After almost burning her mother's house down at 9 years old, Nancy has taken her lifelong passion for food and built The Gracious Gourmet. With over 25 products and counting, Nancy is providing home cooks with delicious products that used to elevate their favorite dishes while impressing family and friends with the simple goal of "making every meal a special occasion"!
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
I baked my first cake at 9 years old, but almost set the house on fire. Although my mother hoped I would never cook again, I had already decided that food was my passion. Fortunately, I stopped burning cakes and started learning how to sauté, flambé, and create soufflés. I love to read about food and cooking, and I would practice all the time. Eventually, I began traveling more and I started making ‘pilgrimages’ to France to enjoy eating across the French countryside. I even had the opportunity to work alongside top chefs at the renowned Les Freres Troisgros in Roanne.
For many years, while busy with my career, my main outlet for cooking was entertaining family and friends. One evening, a friend came over and I prepared a steak and homemade chutney. My friend was a wise woman I respected and she raved about the chutney, telling me I should sell it. Something clicked, and 9 months later in late 2006, The Gracious Gourmet was born. We started with 6 products, including the chutney that started it all, which is now our Dried Fruit Chutney.
The business has come a long way since 2006. I laugh when I think about the first time I ordered apples in a large quantity for a production run — it was 75 pounds worth. I looked into the huge barrel and realized I’d be peeling and coring apples all night!
Tell us about your products.
Our products are produced in small batches and include chutneys, spreads, tapenades and pestos. We source carefully and responsibly, and we never ever use preservatives. We also offer many options that are low in fat, vegan, naturally are free of gluten and minimize the use of salt and sugar.
We know our customers are busy, sophisticated people who want to save time in the kitchen, yet still want to serve exciting food to their friends and family. Our products are delicious served with cheese or can be combined with other ingredients to create memorable hors d’oeuvres, main courses and desserts. Our goal is simple: we want every meal to be a special occasion.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Craftsman” Mean To You?
It means offering the customer something that tastes as if it is freshly made using the best ingredients I possibly can. It means making food the way I would prepare it for my family and friends — but making it available to the whole country.
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
Dry-cured, small-batch sausages from Charlito’s Cocina. They happen to be made by my son and I’m very proud of what’s he’s doing. They are truly delicious!
What Drew You To Food?
My husband tells people in conversations that while that most people have blood running through their veins, I have good food running in mine. Food really is strong part of who I am.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
My original food inspiration was my maternal grandmother. She truly planted the seeds that grew my love of food.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
We are getting ready to launch a Roasted Poblano Peach Spread and expanding our Essentials Collection.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
Every product in the line is a favorite. I really wouldn’t put a product in the line if I wasn’t absolutely excited to produce.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
It was my son’s birthday and I made a roast beef and served it with our Sautéed Mixed Mushrooms and Sweet Caramelized Onions. I combined the onions and mushrooms, which have already been sautéed and slow cooked, and just warmed them to serve them as a side with sautéed potatoes. I also used our Dried Fruit Chutney to garnish the beef.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
My parents. I’d love for them to be able to see how I’ve made my love of food into a fulfilling business.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give other craftsmen?
Never pass up any opportunity.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
It would start with cold foie gras — lots of it — and then I’d have crab cakes as an intermezzo. The main course would be roast beef or duck à l’orange, served with wild rice. For dessert I’d want a pecan tart topped with butter pecan ice cream and whipped cream.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
My favorite restaurant is always changing. I love trying new restaurants.
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Tending my vegetable garden. Reading. Entertaining. Playing with my dog, Chutney, and traveling.
What is your favorite recipe to make with your Hatch Chile Pesto featured in our May Basket?
Sally’s Hatch Chile Guacamole, named after a friend. I made it again the other night and enjoyed it so much. It combines three ripe avocados, juice of one lime, half a jar of our Hatch Chile Pesto, the green portion of a bunch of scallions (finely sliced) and sea salt.
What other product in our May basket would you most want to try?
I am a huge coffee lover, so I’d love to try the Happy Cup Coffee.