Meet & Eat: Joanna Cybulski and Ross Hutchison, BaconMarmalade

Meet and Eat: NY

Conversations with chefs and food personalities in New York City.

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[Photograph: BaconMarmalade]

This Greenpoint couple has created a condiment from one of the most irresistible ingredients on earth: bacon. What started as a culinary mishap of sorts has now become a thriving business, with Joanna and Ross making batches and batches to keep up with customer demand (see this food. curated. video for the full backstory). At $9 for a four-ounce jar, this tasty treat would make an affordable holiday gift for any bacon-lover on your list. We pulled Joanna and Ross away from the bacon for a chat.

Name: Joanna Cybulski and Ross Hutchison
Occupation: Creators/Owners, BaconMarmalade
Location: Greenpoint
Website: baconmarmalade.com Twitter: @baconmarmalade

Rumor has it that BaconMarmalade was the result of a (tasty) mistake. Tell us how that happened. A few years ago Ross was working on a yacht as the chef and wanted to prepare an "all-American" lunch for the European guests on board. The only bacon he had on board got way too crispy to make the perfect BLT, so it was blended with a little sugar and vinegar to make it into a complex chutney. The guests raved about the BLT and the bacon was saved. Fast forward a couple years and Ross started using his bacon revelation in his catering and soon it found its way into jars and in the hands of bacon lovers everywhere!

When did you realize that this was something that would appeal to the masses and decide to produce it on a larger scale? Back in February of 2010 we sold at our first market and instantly realized we had something amazing on our hands when we sold our 60 jars in less than 2 hours. We love seeing the instant feedback after potential customers sample the BaconMarmalade. When those same customers came back for more and sent friends to try our product, we knew we had something great.

Did you experiment with different types of bacon before you settled on one? What do you use? The bacon we use is Leidy's from Sauderton, PA, and is a great bacon we found at a local butcher in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We didn't have to experiment too much because everyone loved the product Leidy's produced.

What are your favorite ways to eat it? Do you ever cook with it, or just eat it on various foodstuffs? We love it swirled in our eggs in the morning and it elevates the taste of any sandwich. The first time it was used at one of our parties as a dip for mini corndogs, and then the next week on a endive / blue cheese/ BaconMarmalade bite. My new love is making a warm bacon vinaigrette using a teaspoon of BaconMarmalade melted into our favorite French dressing. The sweet flavors are balanced by the tangy, smokey undertones, so it pairs well with most foods.
What was the biggest challenge in starting a small business selling a homemade product? We both have other full-time jobs. To get your brand visible to the community you have to do a lot of legwork when you first start up and all of our free time gets spent on BaconMarmalade. There are long hours, and markets take a few days to prepare for. It's all about the satisfaction gained by owning your own business, and watching it grow is worth all the sacrifices.
Do you have any advice for Serious Eaters who might want to start selling a homemade product? The best homemade products are the ones that make people come back. They are also the ones that are unique—these types of products basically sell themselves. There are millions of cupcakes and cookies and preserves and pickles so it becomes very hard to set yourself apart from the competition. Concentrate on making an impact on your customers and you will have great return.

Any new BaconMarmalade varieties or products in the works? We currently sell a Spicy BaconMarmalade at most of the markets in which we participate and it is always a hit. It's very rewarding when people come to these markets just so they can get their hands on a jar. It is like gold to them, and we love it!
Where can Serious Eaters get their hands on some? Do you know of any restaurants using it? As of now we mail order our product online at BaconMarmalade.com and at a NYC-based kitchen supply store called Whisk. We are also always doing area markets, so always check the website or our Twitter and Facebook pages. Paulie Gee's Pizza in Greenpoint serves up an amazing pie made with our Spicy BaconMarmalade and it's one of their best sellers!