Neitzel (Molly Moon) have each shared beautiful wisdom with me along the way. The way they go about their craft, every day and every night, inspires me. It is not necessarily through their words, but through the cadence to which they live.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Matt Dillon’s meat loaf, and Maxim Billet’s thirty three course feast!
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
I love working with flowers, walking in the forest, watching sunsets, African dancing, and listening to my children play music.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Music from West Africa really brings out the soul in me and the jam that is created. I’m also a big fan of Heart, and my youngest daughter Kessiah’s band, Crater. Check them out, they are so hip!
What is your favorite recipe to make with the product featured in our basket?
I do not have a special recipe, I swear! Just find a small spoon, and eat it directly from the jar. OK, I know one! The jams taste particularly good with yogurt. Simple.