Flavoring the Resistance: Our Q&A with Amy Larson of Overseasoned

Being a woman-owned business, it’s important to us that our blog highlights not only the work that we do, but also the work of other women that inspire us. In honor of Women’s History Month, we decided to start featuring other female entrepreneurs that are using their passion and tenacity to empower others. 

We were lucky enough to chat with Amy Larson, the founder of Overseasoned, about how she started her website and how she pivoted her business into the retail space after coining the awesome phrase “smash the garlic and the patriarchy”. Amy is using her platform to create exposure for other women in the food industry and to promote a balance between men and women where cooking is celebrated regardless of gender. In our conversation with her we discussed how she got into the food industry, where the inspiration for her famous slogan came from and her advice to other women just starting their careers in food. Check it out below!

Tell us about your background. I grew up in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and went to UMass Amherst for my undergraduate degree, where I majored in hospitality and business management. During my time at UMass, I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy and got to study sustainable food and food business (along with Italian). After college, I worked at a few restaurants in Warwick and Newport before deciding to switch my career focus to marketing. I moved to Boston, which is where I live now, and started working in marketing in the tech industry.

How did you learn how to cook? I grew up around food. I was always cooking with my mom, grandma, sister, aunts- that’s the way it was in our family, so I was interested in food and cooking from an early age. I worked in bakeries and restaurants throughout high school and college but never had any formal training. I did take a few food classes in pastry and pizza making as well as knife skills but most of the cooking abilities that I have come from what I learned growing up or what I taught myself.

How did you get into the food industry/how did Overseasoned begin? Although I love my job in marketing (I still work there full-time), I realized that I had a lot to share with the food world. Colleagues, friends and family would constantly ask me for recipes or had questions on dishes that they were making and I wanted a creative outlet to share my recipes with them and the world! So in May 2016 I started producing a monthly cookbook called Overseasoned with 10-12 recipes that I would create and test out and choose which ones should make the cut. I would write out the recipes by hand, take photos of the finished product, create watercolor illustrations on the pages and then mail them out myself. I absolutely loved the whole process of coming up with recipes for others to make at home and creating the cookbook itself. So for two years I continued creating a monthly publication with recipes that I developed but also featured guest recipes if someone had a seasonal dish that I really loved or something unique that I hadn’t featured yet. I created over 20 issues and over 200 recipes. But as much as I loved it, creating the cookbook each month while working full-time became very time-consuming and difficult. So I decided to shift from a handmade publication to sharing my recipes on my website. However, once I had cultivated this space online, I realized that recipes weren’t the only way that I could interact with my community. I recently launched a photo series on my website where I profile women in food from different parts of the country so that my audience can get a better understanding of what it means to be a female entrepreneur. I ask them about how they stay motivated and find success, what community means to them, what milestones they’re most proud of…. I believe that profiling these women is creating more representation in the food industry and hopefully, change.

How did you come up with the phrase “smash the garlic and the patriarchy”? What was the motivation behind this? I came up with the phrase and design after the first Women’s March in 2017. I believe that the patriarchy is holding back progress across the board, but especially within the food industry. You see a lot of celebration around male chefs but not female chefs and I wanted a way to create female empowerment through food. To me, this phrase celebrated women and feminism at the same time. I was seeing all these cool posters and clever slogans that were creating mini-movements among women and I felt inspire to share mine with others.

Tea Towel from Overseasoned

What does “smash the garlic and the patriarchy” represent to you? And what do you think it represents to your customers? For my customers, I believe it brings power to cooking because it gives them control over their selves and their kitchen. And for others, I think it’s just a fun way for them to send a message. Customers will tell me “I LOVE garlic and I HATE the patriarchy”, so it’s the perfect crossover. For me the meaning is two-fold: I want more female chefs to be recognized and celebrated through food. I don’t want the success of men to be the only thing the food industry honors. But I also want it to represent creating a more balanced home kitchen where men feel empowered to support women and get into the kitchen as well. Since I started my website, I’ve had a lot of men reach out to me and say that they used my recipes as an introduction to cooking and are excited about cooking now. I believe that cooking shouldn’t be gender specific, it’s a creative process that should be celebrated regardless of your sex and there’s a way for us to create that balance together.

Your blog is mainly focused around content creation, so how did you make the switch to creating material goods (tote bags, tea towels, t-shirts, sweatshirts) with this message? I never planned on being a retailer but once I came up with the slogan and design, I found that it was a way for people to connect with the message even if they’re not cooking regularly. It was a way for me to reach a new audience of people who may not love cooking but love what it stands for. But creating the products themselves was all trial and error. I started with the tea towel and customers loved it so I expanded the merchandise line further. I’m looking to come up with more product ideas down the line.

What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman-owned business? A lot of the businesses that I work with are woman-owned so I haven’t faced many challenges. I’m surrounded by other strong women!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from another woman? Go with what you’re good at. And it’s true! I believe that whatever you’re doing that’s different from other people is what you should go all in on. I worked in different areas of the food industry before receiving this advice and once I heard it, I decided to focus on growing Overseasoned and, down the road, the “smash the garlic and the patriarchy” campaign.

What advice would you give to other women trying to get into the food industry? Don’t expect anything of it, just start doing it. If you’re a food blogger, just start writing, or if you’re a chef, start practicing your cooking skills. You can’t wait on things to be perfect to get started because they never will be. Just start going and see where it leads. I feel like I’ve been making it up as I go and it’s really helped me to discover my niche.

What do you see for the future of Overseasoned? I still do some recipe creation on the website when I have a new dish that I’ve been working on and that’s something that I’ll always keep doing for my own enjoyment. I’ve been working on Overseasoned for three years but it’s still my side hustle so I’m being very intentional in the steps that I take. This week, I released a publication called “How to Smash the Garlic and the Patriarchy” in collaboration with GRLSQUASH, which is really exciting! GRLSQUASH releases two publications a year so this was a special edition that I worked on with the founder, Madison Trapkin. It focuses on women in the food and beverage space in Boston and discusses food or food adjacent topics in order to create more exposure for women. We made it a point to use only female photographers, artists and even found a female printer to work with. This is a project that I never thought I’d be involved in when I first started Overseasoned but it’s amazing to see how things have evolved and eventually I hope to be in the food industry full-time. I’m not sure how I’ll get there yet but it’s these projects that keep me working towards that goal.

What impact do you hope your business and campaign have on other women? I hope the slogan/campaign personally inspires people more than anything. In regards to the business itself (recipes, the photo series and the new publication (How to Smash the Garlic and the Patriarchy)), I want the impact to be larger. I want it to help other women find connections within their community. In our field guide, How to Smash the Garlic and the Patriarchy, we included a map that shows where woman-owned businesses are within Boston (and a little outside of it) so that other women can identify and support these local, woman-owned businesses. Even if someone outside of the Boston area was to see this map, I want it to make them realize that it’s something they can do in their own community to create awareness and to support female entrepreneurs.

 

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