Andrew Menard’s Mother was Cuban and a chef, which was a great start for his career and his present business.
He grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, with a lot of extended family living nearby. “There was a party at our house at least twice a month. We had a huge table in the dining room, which would be loaded down with amazing food. That scene was literally a picture of how food brings people together.”
Formal culinary training began for Andrew at the Northeastern Culinary Institute. “I acquired the fundamentals there and sharpened my skills. It built on the foundation of my family experiences with my mother. You’re a product of how you’re raised, and I was raised to try anything and everything.”
The food he grew up with was definitely not bland or one dimensional. He took his personal food experiences with his family and expanded on them in culinary school, learning the science of how our taste buds react with each other, and how food is best when it stimulates all the points of your taste senses.
He sought internships in Boston in fine dining restaurants, thinking that was the path he wanted to follow. But after a while he discovered that the crazy hours and the verbal abuse weren’t for him. His mother’s passing cut his ties to the Boston area, and he fulfilled a dream to come to California.
“I had always been infatuated with San Francisco, everything about it, the Golden Gate Bridge, just everything. I moved out here with one suitcase and a willingness to work and learn.”
One of his early positions was with the Zuni Café and its famous Chef Judy Rogers. He also worked in catering, as a private chef, and helped to open a couple of restaurants. His entrepreneurial drive led to his joining with two friends to make a frozen sauce business.
“I said, sure I’ll help you. Next thing you know, they went on vacation, and asked me if I would try improving it while they were gone. I tinkered with the recipe, and when they came back, they couldn’t believe how great it had turned out. They decided to move on to another project, but I decided to follow my passion developing a successful sauce company.”
“Late at night, after work, I would go to a commissary and make sauce till all hours. I was selling pints of it at farmer’s markets, and out of the five I was selling, the tikka masala was the winner.”
With his “day job” as a sous chef, he took on a co-packer and tackled the selling part of the business. Andrew had never made a “cold call,” but in true can-do spirit, he launched into training himself to do it well.
“I practiced and practiced. I actually called stores in New York, knowing they would turn me down, just to get the experience. You have to do some wrong things to figure out what the right things are,” he laughs. “The turning point was when a buyer who had told me to drop off a sample, said he’d take a case, right on the spot. I dashed out to my car to handwrite an invoice. I was so excited about that first sale!” His sales expanded rapidly, and the sauce was in 30 stores in 9 months.
Now Andrew is working on building his brand, adding other ethnic, vegan, world-flavors sauces. His second sauce, a Coconut Caribbean Jerk, is well into development. He’s using chia seeds for thickener and moringa leaves for added nutrition. With a nod to his mother’s Sofrito, that’s another sauce he’s developing.
Next steps are to develop food service customers at the hot bars in stores where his product is already on the shelf.
Andrew is so tuned into both the culinary and business sides of being a food entrepreneur, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He is an inspiration to those new food developers coming behind him.