Chef Jesse Layman
Growing up in California's Central Valley, Jesse developed a love for both food and the land that it comes from. As a 23 year veteran of the culinary industry, Jesse has taken on Sparrow Lane in order to combine all of this culinary loves and share his passion with the world.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
Sparrow Lane started as a winery in the Angwin region of Napa CA, producing award winning Zinfandel and Cabernet. The local chefs of the area wanted a true wine vinegar that represented the amazing wines of Napa and Sonoma. The Orleans method of barrel aging vinegar was the method of choice, and Sparrow Lane vinegars were born.
Tell Us About Your Products.
We make 27 different “varietals” of wine vinegar and balsamics, everything from the kitchen staples Champagne and Cabernet Sauvignon to the unique Cinnamon Pear and Ginger Pear Rice. All of our vinegars are produced naturally, free from colors, no added flavors or sugars and barrel aged. The aging process is from 6 months to a year or more. Using wines exclusively from Napa and Sonoma we also use only California fruits and herbs that are grown locally, within less than 500 miles. We take our craft seriously as the art it is. It takes great wine to make great vinegar and time.
What Does Being A Small-Batch "Craftsman" Mean To You?
A small batch “craftsman” is really what we are in the beginning. Every new idea, new batch of wine starts in a small format, from testing, tasting. We want to know all aspects of our beginning wine and then it goes into a 65 gallon barrel. That’s a whole bunch of small batches!!
What Is Your Favorite Small-Batch Treat?
This time of year is so great. All the fresh fruit or vegi’s with a few slices of aged goat cheese (from Nicolau Farms farmstead goat cheese) or some of our homemade sausage and crostini.
What Drew You To Food?
Food has always been an important part of life, being raised on a family farm with gardens and animals. And then into my father’s restaurants as a kid, its all I have ever wanted to do.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
I get inspired by other Chefs and seeing how they are using different ingredients and searching out old classics and making them just a little better. Finding new ways to use vinegar other than just salad is really a fun challenge.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
I keep getting request for citrus vinegar and olive oil. There are plenty on the market that taste like air freshener, so trying to find the right balance with a local citrus has been the most current project.
Do You Have A Favorite Product?
My favorite product is tough because I like to use so many different flavors and ethnic flavors. But my most used vinegar is Champagne because it’s so versatile.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
My latest obsession is easy this time of year, everything from the Farmers Markets!
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Last night’s dinner was amazing as I ate at Bar Agricole in SF with Chef Melissa, she changes the menu daily and uses only market fresh ingredients… Pig Fritters with housemade sauerkraut, Heirloom tomato salad with yogurt and za’ater, Roasted Lamb with green lentil and greens, and we finished with a pluot shortbread tart with fresh crème…sorry not fair
What Person, Living or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
Obliviously I would love to have many of the different great chefs of our time taste our vinegars (and use them) but to have Madeleine Kamman (one of my many inspirations and first intro to real food) taste the different vinegars and we could work on recipes together.
What Is The Best Piece Of Advice You Have Received In Building Your Business?
“Always be true to your heart, keep your mind open to possibility, let your hands create freely and others will taste your love”, Grandma M... she pretty much said it all
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
There are so many amazing young Chefs and Inspired Craftsmen that are sharing their love of food, I admire anyone willing to share and put themselves out there, not just for fame but the personal rewards.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
My last meal would be tough because I could probably eat myself to death, but I would start with a little mix of olives and nuts, crusty bread with awesome olive oil and farm butter, a plate of summer tomatoes and fennel., East Coast tuna belly sashimi and mixed oysters. Fresh tagliatelle and rabbit sugo, roasted ducked breast with foie gras, grass fed beef tarter with dry aged ribeye, arugula and beet salad and a stone fruit tart with lavender honey gelato and a plate of farmstyle cheeses.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
I have been very fortunate to eat around the country in many amazing restaurants, the experience and artistry at the Lucy’s in Yountville to the passion of a food truck like Culinerdy in Sacramento.
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside Of The Kitchen?
When I am not in the office or creating in the kitchen I am on my bike, pedaling anywhere I can or racing cyclecross.
What Is Your Favorite Recipe To Make With The Product Featured In Our Basket?
There are so many things that scream peaches in summer time and our California Peach vinegar is the perfect accent of acid and flavor. I love a marinated pork tenderloin in the peach vinegar with grilled stone fruit and reduction of pan jus glaze with an arugula salad.
Come back Wednesday for this full recipe!