Anything that’s not a drink, dessert, or snack.
Five Star Foodies® is a locally owned, family run business that provides gourmet vegan foods and drinks to the Cincinnati area and online. Five Star Foodies is dedicated and compassionate about food thanks to a family tradition that’s been passed on from generation to generation.
Valerie Williams is the CEO of Five Star Foodies. The inspiration behind the company began over 30 years ago, when Valerie was just 14. Inspired by Dick Gregory’s book, “Cookin With Mother Nature”, Valerie marched into her family’s kitchen and threw away all of the unhealthy foods. She then immediately declared that the family was now vegetarian. According to Valerie, her family embraced the change.
My mom, having always been an outstanding and innovative cook, had no problem continuing on and hardly missed a beat without the meat and many other ingredients I wouldn’t allow.
The family developed many new recipes over the years.
In 1980, they started a vegan restaurant in Cincinnati, named Christo’s and Drivaki’s. It was a ground-breaking endeavor in the field of vegan cuisine. Valerie’s three eldest sons practically grew up in the restaurant. Yet, unfortunately, Christo’s and Drivaki’s was before its time, and the restaurant closed in 1987.
Having never forgotten those days, Valerie’s son Christian wanted to revive some of the award winning recipes. He helped Valerie create Five Star Foodies as a way to continue those quality, gourmet vegan foods.
Valerie is proud that she raised all five of her children vegetarian. Strict vegetarians and vegans question their food sources. They must develop a real relationship and trust between themselves, as consumers, and their food sources. Ultimately, a large number of vegetarians, and vegans, become foodies. Foodies are people who are passionate and educated about quality food and nutrition.
It is our passion to create outstanding delicious and nutritious vegan food. Our company is a business with a “conscious.” This is to say we feel that throughout our daily practices, operation, and leadership we have a higher purpose that transcends profit maximization. Our focus instead is on delivering value to our stakeholders, employees, customers, suppliers and the community. We exemplify the culture of a conscious business and the acronym TACTILE (Trust, Authenticity, Caring, Transparency, Integrity, Learning and Empowerment). Tactile means something that can be touched and felt. When a person walks into a conscious business, such as ours, they can actually feel the positive energy in the air. This is what we try to create and pass on to the energy, integrity and mouth-watering deliciousness of our food.
Indeed, Valerie raised more than vegetarians. She raised five foodies. They don’t just eat and cook food. They live it.
The kitchen is where the key members of our family and company feel at home and find the most joy! It’s where we come together to rejuvenate and to ignite our passions through food.
Valerie’s mom, Mary, always at the heart of the family business, helps out with Five Star Foodies five days a week. Valerie’s father, an artist, also lends a hand when needed.
Valerie has been in the food industry for over 35 years. She has worked as a personal chef, taught cooking classes, worked in the grocery retail business, and catered. Valerie also passed the passion on to the next generation.
My son Graydon is a trained chef with a food science degree and would remind you of a mad scientist in the kitchen. He gets that look in his eye when he starts to create and develop anything to do with food.
Valerie’s eldest son Mundy is a self-taught graphic artist and creates all of the company’s graphics, packaging, Web site, and marketing materials.
Valerie’s son Christian, her nephew Josh Goldstein, and her sister Sarah Wise help fill in the remaining spots of the company. Five Star Foodies was founded in 2007, and thanks to all of the combined talent and passion, by 2008, the family business was already a success.
Five Star Foodies offers a variety of vegan items that you can find in local stores and online. In the refrigerated section are an assortment of ciders that are made from raw, fresh ingredients. The ciders start with fresh squeezed apples from local orchards, and other raw ingredients are added for variety. The Ginger Cider is the company’s most popular drink, and is also my wife’s favorite. It’s a tart and fruity cider with a satisfying amount of fresh, spicy, ginger. The new Veggie Cider “Green Label” is my favorite.
The Veggie Cider Green has vegetable juices added, so it’s a guiltless way to consume your regular serving of vegetables. There are similar veggie cider drinks from other vendors, but I’ve yet to find one as enjoyable as Five Star Foodies’ veggie mix. It’s naturally sweet, and the fresh ginger and hint of celery adds a bit of zing. It makes for a healthy drink that’s every bit as enjoyable as a carbonated soft drink, like ginger ale. The Veggie Cider Red is similar, but contains added beets. The Hibiscus Cider has more vitamin C than orange juice, but contains a lot less sugars. A swig of the Jamaican Cider will make you think you’re in the Caribbean.
In the freezer section, you’ll find Five Star Foodies’ frozen vegan selections, like their best selling Artichoke Burger. Kids love the Sloppy Joe, and the flame roasted Gourmet Griller is great all year around. You just heat and eat, so it’s easy to add these meatless alternatives to your diet.
Valerie describes her influences and inspirations.
My influences are Julia Child, Suzy Adrian from La Petite Pierre, international cuisine, exotic spices, exotic salts, kimchi, kombucha, family meals, any reason to celebrate, and my unquietable mind that is constantly composing new menus and infinite product possibilities.
Valerie is proud of all of the hard work that’s been put into Five Star Foodies and the accomplishments that they’ve achieved.
It’s easy to think of all the mistakes we’ve made but what’s more amazing is all the things we’ve intuitively done right. I’m proud of our endurance (since it’s been a little like being on a stair master) and our ability to hold on to our vision all the while continually finding ways to get around all the many obstacles a small business faces daily. We’re thankful to have been graced with so many good people along the way, and hope that continues. So it’s not a single prized accomplishment, it’s everything that we’ve created thus far and continue to create each day. Five Star Foodies for us is a prized accomplishment!
Five Star Foodies is dedicated to providing quality and kind food. Purchasing their products supports local food providers and a family that cares.
We are a vegan company, but the most important thing to us is the quality and integrity of our ingredients. We strive to promote and provide healthy eating solutions, even if it starts with only one meal a week.
Valerie has the following words of advice for those trying to get started in the food industry.
Get ready for the ride of your life! It’s been like a constant treadmill. There’s so much uncertainty—endurance and courage are your only hope and best friends, but that’s where all your growth lies, personal and business. I’ve been in the food business my whole life and there is a specialness to the relationship bonds that are created under the stress of long hours, creative energies and pushing each other to the limit.
Five Star Foodies is doing what they love, with the people they love. It’s a simple formula, really, and it produces food that is truly made with passion.
You can find Five Star Foodies’ delicious entrées and beverages at Whole Foods Market throughout the mid-Atlantic region, Bigg’s/Remke Markets, Keller’s IGA in Clifton, Clifton Natural Foods, Cincinnati Natural Foods, Park + Vine, Madison’s at Findlay Market, Keegan Seafood, Coffee Emporium, Bon Bonerie, Salt of the Earth, Carl’s Deli, The Loving Hut, Susan’s Natural World, as well as many natural food stores throughout the Tri-County area and Washington D.C.
Click the “I heart this” button to show Five Star Foodies some love and to request more similar stories. To stay up to date about local foods and art that are made with passion, like Made With Passion on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
MWP attended the Homegrown Festival 2010 held in Ann Arbor, Michigan to check out the local food producers, and found a couple of real gems to share.
The Homegrown Festival is put together by Slow Food Huron Valley, the local chapter of Slow Food USA™. Slow Food USA got their name from the belief that we can achieve better quality by “slowing down” the industrialization of food, which has been leading to standardized tastes and the annihilation of thousands of food varieties and flavors. Today, the local chapters are also focusing on growing locally to ensure that we don’t need to rely on imported food for food security, the fair availability of food to local residents.
I walked to Kerrytown, the old red brick road section of Ann Arbor where the Ann Arbor Farmers Market is located and where the third annual festival was being held. I met up with my friend Beth, who had volunteered to work at the festival. She was busy checking IDs and selling tickets for the many wine and beer vendors that attended the show. Shortly, her replacement arrived and Beth and I checked out the booths together.
It was rather chilly at the festival, and it had rained earlier, but there was quite a large turnout. The crowd was slow moving, forcing you to take a patient, leisurely stroll through. The beer and wine tent was constantly packed, as well as the pavilion which also had beer and wine vendors. The covered areas where local restaurants were serving up food was crammed full of people, hungry for a bite of warm food to fight away the cold bite of the damp weather.
Beth and I both got a slice of the Napoletana pizza from Ann Arbor’s own Silvio’s Organic Pizza. The dough was almost like pita bread, and the contents tasted mostly of fresh tomato. I couldn’t really taste the basil, garlic, and oregano. I imagine that it would be better ordered fresh from the restaurant, and I intend to visit their restaurant to try it again, as well as some of the other 20 varieties of organic pizza that they have on their menu.
The booths that just had information and pamphlets from the local food coops, food kitchens, and Project Grow were a bit less busy, allowing plenty of time to read material and ask questions.
Here at MWP, we like to focus on the little guys though, that are full of passion but still struggling to get going. We like to recognize these people, to give them incentive, and to highlight their accomplishments to inspire our readers to find their own passion. There weren’t that many of these at the festival, because booth space was limited, and mostly taken by larger organizations. However, we did find a couple real gems, in the way of Mindo Chocolate Makers and Green Toe Gardens.
Mindo Chocolate Makers
I’m a huge lover of chocolate, and have tried many varieties, including mildly dark chocolate which is my favorite. I was naturally drawn to the booth where Barbara Wilson from Mindo Chocolate Makers was set up. I unfortunately was low on cash, so I didn’t think that I’d be able to try any of their chocolate that day. As I was taking one of their business cards, however, Barbara kindly offered a free sample of both their 67% and 77% chocolate bars from their summer harvest. I normally prefer my chocolate around 60% cocoa, so I tried their lighter one. I thanked her for the sample and walked away from the booth as I let the chocolate melt in my mouth. I expected it to be a bit bitter, but it wasn’t at all. It was nice and smooth, and I instantly thought that I should have tried the darker one, as well.
Mindo Chocolate Makers is a two country operation. They hand select their pods from local organic farmers in Ecuador, where the beans are then fermented, dried, and roasted. The roasted “nibs” are flown into Detroit Metro airport where they’re taken to the processing operation in Dexter, Michigan. Once in Dexter, they’re hand processed into chocolate bars, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. You can purchase the bars and powder at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, in Ann Arbor, and I highly recommend their chocolate. It may be my new favorite chocolate and is one of the few hand crafted single-origin chocolate bars available locally.
Green Toe Gardens
I was intrigued by the booth of Green Toe Gardens, where co-founder Rich Wieske’s smiling bearded face welcomed visitors while constantly showing off honey comb to people who asked about the process.
After waiting in the small line, I walked up to the booth where Wieske was offering free samples and asked which was the most popular. He said that the buckwheat and cinnamon were the most popular that night, but as far as traditional honey went, which he had three varieties of, he suggested the Wild Detroit Honey, which I tried.
The honey was mildly sweet, with a buttery flavor and a slight zing which I imagine was from the unfiltered pollen. Wieske was interested in my feedback, and I said “I’ve never tasted anything like it.” It really was a wonderful, unique flavor.
Green Toe Gardens is a community based apiary in Detroit, Michigan where they bottle raw and unfiltered honey for their own use and for sale. You can buy the honey two Saturdays of the month at Royal Oak Farmers Market and at Avalon Bakery in Detroit.
Even if you’ve had raw honey before, I’d definitely recommend trying all the varieties that Green Toe Gardens offers. Different honeys really do have individual unique flavors, and it’s worth trying every one just for the excitement of having something you’ve never tasted before.
Although the weather has been unseasonably cold for the first three years of the Homegrown Festival, there have always been plenty of people coming to check out the local food scene. We recommend it for a lot of fun, drinking, music, and for finding out what’s going on in the Huron Valley Area of Michigan food scene. We hope to see you there next year!
Fab Ferments™ makes handmade, raw, cultured foods, from organic and local, sustainable ingredients and offers them to the Greater Cincinnati area, and online. Their specialties include: a variety of kimchi and sauerkraut dishes, kombucha, and beet kvass. Included at no extra charge are healing vibrations from crystals, music, art, and love.
They’ll tell you that if your sauerkraut contains vinegar, it’s because it lacks culture.
Jennifer De Marco and Jordan Aversman co-founded Fab Ferments in 2008. They’re also dating. The story of how Fab Ferments came to be, and the story of how they met over food, are, well, pretty much the same thing.
Jennifer was finishing up her college degree in marketing and international business from the University of Cincinnati. She spent her senior year abroad, in Linz Austria.
In Austria, and throughout Europe, Jennifer cultivated a new-found relationship with food. Immersed in the culture, she and fellow students cooked whole meals together, from real ingredients, and spent hours around the table and in the kitchen, sipping wine, and reconnecting over food. There, food and drink were inseparable from other meaningful things in life, like family, friendship, prayer, and love. Sounds like a book title, doesn’t it?
Jennifer brought her new outlook back home to the United States.
I knew I just experienced something amazing. I was very fortunate to live and study abroad and have the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe (and eat lots of real food). However, I had a hard time adjusting back to the American way. It was as if I was going through serious culture shock in the country I was born and raised in.
Thankfully, only weeks after moving back to Cincinnati, she met Jordan.
While Jordan was attending college, he had become interested in organic farming and natural living. He worked in a family owned health food store and spent time working on a biodynamic farm.
In the age of technological advances, I felt an urge to go back to my “roots” and resist becoming involved in the fast-paced computer dominated society.
Jordan believes that we have strayed too far from the old traditions that have kept humankind healthy and nourished.
I began to question the modern influences on human living. In an age of increasing illness and disease, I felt a need to educate others and promote the teachings of the Weston A. Price foundation.
The Weston A. Price Foundation works to raise awareness on the issue. The foundation provides evidence-based information about nutrition, including the proper preparation and consumption of whole, nutritionally dense foods.
Jennifer and Jordan share some mutual friends, so shortly after Jennifer came home to Cincinnati, Jordan ended up in Jennifer’s kitchen. He watched as she boiled down stock from a pot of water, vegetables, and bones. Homemade stock is a common, nutritious staple used in many meals that consist of whole, unprocessed foods.
Jordan and Jennifer talked. He told her about the Weston A. Price foundation, and his shared philosophies on food.
Jennifer was ecstatic to hear that there was an organized group of people in the United States that felt the say way as her. She wasn’t as isolated as she had thought.
I couldn’t believe it. These people choose to eat liver pate, sauerkraut, raw butter, pastured meats, bone broths, fresh organic fruits and veggies. Seriously how do I join?
Jordan had learned to prepare fermented foods by following advice and experimenting with friends. He’d developed a real knack for it, and he’d been sharing his fermented foods with friends and family. Jordan soon shared his techniques with Jennifer, and they made a few batches of sauerkraut together.
Jennifer, with her business background, was convinced that there was a market for the nutritious, life giving, foods that they prepared together. Jordan had always dreamed of starting a food business, and Jennifer’s know-how helped pave the way.
Their combined passion led to the creation of Fab Ferments in 2008. By the beginning of 2009, they were selling their ferments to the public. Jordan is happy to have found the perfect job.
My dream is now my everyday reality. It is fun and rewarding to become close to our customers and continue to provide them with healthy fermented foods.
Jennifer’s travels have inspired her to make fermented foods that originate from all over the world.
The sauerkraut produced by Jennifer and Jordan is different from most store varieties. In traditional, naturally made sauerkraut, no vinegar is used. Instead, Fab Ferments sauerkraut is naturally fermented over a period of weeks, without pasteurization, and without MSG and soy protein isolate. Naturally produced sauerkraut is naturally preserved, so it doesn’t require vinegar for preservation.
This is the kind of sauerkraut with real culture–the kind your grandmother would approve.
If you’re unsure of which variety of Fab Ferment kraut to try first, you might take everyone else’s word for it and try the “Spicy Dill”. Jennifer says that she is the most proud of their Spicy Dill sauerkraut, which is very popular. Buy some to spice up your next wine party, picnic, or family reunion. Fab Ferments also makes kimchi, which is a spicy Korean sauerkraut. Not to be left out, there are also Latin American, Japanese, and traditional German varieties.
Jennifer and Jordan also brew kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented drink, made from real fruit juices and tea. It is fermented with a special kind of fungus, known as a scoby. Fungus, you say? Just a reminder–the yeasts that are used in more widely known drinks like beer and wine are also a kind of fungus. Kombucha has a low enough alcohol content that it is generally considered to be non-alcoholic. Kombucha is great for digestion, and if you enjoy fermented drinks like beer and wine, you’ll love kombucha, and at the same time, you’ll be reaping it’s health benefits.
I was hard pressed to find a kombucha I really liked, until I tried the “Groovy Grape” kombucha from Fab Ferments. I purchased a bottle from Whole Foods in Rookwood Pavilion, chilled it in the fridge at home, and enjoyed every sip. If you’re going to buy your first bottle of kombucha, that’s the flavor I’d try. Even the kids, including the picky one, liked it.
You might be buying foods from Fab Ferments just because they taste really great, or they might remind you of Grandma’s homemade meals. Whatever your reason, Jennifer still gets excited that she is making a difference in our lives, our health, and our planet, and helping us reconnect with our traditional food culture.
I am very blessed to be making a living out of a passion for fermenting food. It is very rewarding to get feedback from all the wonderful people who consume our products and notice an increase of health. I believe that the future of our country’s food production should be focused on local production and consumption. There is an increasing emphasis towards supporting the local food movement and we are honored to be a part of it. It is healthier and better for the economy. Please support us and other local producers in the real food revolution.
You can find fermented food goodness from Fab Ferments at many Greater Cincinnati area stores. Friend Fab Ferments on Facebook to be notified about which farmer’s markets they’ll be at. You can read more about Jennifer, Jordan, and all of their products at their Web site FabulousFerments.com.
I have to admit, I haven’t tried the beet kvass, so please leave some comments letting me know what you think. Also let me know which sauerkraut and kombucha flavor is your favorite. One more thing. If you happen to spot them at one of the markets, please send me a photo.
Now go eat something with culture.