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5/11/16

138. profile: the craic & blonde

the first thing you notice when meeting the craic & blonde's founder, blonde beauchamp, is her mega-watt smile - it's infectious. and it seems to resonate even more when she's discussing her enthusiasm for her haitian culture and it's vibrant cuisine. this cuisine is beautifully exemplified by her pikliz, [pronounced pick-lese], a traditional condiment of pickled vegetables and spicy habanero peppers. we recently met up with blonde for some shopping, eating, and a lively discussion about inspiration:


what are some unexpected everyday sources of inspiration? 
i actually get a lot of inspiration from our innovation ecosystem here in boston, which is currently densely populated with tech and biotech startups. what i love about this scene is the collaboration. the food startup community is finally being pulled into the innovation conversation and vibe, but there's still progress to be made in closing many gaps, i continue to draw from entrepreneurs who are breaking grounds in their respective fields, none of which are food.

what is your favorite time of day to create? 
i'm all over the place when it comes to a rhythm! also, i hate, strongly hate, purses, so if i can get away with not carrying one, i will. my essential items are always cell, id, credit card, chapstick + hair elastic... which means my notes app has become my journal. sometimes properly sketching out a creative idea is ideal, but if all i have is my iphone, i will certainly use descriptive writing to illustrate an abstract idea. that also forces me to take action on the idea the same night or the following morning so that i don't lose the essence of the creative process. sometimes an idea is absolutely absurd, but i rarely toss any one out. i file it away until i figure out how to activate it or have the guts or senses to trash it.

favorite or most inspirational place? 
i can spend hours in thought on any oceanfront, riverside or really swanky, noisy cafe. my favorite combo: bad hair + rainy day = carefree stroll along a waterside. if the hair's already a wreck, i have nothing to lose, right? it feels a bit weird to say those are some of my most freeing and inspirational moments, but they are and so i cherish bad hair... on rainy days!

has food and cooking always been an important part of your life? 
yes, my love for food, both eating and cooking it, include exploring the kitchen, food ingredients, restaurants, and even people as they cook. my earliest memories are of my mum and her friends just dancing from countertop, to stove, to sink, and back again. it's like their hips swayed with every side movement along the cooking process. even that memory is making me smile. i've always loved how the body moves in the kitchen - it's so graceful, full of passion, consideration, as well as impulsivity. our house was always busy with many visitors; and of course everyone congregated in the kitchen. i remember a family friend scrubbing down the kitchen dinner table in preparation of something glorious... after intense labor grating fresh coconuts, squeezing out the milk, and making caramel in a large aluminum pot big enough to fit a baby pig, and then mixing in the freshly grated coconut, she would pour the gooey mixture onto the glistening dinner table to cool down before cutting into bite sized portions. but of course this piping-hot-delicious tabletop snack beckoned my sister and i to grab a spoon and scoop up chewy morsels of dous kokoye - a haitian caramel coconut candy. when my sister reads this, guaranteed, a sweet smile will beam across her face.

i can ramble on through my favorite food memories; bottom line is food and cooking form my best love language.

your pikliz is such a wonderful way to celebrate your haitian heritage. was there an a-ha moment when you realized that you needed to share it with a wider group of people? 
yes indeed... i've always been proud of my haitian culture and love sharing it with others; and what better way to do that than through food?! but i was jolted into starting the craic & blonde while i was living in ireland and sharing some of my favorite cultural dishes with friends. i was really surprised by the positive responses from my irish friends. my flatmate, rose, was particularly encouraging as i had the most opportunities to share dinners with her, and her only complaint was that i wasn't commercializing my food!

clearly your time spent living in ireland was an important component to the craic & blonde's inception. how were your pickliz and other haitian inspired dishes received there? 
well, "craic", pronounced crack, is an irish word denoting "fun". every experience in sharing my haitian culture with friends was great craic!

you include some incredibly delicious-sounding recipes on your website. what is your favorite way to serve your pikliz?
ever since my family starting putting pikliz on hot dogs and burgers, we haven't been able to enjoy a cookout without pikliz on the table. pikliz is incredible on grilled meats and sandwiches. however, i really do enjoy it on almost every meal; a quick breakfast like hard boiled eggs turns into something really special... i quarter my eggs, add some salt and black pepper and then sprinkle the vinegar and pikliz on top; with a few slices of buttered toast, this is a perfect breakfast!

how do you see the craic & blonde growing and expanding? 
for starters, i am contemplating changing the brand name to something that resonates more with haiti. i love that my inspiration came from ireland and that place will always be like home to me. but as the business grows with more products and recognition, i'll need to pivot a bit. other than brand name, i'll be adding more products, which will always provide my customers with an authentic haitian experience; that's the heart of my business.

what is the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given? 
feedback i often receive is to get my personality more involved in my business brand. i'm definitely a great example of being my own worst critic and enemy. so it's not always easy taking and applying that feedback. i'm being vulnerable by sharing all of this, but i'm also aware that in order for my business to grow, i need to as well. and for me, that's spelled out in how much i embrace who i am and celebrate it without apology. i guess sharing this here and now will hold me accountable to making the necessary changes in how i communicate my business.

what is the best piece of creative advice you have to give? 
same one i'm taking for myself: be yourself!!! you were created unlike any other. use that to your advantage. if you don't know yourself, ask your parents/family/close friends what you gravitated towards as a child; how you reacted to different genres of music; how you responded to strangers or how you responded to stress, etc... those are indicators of your innate strengths and desires. start playing with them and see how you feel. if you feel "alive", then you've probably discovered your strength and/or passion. pull that into your creative expressions and keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zones.


in addition to the website, you can purchase the craic & blonde's pikliz locally at sienna farms, formaggio kitchen south end and commonwealth cambridge among others.

many thanks to sienna farms for allowing us to photograph their beautiful shop at the boston public market.






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