New to Sigona’s: Jams, Marmalades and More from Right Brain Kitchens
Made by one of our own, these jams are absolutely fantastic…and free…and we’re donating a portion of the sales to a local school!
By John Nava
As a small, family-owned market, we’re big supporters of small, local vendors. One of our newest vendors is about as local as you can get – he’s a Sigona’s crew member!
Meet Joe Loewinsohn of Right Brain Kitchens. He’s worked for Sigona’s for about a year, but has a decorated history in the food and restaurant industry. Life has led Joe down many paths, some straight & narrow and some lined with potholes, but one thing is certain: Joe knows food.
If you’ve spent any time with Joe in our Palo Alto store, you know he has a passion for ingredients and a nearly endless knowledge of cooking, which he gained as a line cook, cheese buyer & seller and lead chef. He even worked for some of the best-of-the-best, including Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, Narsai David and Bradley Ogden.
Though that doesn’t even begin to cover Joe’s history, it led him to his latest adventure starting Right Brain Kitchens to make jams, jellies, marmalades and more. We’re proud to introduce and offer his creations for the first time.
Next week, Oct. 12-18, 2011, as well as every other week for the next six weeks, you can get a one half-pound jar of Joe’s jam for free with your coupon when you make a purchase of $30 or more. Joe has many flavors in the works, and the first four he’s introducing are: Strawberry Fields Forever (strawberry hibiscus), Pineapple Upside Down Jam, Watermelon Marmalade and Mandarin Mimosa (it tastes like Sunday brunch). First up: Strawberry Fields Forever.
The jams are also for sale at Sigona’s and we’re going to donate 20% of each jar sold within three months, for reasons you’ll learn in just a bit, to the Russell Bede School in San Mateo which teaches and re-mediates young students who are having difficulty succeeding in a regular education classroom.
Whatcha Know, Joe?
“My first job was at the Elmwood Drug Store where I worked with Ozzie, the soda jerk,” said Joe. “It was my first real exposure to real creativity. No one could pull soda like Ozzie and he had the best flavor combinations. He had one where he would mix almost every flavor together with chocolate soda and only Ozzie could do it just right.
“From a young age I wanted to be a chef, and I worked in various restaurants, but people always said, ‘How? You don’t know how to make a pie or pasta,’” said Joe. “So, I sought instruction on all the basics, like how to make ketchup and jam because when you master fundamentals you can pretty much do anything. Once I realized that I was able to let the creative juices flow, I took Ozzie’s soda mixing approach to everything I did, like serving roast beef with a chocolate sauce.”
Harnessing Creative Energy
Yes, Joe has an extensive background in food and restauranteuring, but would you guess he’s a trained voice actor, motorcycle painter, an amateur artist, computer repairman and novice archer? He’s done more, I’m sure, but interviews only last so long. I had to dig deep before we even uncovered the motorcycle painting bit…he’d even done that for a living for almost five years!
Joe isn’t shy about telling you he has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) – it’s the extra dose of energy that made Joe who he is today: a man who seeks adventure, challenge and new venues for expression. There’s never a dull moment with Joe. Give him some fruit and he’ll return with a pectin-fruit gel candy the likes of which you’ve never tasted. I mean, he made one he called Key Lime Pie and it tasted exactly like…Key Lime Pie…complete with an essence of a graham cracker crust. (Yes, we’ll sell these fruit gels sometime soon.)
Joe’s passion for the arts comes through in his creative cooking, too. From the names of his products, to the flavor combinations and design of the labels, the arts have played an important role in Joe’s many careers.
“When you’re a hyperactive little kid, your parents give you paper and pen a lot because if you’re like me, it’s the one thing that will keep you entertained for long periods of time,” said Joe. “I was told ‘no’ a lot as a child, but if it had to do with art, I was encouraged and supported.
“Back then you were hyper, misbehaving or flat out annoying; now it’s labeled as ADD, but it’s still difficult,” said Joe. “I give a lot of credit to my parents and a particular teacher of mine, named Cathy, who worked with our strengths and taught my class we were still valuable, that it is okay to be different and to put ourselves in a position where unique things are needed and positive.”
Later on in life it was more words of wisdom that helped Joe find his footing and play to his strengths.
“I went from job to job for a while and was going through a little bout of depression when someone said to me, ‘The only way you’re ever going to get through this is you have to give up all hope for a better past.’ That hit me like a ton of bricks; I had to move forward and work to my strengths.”
It wasn’t long until Joe enrolled in voice training classes in San Francisco, landed a few voiceover gigs and also applied for a job at Sigona’s.
“I’ve imitated voices and expressions my whole life; I’m just glad I discovered I could get paid for it,” said Joe. “That curiosity and drive to imitate is also how I think I work to develop the flavors for Right Brain Kitchens.”
Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery
Working at Sigona’s you taste a lot of products. Joe found that while some were outstanding, others from the same companies fell flat. He says that in an effort to impress me, his new boss, Joe made some homemade jams and marmalades for me try to compare flavor.
As a specialty foods buyer for Sigona’s I’ve tasted my fair share of jams, but the first thing I said after one taste of Joe’s jam was, “You better make more of this because I’m going to buy it from you.” His answer? “Me? I don’t have a company, I’m just me!”
After more nudging from me and our crew, Joe decided to take on the challenge. While he and his fiance, Ludi Garcia (who Joe says keeps him on track and helps keep things organized), secured a business license, Sigona’s helped Joe secure jars, lids, a label printer and even helped tweak final recipes. We also hooked him up with the ladies from Angel Heart Cakes who recently opened a storefront in at Marsh Manor in Redwood City. Joe now leases their facility to concoct his brews and even helps them with some new product and recipe development.
This Isn’t Just Any Jam
“I keep the ingredient lists short, all natural and low in sugar to showcase the natural beauty of the fruits – some makers take out a lot of the good stuff, but I want to put it back in and add a little more,” said Joe. “For example, strawberries turn brown if you don’t add enough sugar, but for my Strawberry Hibiscus jam, I use hibiscus for a natural coloring agent so I don’t have to add extra sugar or artificial color.”
All Right Brain Kitchen jams are made in micro-batches with “born on” dates noted on the jar. Also adorning the jar is the Right Brain Kitchen mission statement: “We’re all out of ordinary.” If anything is true, it’s that statement. You won’t find any plain peach jam coming from Joe. Other flavors will be introduced seasonally.
Every other week for the next six weeks you can get one of Joe’s jams for free with your coupon and a purchase of $30 or more and, remember, we are going to donate 20% of all jam sales over the next three months to the Russell Bede School in San Mateo, too, in support of their dedication to offer students with learning disabilities the best chance for success.