People start their own business for many reasons. Some say they didn’t want to work for anyone else. I just wanted to create tasty cookies and was hoping they would make people happy.
I love working in my commercial kitchen, especially at 5:30 a.m. when it is just me, the oven and my cookie-dough balls. It is my happy place.
Creating yummy cookie flavors is so much fun. Don’t get me wrong: it is really hard work. I think the biggest misconception about working in a kitchen is that it is glamorous. HA! Trust me, it is not glamorous at all.
I am covered in flour, cocoa powder and butter most of the time. There are timers going off and huge ventilation fans going at all times so I can barely hear myself think. I am constantly washing my hands like a crazy person.
The payoff is that I get to sell my cookies at my favorite place: the farmers’ markets. The Napa Farmers Market has such a great vibe and sense of community. I love being surrounded by adventurous people and cookie monsters.
The Napa Farmers Market has about 40 local small businesses selling their goods each week. There are 20 specialty food businesses offering an assortment of goods like extra-virgin olive oils, fresh-ground almond and peanut butters, handmade chocolate bars, gourmet pasta, great Mexican tamales and enchiladas, stuffed buns, tea, coffee, yummy pupusas and real French crepes handmade by a genuine Frenchman. The market also has a great assortment of handmade baked goods from pop tarts, bagels and cinnamon rolls to croissants.
Need a gift? The market has about 20 local artists who create handmade goods like soap, beautiful jewelry, candles, skin-care products, leather belts and pottery. These small businesses do not have a brick-and-mortar store. High rents for retail space are what drive many small businesses to the Napa Farmers Market to sell. Some are cottage-business entrepreneurs who work out of their own home kitchen. Others produce their wares in a certified commercial kitchen. Many of the jewelry artisans and other crafters have a home studio or allocated area in their homes as a workspace.
At the farmers market, small-business owners can test new items and tweak or perfect existing products. They get instant feedback from shoppers. Even when we don’t ask, we hear what people want. People are not shy about letting you know if they dislike something or would prefer it slightly different.
This interaction is invaluable for small-business owners like me. We can make adjustments to production without having to have a board of directors’ meeting to get approval on some minor change.
Most small-business owners start their business because they want to work daily on something they love doing, be it baking, jewelry-making, woodworking or leather tooling. Of course, as a small-business owner, you also end up being the marketing person, human-resources department, accountant, debt collector, IT person, purchasing agent and all-around crazy person. Still worth it. We small-business owners love to share information with each other, too. We are a special community within this great community of Napa.
We are so lucky to have all this talent at the farmers’ market every week. Come out to the Napa Farmers Market on a Tuesday or Saturday morning and check out all the great talent in this valley.
Here is one of my favorite apple recipes. And you thought I was going to give you my secret recipe for my cookies. Hahaha. Serve with a pork roast or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
3 pounds of apple, such as Jonathan, Gravenstein or Golden Delicious
Sugar and cinnamon to taste
Peel and core the apples. Cut into large chunks. Put the chunks in a large pot with enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, about ½ cup. Cover and cook over low heat for 2-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the apples are not sticking to the bottom of the pot or burning. Add a little more water if necessary.
The apples are done when they reach the consistency you like. If you like a chunky applesauce, cook less time. If you like a smooth applesauce, cook a little longer. Do not let the applesauce brown or cook too long or you will make apple butter.
Add sugar and cinnamon to taste. Stir well, then cool to room temperature. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Makes about 4 cups
Chef Derek Corsino of Lo Strano Gatto will demonstrate a recipe for Macaroons at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 11 a.m. The demonstration is free and a recipe will be provided.