Omnivore with Angelo Garro and Beth Malik
When you learn about Angelo Garro and his wonderfully eccentric yet warmhearted life, every new thing is a surprise. As our newest partner with his small business Omnivore, our interview began as a hastily-decided afternoon FaceTime, but ended as a conversation between friends.
Omnivore was founded by Garro at the end of 2013. However, his origin of being a flavor master was his upbringing in Sicily and learning the art of food through his grandmother and mother.
“Originally, my grandmother inspired me to make the blended salt,” Garro recalls. His grandmother also introduced him to the most important herb in Garro’s recipes: fennel. In fact, Beth Malik, Garro’s right-hand partner, recalls Garro pointing out fennel bushes while driving — an indication of Garro’s passion for foraging.
Garro and Malik explained that along with fennel, their sauces are made with little water. A bulk of the liquid comes from blended red bell pepper, tomato, onions, and other fresh vegetables. And what’s even more amazing? Their use of zero salt and sugar while still packing their sauces full of flavor.
Garro’s talent in balancing sweet, sour, acidic, and umami flavors using fresh ingredients can be attributed, according to Malik, to him being a “professional Sicilian.”
Many of Garro’s friends, including Alice Waters and Michael Pollan (whose acclaimed book The Omnivore’s Dilemma features Garro himself), agreed with this statement, leading them to push Garro into creating Omnivore and sharing his talents with the rest of the world.
Malik knew someone who had used Kickstarter, the newest crowdfunding platform at the time, so they tried their hand at it. And that was when the “ah-ha” moment hit; their Kickstarter was a success, even though they were one of the first food companies ever featured.
However, Garro, Malik, and Omnivore still had the challenge of wholeheartedly sticking to their mission: only sourcing local, organic ingredients. “It was an uphill battle to always source organically, especially our salts,” Garro said. “Not many companies small enough attempt our kind of product.”
But to them, the difference was noticeable and crucial. They still source from organic California farms and support Bay Area farms. To Garro, it just makes sense: “What's the point of buying organic meat without organic spices?”
Malik went on to say how these organic, independent farmers are greatly cherished within the Omnivore family: “Support farmers, they put the food on our tables!” Clearly, besides the genius of Garro and the tastiness of their products, FMOW had to partner with Omnivore because of their dedication and advocacy for farmers.
At this point, I could feel in my empty stomach (I hadn’t had lunch yet) that Garro and Malik’s description of their appetizing products was getting to me. So I had to ask: what’s your favorite recipe to make using your salts and sauces?
Garro and Malik immediately launched into answering, even talking over each other in excitement. Malik described a Chicken Milanese with Omnivore salt sprinkled into the breadcrumbs and their Vulcano Ginger sauce spread on top of the fried chicken filet. Garro meticulously laid out the steps to a corn and hot pepper dish, using the Vulcano Classic sauce as a finisher. And I was on the FMOW website hastily adding all the Omnivore products into my cart.
Besides these specific recipes, they said their salts work great as a finishing salt or part of a rub. The sauces are perfect for dipping raw vegetables (like celery sticks), spread on the bun of a sandwich or burger, and according to Garro, making bloody marys.
With my menu for the next week planned, I decided to explore this obvious passion that both Garro and Malik have for food, and how that has translated onto Omnivore.
“Our philosophy is that cooking should be simple and easy with just a few ingredients,” Garro said. They wanted Omnivore to keep the act of sharing food from being stressful; and in turn, all kinds of people in “our multinational society” can utilize Omnivore with all styles of cuisine.
On their website, omnivore.us, their mission statement held a small, yet substantial sentence nestled in the middle: “Omnivore is not only a food company, but also a lifestyle.”
To Garro and Malik, the lifestyle of Omnivore is the lifestyle of sharing food, and in turn, sharing love and creating memories. They explained that cooking for others forms bonding, which is seen in all cultures.
I immediately felt the sentiment; I know when my mother lays down a plate of my favorite food after a long hard day, it is her saying “I love you.” Garro added on, “If you love me, finish your plate!”
(Omnivore Facebook/Photo credit)
To Garro, preparing good food with good people is a beautiful part of life. Maybe that is why he and Alice Waters have been close friends for almost 30 years; he took her eel fishing and then prepared a classic farm-to-table meal, that Waters pioneered, with the freshly caught eels. Well, in this case, it was sea-to-table.
Now, according to Garro and Malik, Waters “never leaves home without Omnivore.” And that was the point of Omnivore — to bridge a connection through food to loved ones.
“When we created Omnivore, it was an extension of Angelo’s life. Surrounded by friends and family, where everyone is welcome,” Malik said. “Omnivore is an open heart and an open kitchen.”
That is what makes Omnivore so special. Not only are their products fantastic, but the heartfelt message and the heartfelt man that go along with them takes the whole experience home. Omnivore is about friendship, experiences, nature, and the simple beauties of life.
Garro ended with a parting message about life: “Life is rich and full. Stay strong, stay safe, and look forward always.”
I know I have many things to look forward to now: my new Omnivore products and Garro’s invitation to have pesto pasta at his forge. It is true — food really is the language of all and can bring people who may have never been brought together, together.