In my last post, I told you a little about our history as Seattle catering giants...who got a little crushed in 2020. Cut to our heroes now sitting on the couch in April of 2020, grateful for a year's supply of flour and yeast, but getting a little restless. Even the dog was bored.
The idea of becoming a 300 year old British food company was still rolling around in the back of our collective minds. But how does one start a gift basket and food company with house made products that are wrapped in original artwork while the entire world is shut down? There are probably 300 ways to go about it, but we started in the kitchen testing recipes, dropping off samples with the neighbors and trying a whole lot of food.
It was hardly a straight line from "Hey, let's do this" to making more than 40 products in the Bite Society line. We tried cookies while working on mustard. We spent a lot of time making fudge. I found a recipe for something called Penuche that is a regional favorite in New England and the South. We didn't know how to pronounce it until Katy's Wakefield, Mass Dad said, "Oh, Pen-ooo-chie." I went pretty deep into the Wellsley College origins of American fudge before we decided to table that product for a bit. (Confidentially, buttermilk fudge is dreamy.)
In addition to tasty products, we needed a direction for our artwork. Packaging was key. We all wanted something that reflected our history, working in kitchens and that was uniquely American. That is where Salty's arm came in. Salty was our kitchen manager at City Catering. If you have an image of a handsome guy, greying at the temples, who rocks a clipboard with a smile until he gets a little bit salty, that is Salty. His tattoos are a travelogue. He has a fantastic hula girl, an owl with the ace of spades wearing a top hat, a dagger and more. He adds another piece on his annual vacation each year.
We wanted to bring American Traditional tattoo art together with our food in packaging that didn't quite exist just yet. We connected with a Seattle branding company, and it started with all of the promise of every first meeting and went a little bit downhill from there. We might have been the most offended when they questioned the authenticity of our lion logo idea. When Shana said, "It's the king of the jungle," I might have busted out laughing. Salty would have never gone for artwork of a wedge of cheese with a dagger that was pitched to us. After a month in, it was time to make the best decision we ever made. We said goodbye to the branders and set off like kids in a fairytale lost in the woods.
On a walk with the dog (how many good ideas start at the end of a dog's leash?), I realized that tattoo shops were closed nationwide and there were a lot of really skillful artists who were out of work. We put ads in Seattle, Portland, New York, and Chicago. We pitched our products and the ideas and artwork started flowing. We fell in love with an artist outside of Portland who just understood us. He loved the lion, he drew the lion, he drew the lion with a monocle and he drew the lion with parted hair. He even drew the lion with a top hat when we asked him to. He worked as tattoo artists work, collaboratively, and with a lot of great ideas. (Note: We skipped all of our ideas and went with his.) Sister Carol's designs were from Dia Diaspora, a tattoo artist from Utica, New York. Ideas and art poured in, and we were set off on a ride that has been non-stop.
Next Up: Traditional American Cookie meet Traditional American Tattoos