An interview with Sam Paone, owner and founder of Golden State Pickle Works.
How did you get your start with Golden State Pickle Works? What inspired you?
My cooking background in restaurants is where I first learned how to pickle. It’s a skill that’s necessary in a professional kitchen to keep waste to a minimum. After moving to Sonoma and seeing what farmers and ranchers were bringing into the restaurant, that made me want to preserve their hard work and beautiful bounty – I started saving all the “unusable” parts of vegetables – leaves and stems from cauliflower, chard stems, radish tops…. all of a sudden, we had crocks of pickles, kraut and kimchi, vinegars and kombuchas lining the walls.
After leaving the restaurant business, I would shop for ferments in the grocery stores, but everything I was buying was mediocre at best. I knew this stuff was delicious, but I was buying one unsatisfying pickle after another, and knew I had to be part of the conversation to change that. Would people eat healthier if it was delicious? I thought so….
What do you love most about your work?
That we really do help people. The process by which we make our products, develops natural probiotics through fermentation, preserving nutrients in food and breaking the foods down to a more digestible form, creating beneficial enzymes, B-Vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. The best is when a customer going through chemo mentions she can eat, digest and overcome some of the side effects brought on by treatment. Or when people tell me our products are helping them sleep through the night, when previously they’d wake multiple times a night due to leg cramps.
I’m also very proud of the fact that we waste nothing. The entire vegetable is used one way or another in our kitchen. All the fermented veggies and herbs that don’t make it into the finished jars get dehydrated and combined with seaweed and seeds for a Pickle Powder Seasoning. All the unusable parts like dirty roots or peels go right into compost. Zero in the trash.
What’s your go-to recipe this time of year?
Oh jeez. You’re asking at such an abundant time… I know how lucky we are to have such amazing produce, and I hate to mess with perfection… what I’ve been eating A LOT of lately are Heirloom Tomatoes and our Everything Bagel Dressing. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll pick some basil from my garden but most of the time I’m too lazy. 🙂
What is the most adventurous thing you have pickled?
Well, I guess it would be pigs feet, although in parts of the world, it’s totally normal.
What’s your favorite thing to pickle?
Whatever will pleasantly surprise a customer while expanding their idea of what “pickle” means. For some, it’s a Kosher Dill Radish, for others maybe Sauerkraut. For me, it’s Kimchi. But I have equal fulfillment when someone tastes something of ours and smiles.
What is a must-have condiment in every fridge?
I used to say hot sauce, but now its Allium Mayonnaise. It’s like an aioli on steroids.
How does the Napa Farmers Market support your business?
The Napa Farmers Market gives amazing effort to host a well-rounded community center for farmers, ranchers, artisan producers and artists. Not only can I source produce there for my business, the market is a great place to show locals and visitors of Napa what we do, and because there is such variety in vendors, most customers have a great time seeing everything it has to offer… and happy people like to support us.