My love for food started at a young age. My Dad always said, “There’s one thing that nobody can take away and that’s your right to a good meal.” I’ve come to understand that this is true. We always ate good food and we always had more than enough.
As a teen I found myself working in restaurants and loving every minute of it. While learning the ins and outs of the industry my love for food turned into a growing passion to create my own palate pleasing dishes using my own fresh ideas and techniques. The “rule book” in my kitchen was a very slim one, my mind was the book and being creative was the rule. It worked out and I even impressed a few people along the way.
Traveling abroad had never been an option for me, but touring the world through food was a different story. I joined a cookbook club that would send me a new book every month. I went to book stores and chose books focusing on certain cultures in between receiving my newest books from the club. I did this for nearly 5 years, religiously, and needless to say, I ate adventurously! I cooked at home, I worked in the kitchens of restaurants, I just wanted to be around food and I wanted play with it! Food became my playground. My passion for culinary arts grew stronger and my knowledge of the arts expanded to new horizons.
After having my daughter, Jade Ashlynn in 2004, I found my restaurant career pulling me too far away from my newest priority. I continued my research on this ever changing culinary world, and while time was an issue, I continued cooking and started developing sauces that would allow me to turn ordinary meals into culinary works of art in a matter of minutes because at that time, there was no time!
As Jade grew so did my collection of homemade sauces. My kitchen got smaller by the day and the refrigerator was no longer an option for all of my creations. I needed more room and I needed to figure out what I was going to do with this hobby of mine. By this time I had a complete library of cookbooks and thousands of recipes and creations under my belt. I continued eating my way around the world and my new Family enjoyed this just as much as I did, which made these nightly travels that much more exciting!
I wanted others to enjoy my creations and these culinary adventures, I came to understand that culinary masterpieces were able to be made by anyone, no matter the level of culinary training they may or may not have received. Ordinary house cooks could create memorable dishes if they had the sauce, because the sauce it what makes the meal! So with the help and encouragement of my Mom, I started Ashlynn’s Gourmet in May of 2007.
Jade was 3 years old at the time and her Dad and I were separated. My parents took out a loan on their Florida home and a few months later we had 3 pallets of tapenade and not one clue what to do with it. My Dad expressed his concern asking “Where are you going to sell this?” My reply was, “I’m not exactly sure but don’t worry, I will sell it.” God Bless him, he took that better than I would have if the tables were turned.
I worked with the Outback Group as a server during the week and had booths at local farmers markets on the weekends. I hired my first sales rep a few months after starting the company and by the end of 2008 I was selling to 48 retail stores throughout Florida and had even created a line of balsamic glazes that ended up being my first award winning line. Unfortunately the award went to another sauce manufacturer due to a “sweat equity” agreement that I will probably never forgive myself for, however, watching someone win a Gold Sofi in NYC with a Strawberry Zinfandel Balsamic Glaze that came from your creative mind is certainly a self satisfying life event. Jade used to say “I do NOT want my name on all those bottles.” I always replied with “you’ll change your mind, Wendy.” I’m sure that pig tailed little red head said the same thing to her Dad once upon a time too.
If I said that this entrepreneurial journey has been “easy” I would be lying, but I can honestly say it has been the most enjoyable journey I have ever been on. As for Jade, well she is no longer a baby but she is still my little girl. She has grown up in a serious culinary environment, and while she may not appreciate it fully right now, it is my hopes that one day she will understand the depth of her knowledge in this arena. My parents still have their Florida home and my Dad even has his own line of BBQ sauces. It worked out.
This adventure has become more than a hobby, or a business or a passion… it has changed my life. I encourage YOU to be adventurous, seize the opportunities of each and every day. Do something incredible! Eat your way through this life and savor every delicious bite. Be that genius with the edge of lunacy! Do it, because it feels good!
Not much about this company has changed else-wise in the past 10 years with the exception of its size and the awards in our office. We still micro-batch each sauce, we still hire people, not machines, we still make our own pepper mashes and every sauces is still made from scratch, it’s just in a kettle instead of a stockpot. I still create new sauces in my home kitchen on the weekends and I still assure you that every creation made by Ashlynn’s Gourmet will be of the freshest and best quality ingredients which are always perfectly blended.