Hello, my friends! This week’s blog post is combines so many of my favorite things: food, photography, style, my logo designer Yuling Designs, and opera! When Yuling came to visit me in San Francisco earlier this year, she brought a box of something called OperaNuts—roasted almonds, some of which are covered in chocolate—made by her friend Rachel Roth. As Yuling told me a little bit more about this entrepreneur, I knew I had to interview her! I even wrote about a little cheese pairing with OperaNuts soon after.
Here’s Rachel, in her own words!
“When Inspiration strikes, here’s no stopping me . . . I’ve always liked putting things together–people, clothing, ideas, and food–like nuts and chocolate. I love to play with food, and I love to bake.”
What Food Moments or Memories Have Shaped Your Life?
My mother made me the most delicious birthday cakes (from scratch). Triple layered angle food cakes with fresh raspberries, covered with thick white frosting and drizzled with rich dark chocolate. I have never forgotten that taste.
On Fridays our home was filled with the aroma of freshly baked sweet and savory breads, coffee cakes, and sweet rolls with a sticky base of nuts and caramel. I regularly swiped a few–she pretended not to notice, but I am sure she knew.
How did OperaNuts come to be?
Inspiration struck one afternoon when I was walking through Dylan’s Candy Bar [in New York City] and saw some chocolate covered almonds. I’d been cooking up nuts in my secret sea-salt sauce for my friends and family, but what could be better than putting those nuts together with chocolate? Mmmmmmmm!
My friends loved them, but the real test was when I made my first big sale for an art opening in Chelsea. At the end of the opening, a friend remarked, “Rachel, the nuts are gone but the rest of the food is still here. I think you have something!” My OperaNuts were a big hit, and I made plans to forge ahead.
And the name for my delicious concoction was obvious. I’ve always been nuts about opera: OperaNuts was born!
What Were Your Careers Prior to OperaNuts?
I have had several careers before this one—mostly in fashion (retail and wholesale). I was also a fashion journalist, but I couldn’t stay away from food! So, in 1980, in my spare time, I created the first ever gourmet picnics for the Tanglewood [Summer Music Festival] crowd, giving concertgoers the opportunity to enjoy a lovely picnic dinner while listening to classical, pop, or opera arias under the stars. A Moveable Feast Picnics of Lenox, MA, was a hit with eight years of encores!
When I was diagnosed with high cholesterol, I was undaunted—and hungry for treats. I put together a healthy cakebread recipe and sold loaves of Rachel’s Guiltless CakeBreads, which delighted the palates of my fellow New Yorkers and helped us lower our numbers in the most delectable way.
As a volunteer tutor and unit head for the English Speaking Union of the United States, I encouraged English conversations between non-native Americans and their English-speaking friends.
Currently, I act as a chaperone for BansonNYC’s summer fashion camps, helping students navigate the maze of the City and the fashion industry.
What Past Life Lessons Have Come Into Play With OperaNuts?
My business savvy comes from years in retail and wholesale, where I had bottom line responsibilities that included planning sales, inventory, stock levels, markdowns, expenses, gross margins and gross profits. I was trained to keep impeccable records so that I could reference past seasons with upcoming ones.
Planning is a big part of the behind the scenes of OperaNuts. It might seem less complicated because we are small, but when it’s your own business, it’s not!
Over the years, people skills have served me well. I love talking with my customers and don’t hesitate to chat with almost anyone. Ask my friends; they will say it’s true!
Have you any words of encouragement to budding entrepreneurs?
“If youth had the experience and age the enthusiasm” was an expression I heard early on, and it’s so true. Good ideas need to be leavened by experience, enthusiasm, and an extra dosage of patience.
What Plans Are In Store For OperaNuts?
The lovely photos, so beautifully curated for Miss Cheesemonger, inspired me once again! OperaNuts in gorgeous gift packages will make everyone go nuts for our nuts!
We will also increase our presence on social media and begin our e-commerce campaign. Stay tuned!
If you’d like to get your own box of OperaNuts, visit the OperaNuts website for Rachel’s contact info.
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