By Tanya Henry
Once Dan Fruin settled on his product idea, it took him only 90 days to get it to market. But the journey of starting his own food business was a much longer, and more circuitous one.
“I started cooking when I was 7 years old,” says Fruin, who was raised in Cupertino and describes having a lifelong passion for food. But it wasn’t until he was in business school at USC that he “finally connected the dots”—combining his love of food with a strong commitment to giving back. In September 2013, Genuine Grub’s spicy pickled cabbage was ready.
As with so many food entrepreneurs, Fruin started out making a product that he had grown up with and loved. For him, it was kimchi. However, he also noted that the traditional commercial options were filled with sugar, salt and MSG—not to mention that the traditional pickled condiment was red! Fruin set out to create a cleaner, fresher and healthier version. He soon discovered that working with fermentation or “live food” presented plenty of challenges. “It’s all about time, temperature and pH levels,” he explains and notes that they don’t always match up. In addition, by leaving out additives, excessive sodium and sugar, the life of the product is shortened. In fact, he recommends consuming his probiotic, pickled veggies one week after opening.
Two years in, Genuine Grub now boasts a line of five different pickled vegetables—the newest is a punchy sour dill ’cukes prepared with just a handful of ingredients, and no preservatives. A small production team handcrafts and fills white-topped 14-ounce jars in San Rafael’s Community Action Marin’s Central Kitchen. They are then distributed throughout the Bay Area.
“I really want my products to be accessible to everyone,” Fruin says. “I want people in middle America to eat my pickled vegetables.”
With their short shelf life and very noticeable aromas, these fermented vegetables may not be the prettiest or most demure guests at the party. However, after a taste of these bright, crisp, flavor-packed cucumbers, radishes and cabbage, many will likely return for seconds. It’s safe to say that Genuine Grub will change the way we think about kimchi.
Look for Genuine Grub at Comforts and Andronico’s in San Anselmo, and select Whole Foods Markets in Mill Valley and Novato.
Learn more at genuinegrub.com.