“When you try to turn your passion into profit, there is always a risk of killing the love you once had for it. For me, it was about starting small so that I could grow at my own pace, and not feel like it was all-or-nothing.”
Stressed out from work? Do you dread the thought of yet another day of work in the office? Don’t worry, it’s just a jar of pickles – that is until you find out what is the thing that keeps you going during difficult times. In today’s host spotlight, meet Kelly, Master Food Preserver and Founder of McVicker Pickles. Find out what motivated Kelly to quit her job after catching the ‘canning bug’ and to start sharing the magic of preservation to others in her classes!
Hi Kelly, can you introduce yourself and tell us about the classes that you offer through Verlocal?
Hi, folks! My name is Kelly McVicker, and I’m the founder of McVicker Pickles. Based in San Francisco, I make pickles, mustards, and other preserved goods in small batches – always with respect to the seasonality of our wonderful California produce.
While I love creating new products, I am equally passionate about teaching people how to pickle, can, jam & preserve. I like working with collaborations, so teaching allows me to connect with new people every week.
I start each class with a tasting, whether it’s mustard, pickles or jam. This allows me to taste-test new recipes on my willing students, and get candid feedback before I finalize the product. Win-win!
We know that many guests love your classes! When did you first become interested/passionate in food preservation?
I have been interested in food preservation since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, as they say back home in Kansas. My family is full of farmers and teachers on both sides going back several generations, so I guess the combination of the two is very much in my blood.
Before I launched McVicker Pickles, I had a small screenprinting studio called Deadbeatsister. In a lot of ways, pickling and printing are very similar: you’re making these editions of the same thing, all of which have subtle differences. Both are process-based, and both require you to have a system that allows you to work quickly. And both offer the satisfaction of tangible results at the end of a day.
Where does your inspiration come from for your new classes? What is the story that made you want to pursue your passion and become a host?
I started my business in 2013, after realizing that I needed to bring creativity and entrepreneurship into my life. I had a successful career in women’s rights work, but unfortunately most of the time it required me to sit behind a desk for eight or nine hours a day. I think many of us who find ourselves in office-based, sedentary lifestyles feel this real urge to make something with our hands and see a product at the end of the day.
How would you describe the link between your classes and the community around you?
Food preservation is inherently communal. Of course, it can be done alone, but it’s so much easier and more fun when you get a crew together to make an assembly line—someone chops the veggies, someone adds the spices, someone fills the brine. I love teaching those steps and seeing how they bring people together.
Preserving food is also an ancient tradition that exists in every single culture on the planet. Whether it’s kimchi or sauerkraut, umeboshi or kosher dill pickles, it’s a way of connecting to the diverse international community right here in the Bay area. I’ve gotten recipes from Lyft drivers and grannies at the farmers’ markets more than I can remember–I wish I had them all in writing!
How long have you been living in the Bay Area? What would you recommend to someone who just moved to this city?
I’ve lived in San Francisco for eleven years, so it is definitely home for me now. To anyone moving here, I would say just one word: WALK. This city is so beautiful when you explore it on foot, and it’s small enough that you can cover most of it on a good urban hike in one day. I love picking a neighborhood and just wandering. San Francisco hides its secrets well and changes often, so I’m constantly discovering something new.
Tell us about your favorite moment/ biggest achievement since you started teaching your classes.
A very recent achievement was winning a 2017 Good Food Award for my Curried Cauliflower. I got to attend the awards ceremony just a few weeks ago, where Chef Alice Waters awarded me a medal and bought a jar from me after tasting it. That was a wonderful feeling.
As far as classes, the memorable moments come frequently. Last summer I ran into two former students who have since gone on to become pro preservers–they make their own mustard, enter their recipes in state fairs, and are also Master Food Preservers now, like me. I couldn’t be prouder of them!
What is your most favorite recipe & story behind it?
Again, I have to go with my Curried Cauliflower pickle. I love Indian food, and after traveling to India several years ago with my job, I brought more Indian flavors to my preserved foods. The Curried Cauliflower is a riff on those flavors. It’s awesome on its own, or chopped up and mixed in with egg salad or potato salad. It’s even featured in a new cocktail at Finn Town in the Castro–go order a Baghdad By the Bay and experience it for yourself!
What are your goals for the future?
I have a dream of writing a book about pickling and preserving one day. I would love to travel to different parts of the world and just visit old ladies and pickle with them all day. I just need to find the time and money to do it.
Any recommendations for someone who wants to pursue their passion for a career?
When you try to turn your passion into profit, there is always a risk of killing the love you once had for it. For me, it was about starting small so that I could grow at my own pace, and not feel like it was all-or-nothing. I incorporated entrepreneurship into my life well before I quit my job, so that took a lot of the pressure off. The biggest thing is, don’t wait for a perfect moment–it will never come! Small, weekly steps are better than one big leap that you might regret, or that might put you in a bind financially.
What does Verlocal mean to you?
Verlocal has been an enormous help to me as a one-woman business. I don’t have a marketing team or salesperson, but Verlocal makes it really easy to pull everything off. The platform is easy for me to update, and reach people who would never discover me otherwise. I’ve had a few folks take all three of my Verlocal classes, which tells me that it’s working well for everyone
Want to start pickling? Share your story on why you want to get started in food preservation or leave your questions on the pickling process! Comment below before February 24, 2017 and one lucky commenter will get to attend a picking class with Kelly!
If you are a host on Verlocal and would love to feature on host spotlight, send us an email at email@example.com with a short paragraph about why you want to be featured!
Share your thoughts now.