Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 61 of 131

know how to make any other cheeses, so I went back to Italy. I went around to cheese factories that were in towns where I had friends and I would get an introduction to the owners of the factories, and they were always just delighted to help me and take me to their top cheesemaker and let me ask any ques- tions," she says. "Every night I would write down everything I was learning. I thought, I will do this like I do with a recipe in a cook- book—and I made the cheeses my own." Winning Awards, Growing Connections That was in 1984, and the following year Lambert learned about a fledgling organiza- tion called the American Cheese Society and its new competition. "A customer suggested I enter my cheeses," she recalls. "And I won! My cheese won tons and tons of national awards and that was the accreditation I needed to sell more." Around the same time, Lambert heard about the Society for American Cuisine, based out of Louisville, Ky., which was host- ing symposiums across the country. "This was all new. California cuisine was just get- ting going, Southwestern cuisine was just getting going in Texas," she says. Attending one such event, "I met Wolfgang Puck, I met everybody. And all these young chefs from Dallas were there and they thought they were so fancy to be there, and they were so surprised to see me, passing out my cheese. It was a real turning point for me." Things blossomed from there. "Food was becoming more important in Dallas, and these young chefs who were my custom- ers became well-known across the U.S.," Lambert explains. "They would go to other cities and cook with my cheese and those chefs would become my customers." In the decade after and beyond Mozzarella Company's launch, higher-end grocery stores began cropping up in Texas. Tom Thumb's Simon David became a customer, followed closely by Whole Foods Market and Central Market. Marketing by Word of Mouth As it did then, the business still grows by word of mouth. "We don't do any advertis- ing, we never have. We are too little and we can't afford it," Lambert acknowledges. While Mozzarella Company has grown to 20 employees, none of them is in sales. There is no need, since the business doesn't use national distributors, if only for an early miscalculation. "When I created my company I didn't know that you had to have special pricing for distributors," Lambert admits. "So it was never factored into my pricing, and so I just could not do that." What Lambert does do in the realm of marketing is run a website (launched in the 1990s), where customers can order cheese shipped directly from the factory. She also has released two cookbooks, which she says help teach people about cheese and its versatility. The first book, The Cheese Lover's Cookbook and Guide, published by Simon and Schuster in 2000, is a definitive cheese guide, detailing everything from storage to serving, with recipes. "I had those recipe cards I used to pass out so people would know how to use our cheeses," Lambert says of the book 's genesis. "It is the first modern cheese cookbook and it just has a lot of information." Cheese, Glorious Cheese, a more focused recipe book, came out in 2007. "I love it," she admits. "I am a little missionary for cheese." While Lambert attributes much of her success to being in the right place at the right time, she knows her hard work and focus played an even bigger role. "When I started and I thought I was going to sell to stores and they could not sell the cheese, I was so determined," she explains. "If I had been close-minded, I would not have lasted 6 months." PAULA LAMBERT Years in specialty food: 32 Favorite food: Cheese, of course. But really anything Italian—I love it because it is so fresh. I love fresh vegetables and light wines and delicious breads and cheeses. Last great meal: I had a wonderful meal at Stephan Pyle's in Dallas. I started with three different kinds of oysters, all from the Northeast, then three different ceviche, and my main course was branzino cooked in a wood-burning oven with vanilla-scented fennel on top, served on a bed of big pearl couscous. (I'd had it two weeks before and I ordered the exact same thing again!) If I weren't running my business: I would like to be an artist or an architect or just traveling the world. One piece of advice I'd give to a new business: You don't have any idea how much work is involved. Things are never going to turn out the way you expect and you have got to be adaptable. Listen to your customers, and really hear what they are saying; if you don't you will not succeed. Colleen Curtis is a New York City– based food and lifestyle writer. SPRING 2014 59 ProducerProfiile_MozzCo.indd 59 3/18/14 8:10 AM

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