Blazin’ a Trail with Local & Farm Fresh Food
by Shellie Mierwald
Greetings fellow Chileheads! My name is Shellie Mierwald and I own Sweet Heat Gourmet. I’m very passionate about what I do with the local foods movement. Our award winning BBQ and hot sauces are made with as much farm fresh products as possible. Please feel free to contact me at sh*******@gm***.com, I’m happy to answer your questions! For Chilehead Monthly, I’ll be chatting about farm to table food and how spicy things should make your food taste better!
So tonight I was talking to my good friend, Al Goldenberg, about the Great Chicago Fiery Foods Fest, and we got to talking, (and joking, I’m naïve, but I get there eventually), about his upcoming spicy blog articles. I was kind of kidding around about writing something for him, but then I realized how much I actually miss this! You see, many moons ago I was a Chef, and I LOVED it. Then life and kids happened, and I got a “normal” job. I put my husband through college and raised my kids. I did what was expected of me, but that burning passion for culinary never left me, ever. I couldn’t wait to get back there, and I couldn’t think of how I possibly could.
After I raised my three amazing daughters, I decided to focus on myself, for the first time in a long time. What did “I” want to do? I wanted to cook, and make people happy. So in 2008, I went back to college at the age of 40. My college is over an hour away, and I commuted 6 days a week to pursue my dream. On paper it didn’t look that hard. I thought I’d finish easy-peasy in 2 years. Wrong! The labs were over 10 hours long. Some started at 6 a.m., which meant I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. (I really hated that class) Yet, I did it, and I graduated in 2011 at the age of 43.
After I graduated, what did I want to do? Work in a hot, super hot, restaurant for 90 hours a week and miss my family? Open a restaurant? While I thought about things, I was making sauces with local ingredients and it was like BOOM! You should be doing this!
I thought about my chef days. About being a young (thinner!) attractive female chef. And how I wasn’t taken seriously by anyone. About how hard I had to fight to earn respect. Did I really want to do this again? What message would I be sending my three daughters? I was scared, but I was more determined. I was going to do this, and do it I did.
I thought the focus of my business would be BBQ sauces and condiments, but it has turned out to be hot sauces. My husband and I have very much loved the spicy community the entire 24 years we’ve been together. I didn’t think much would come of my making our hot sauces, but it ended up being the biggest part of what we do. I went in with a “no shame in my game” attitude and just started immersing myself in the Chilehead world. Oh man, what a reception! It has been the single most inspiring, supportive, incredible community I have ever been a part of. Does it have drama? Sure! Do I care? Not really! I focus on those who are supportive and offer help. I’ve been in the culinary/restaurant world for 31 years, and this is the single most helpful group of foodies I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Final thoughts? Do what you love. Now. Don’t be afraid to reach out, and don’t be afraid to blaze a trail. You got this.
Sweet Heat Gourmet
1919 Fairwood Lane
State College, PA 16803