One of a Kind Show


Culinary Creations: Get to Know These One of a Kind Makers

11 . 05 . 2021

Get your taste-buds ready! We asked three One of a Kind Show makers who will be featured in our Gourmet Market some questions to get to know them a little better before we meet them in person this December.

Old Salt Merchants is a Hispanic woman-owned and operated provisions company led by Monique Rodriguez based in Berkeley, CA. Monique's mission is to ignite and expand her customers’ palates by providing high-quality salts, sugars, teas and spices that are bold and irresistibly unique.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Monique: My love affair with flavors and ingredients started while exploring my mother’s spice cabinet as a child. My time spent in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America exposed me to a wide variety of flavors and cuisines. I realized that many of those new and interesting flavors are not recognized and celebrated in the U.S. This is what inspired me to start my business.

What is the best gift you ever received?

Monique: My signed copy of Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Monique: I've always known that I wanted to share my passion for food with others in a way that encourages people to gather around meals for fun, exploration and conversation. I've dabbled in food photography which is an awesome creative outlet for me. I'm also working on creating a cookbook using our products throughout each unique recipe!

Chicago's go-to bar wherever you are! Present Tense offers bottled cocktails from award winning Chicago bartender Derek Mercer. Formerly of Michelin starred Spiaggia and Blackbird, which closed due to the pandemic, Derek opened Present Tense as a ghost bar doing pop-ups, cocktail catering, cocktail delivery, bar consulting, and special events.

How and why did you decide to do what you do?

Derek: I've been in the culinary arts and Food & Beverage industry for 14 years. I've had office jobs, sales jobs, and government jobs, but the excitement of being in a kitchen or behind a bar can't be beat.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Derek: My inspiration comes from the seasons, the weather, my mentors, industry peers, and bartenders I look up to.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

Derek: My wife's wedding ring is pretty badass. It's made from diamonds given to me from her grandmother and from my mother. My wife is an architect and she designed the ring. She designed it so the wedding band and engagement band seat together in the coolest way. Then a little local jeweler who is a family friend made the ring into reality. Talk about love and care going into a one of a kind product! It took a village.

What is the best gift you ever received?
Hmmm, well I didn't know it at the time, its not really that amazing of a gift itself, but it was just so damn thoughtful. A girlfriend in college took my Zippo lighter and had it engraved with my name D. Mercer and a fish on it, a bass. I still remember my roommate saying "dude, that's a lifelong gift!" He was right. I found that lighter recently and it only now, 20 years later occurred to me he was right. Casey sure knew how to give a thoughtful gift! She knew I loved fire, bass fishing, and made it personal. Bravo!

Jon Mulholland started Pasta Pappone in 2011 in Chicago, selling flavored pasta at one local farmers market. Over the years, it became more and more popular—so much so that it could no longer be an "on the side" job! Jon's wife, Mary Beth, would help at farmers markets and shows and loved the possibility of making Pasta Pappone everyone's favorite flavored pasta.

Describe your work.

Mary Beth: We mix herbs, vegetables and spices then each batch is cut and dried using slow, time honored techniques. High quality, all natural ingredients with no additives, preservatives or egg makes our pasta a cut above the rest. We upgrade your simple pantry staple into a mealtime indulgence.

We inspire people to make memories gathered in the kitchen or around the table. Our unique flavors liven up your meals, whether you're a gourmand or only know how to boil water. From our kitchen to yours, we can't wait for you to taste the difference.

What are you bringing to the show?

Mary Beth: We are bringing 12 flavors of pasta plus 5 gluten free flavors! So many gift options for the food lovers in your life. Holiday gift boxes will be on available, too, with the option to ship nationwide, in addition to all the flavors we offer to purchase on the spot!

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Mary Beth: We are a husband and wife run company and take great pride in raising their family and growing their small food business with homegrown roots.

Meet these makers and others who craft delicious creations at our Gourmet Market this December!