Sometimes the dishwasher marries the boss. They build a successful business and have an adorable child.
Luke grew up in San Diego in a vegetarian family, and his first job was bagging groceries in a health food café. Maggie’s mother’s serious intestinal illness had spurred Maggie’s interest in digestive health, nutrition, and fermentation, and as Luke aptly says, “That was the seed for everything.”
Luke Regalbuto went to work for Maggie Beth Levinger as a dishwasher in her raw food café, when both were students at Humboldt State University in Northern California.
The two fell in love and traveled extensively in Europe and Latin America, “We spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe looking for traditional practices of fermentation.” The book, “The Art of Fermentation,” includes a couple of the recipes they found, including Smreka, a Bosnian juniper drink.
Luke describes Maggie as “a chef at heart and in practice. Her fascination with fermentation grew, both the culinary aspect and the cultural-historical aspects. She has always experimented in the kitchen.”
After their travels, the couple moved to Pt. Reyes, California, where Maggie had grown up. First she made sauerkraut, just for family and friends and then in 2000 for sale at the farmers market. “Her making delicious food for our neighbors turned into cooking classes to teach the important heath considerations of what we eat.”
The birth of their son, Lanzo, was also an opportunity to dispel the myth that children mainly like sweets. “Kids have a stronger craving for sour flavors than people think.”
Their travels contributed a great deal to their business. ”The foods we ate informed our palates, and they sparked our creativity when we were developing our own recipes. But more than anything, our travels gave us the desire to be part of the movement to rekindle traditional food ways. We want to inspire people to make the foods that our ancestors have been making for centuries.”
“Almost every culture has a history of fermentation for food preservation, making alcohol, or treating health issues. They know that fermented foods are beneficial for our bodies and use them as one of the means of staying healthy and healing.”
“We ferment only in ceramic crocks with 100% organic plant ingredients. Our sauerkrauts ferment for 6 weeks to achieve optimum nutrition and flavor. We do it all the best way we know how, because this is our offering.”
“Wild West Ferments is the embodiment of our fascination with the cultural and culinary history of fermentation. Its nutritional value is a powerful motivator for us. It’s real in our lives, and we want to share that with the community, both our near neighbors and an ever-widening circle.”