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By Norb Garrett
As a young child growing up in New Jersey, Meredith Hill remembers her grandmother, covered in flour and baking powder, whizzing about the kitchen spinning up delicious baked goods and dinners.
Hill recalls sharing her grandmother’s love for cooking, and as a teen beginning to experiment in the kitchen, seeking to find ways to flavor up her mom, Hinda’s, “bland meals.”
“But she makes a mean chicken soup,” Hill says.
That early exposure to cooking and culinary arts took a backseat as Hill headed off to college and began a 40-year career as a corporate trainer. But this past year, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing her and many Americans back into their kitchens with local restaurants closed or limited, she tapped into her love for cooking and created a new business making flavored butters from scratch, called Flava’ Butta.
“As a kid, I loved experimenting with foods and flavors,” says Hill, who moved to California in the late 1970s and has called San Clemente home for the past 2½ years. “When COVID-19 hit, I had to do something, because I was cooking three meals a day at home and I needed to stay healthy. I’m picky about what goes into my food.”
So, she started experimenting with food again. She blended unsalted butter with fresh ingredients such as shallots, rosemary, garlic, truffle oil, parmesan and parsley. One such batch impressed a friend who was enjoying a shrimp-and-grits dish; he told her she should sell her flavored butters locally.
The entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and after doing some quick market research and realizing there was no direct competition, she started reaching out to local farmers markets. She found a willing advocate in Laguna Beach.
Last October on Halloween Day, armed with nothing more than 25 containers with five of her handmade, hand-labeled butter flavors, she made her first sale, and another, then another. At the end of the day, she’d sold $250 worth of her butters.
“I just winged it, but at the end of the day, I was like, wow, I sold $250 worth,” she says.
Flava’ Butta was off and running, as was her childhood dream of a culinary career. Despite still working a full-time job with Panasonic Avionics, she now offers 21 regular flavors (savory, sweet, herbs and spices, aromatic and citrus), including six vegan options.
Her 28-year-old daughter, Moira (an executive chef in San Diego), has helped expand the product line from its original five flavors.
On weekends, Hill can be found at the Laguna Beach farmers market (Saturdays, 8-11 a.m.) and Laguna Niguel farmers market (Sundays, 8-11 a.m.), where she’s built up a loyal fan base. Her full line of products and accompanying recipes can be found online at culinaryfusionarts.com, and she also hand-delivers orders within a 45-mile radius of San Clemente.
Business is exceeding her expectations, and she’s recently hired some part-time help and moved operations to a rented commercial kitchen three days a week. She’s planning on launching a line of flavored pasta to accompany the butters and hopes to possibly open a kitchen in San Clemente offering culinary classes.
“I want to help people have fun cooking and take their home cooking to the next level,” says Hill. “Butter is actually good for you, and with our fresh, hand-selected blends, this lets people experiment and be great chefs.”
More info about Flava’ Butta can be found at culinaryfusionarts.com