“Gee, I Sure Wish I Could Find Some . . . ”
That’s how Kitty Keller started.
Craving tiptop ingredients, sussing them out,
Playing in the pantry, dreaming up new combos
. . . et voilà!
KL Keller in her Kitchen. Now in yours.
I hadn't set out to found an import company at first . . .
I never could type, so a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in French didn’t get a gal too far in 1971. For that reason, I went into sales. In some form or another I remained in sales for the next 20 years. After living near Aix-en-Provence, France for some of the happiest months of my life, I founded KL Keller in 1994 with three oils from Huilerie J. Leblanc. Why? I wanted walnut oil for my kitchen that wasn't rancid and figured other folks would as well.
My business plan was simple:
"I bet that other people will love these too." My sales strategy was equally sophisticated: "I can always give these as gifts if I can't sell them . . . ." And so started KL Keller Foodways. I have since developed an excellent import range, thanks to the deep friendships I've made moseying around the countrysides of France and Spain, and the collaboration of farmers, housewives and wine makers.
"Gee, it sure would be great to make some mustard with the vinegar of Banyuls."
So we started our own range of products. From Banyuls Vinegar Mustard to Basque Pepper Honey, each KL Keller product echoes my original desire of "I want this in my kitchen!".
How do we choose our ingredients?
The simple answer is: Quality. First, a product has to taste great. And the better a product is grown and made, the better it tastes. The complex answer? It's about the farmers. My grandparents were farmers and social products of the Depression. I grew up in Danville, California, across the creek from a 4,000-acre ranch, running around with cattle and sheep all day. You've got your raccoons, your skunks, your possums, your hilarious young coyotes learning to howl and yodel (they're adolescents so their voices are breaking). Living in this environment, I was raised to honor nature, labor and the fruits of the land.
Why does it matter?
Big-business farming has taken a toll on American life. Things have become more centralized, with huge scale and more homogenization. When we support individual producers or small cooperatives, we are each casting a social vote for the farmers and artisans who gave physically of themselves so that we can enjoy, with those we love, the communion of a well-grown, well-made meal.
Bringing it back home
Every day, as I sell our products and talk about the small establishments and cooperatives we represent, I feel I am making a concrete gesture of respect to my own family's farming legacy and other rural people throughout the world—the farmers and makers who get up every day to claim their place in the modern world through hands-to-the-earth toil.
Putting it out there
At KL Keller Foodways, we will continue telling the stories of our farmers and artisan producers, advocating for them at every step in the process; enthusing about the food we sell; and dreaming up new pairings of ingredients.