The Austin Chronicle


Not business as usual

By Virginia B. Wood, May 1, 2015, Food

Aunt Blue Bell: More than 30 years ago when my older sister and her family moved to Houston from the rural Arkansas delta, my young nephews were inundated with introductions to big-city life and lots of new family members. Blue Bell ice cream was something new and exotic to them, because at the time, the Brenham company's product was only distributed in Texas. After a summer of sharing meals and celebrating holidays with new family members, my nephew Todd Frank scanned the room one day and queried, "Who is my Aunt Blue Bell? She sure makes good ice cream," and I've thought of the little creamery in Brenham as Aunt Blue Bell ever since. I'm betting that we're not unique in that fond familial affiliation with the Texas ice cream company, and I'm hopeful that kind of brand loyalty will see it through the current difficulties caused by listeria contamination. According to the most recent press information, after a complete product recall the company began simultaneous employee training and intensive cleaning programs at its three production facilities in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas on Monday, April 27. "We intend to make a fresh start and that begins with intensive cleaning and enhanced training. This is a paradigm-shifting event at Blue Bell and we want to put in place new systems to drive continuous improvement," said Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse.

Oh Kimchi fans were distressed to read last week's Facebook post from owner Abbi Cheek Lunde explaining why she and her husband Duane have closed their wildly successful local artisan food company and moved to the Ozarks in Missouri. The Lundes' remarkable kimchi products were based on techniques and family recipes that were part of Abbi's Korean heritage, and the little company developed a large and loyal customer base in less than two years of operation. Unfortunately, each new step up the ladder of success brought more work and difficulties that finally overwhelmed them. Abbi describes it this way: "The government was continually pressuring us to change ingredients, pay for more testing we couldn't afford to meet the same standards as a large manufacturer, and prove the quality of a product that they had no previous knowledge of. We were guinea pigs for the state, and the pressure to do the right thing versus what would keep us financially afloat destroyed us."

Meeting young restaurant namesake Olivia Holmes over the weekend reminded me how much I enjoy sharing food community birth announcements. Chef and restaurateur Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck and his wife, Dr. Molly Brown Gilmore, welcomed son Field Jackson Gilmore on April 15. Sporting a middle name in honor of chef and grandfather Jack Gilmore, Field was 20 inches long and seven pounds, four ounces at birth. Staff and friends at Sala & Betty have celebrated the April 14 arrival of Leopold Mahle (20.5 inches long and eight pounds, one ounce), son of executive chef Charles Mahle and his wife, Juliana Marca, who is an assistant manager at Gardner.

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