Home Community Successful Recipe Found by Father-Daughter Duo at Ouilmette Spice Company

Successful Recipe Found by Father-Daughter Duo at Ouilmette Spice Company

Successful Recipe Found by Father-Daughter Duo at Ouilmette Spice Company

Variety is the spice of life, so the old saying goes. But Wilmette residents Gustav Toppenberg and his daughter Vivienne are turning that saying on its head.

They hope the peppers they plant, harvest, and switch into spicy sauces, spice-infused salts, and spice mixes will provide some dining variety for people who use them.

Their enterprise, Ouilmette Spice Company, is a father-daughter partnership that began of their Wilmette kitchen throughout the pandemic, expanded to the Historic Wagner Farm’s community garden and, as of last summer, continued at Wagner as vendors on the Glenview Farmers Market.

Gustav and Vivienne each said recently that Ouilmette Spice Company combines their love of at-home culinary experimentation with their passion for growing a home-based cottage business, and with the fun of finding communities of friends, fellow vendors, and patrons, each at Wagner Farm and via social media.

“My original motivation was to spend more time with Vivienne,” Gustav said. “It became much more.”

The corporate has a few of its roots within the tradition into which Gustav was born. The 44-year-old technology consultant grew up in Denmark, and he said that his parents imbued him with an appreciation for growing organic food from scratch, and for culinary experimentation: “My dad made wine, and my mom made a lot of things.”

Vivienne, 10, continues that tradition. The Highcrest student loves the careful research and inventive effort that she is putting into Ouilmette Spice.

A line forms to purchase Ouilmette Spice Company pepper sauces and other offerings throughout the Glenview Farmers Market held last summer at Historic Wagner Farm. | Photo Submitted

The Toppenbergs — Gustav and Vivienne in addition to Vivienne’s mom and older sister — moved to Wilmette in 2015. Once in Wilmette, Gustav continued experimenting within the kitchen.

“At one point, Dad began making sourdough bread,” Vivienne said.

She became fascinated about what her father was tackling of their kitchen, the 2 of them decided to try making some homemade salami, and he or she delved into research on methods to create shelf-stable foodstuffs. She and her father now joke about her approach to the work.

Gustav said, “Whenever you discuss creativity, that comes from the suitable side of the brain. Vivienne is left-brained, and he or she’s very focused on science and math. This was a probability to exercise her right brain as well since it takes creativity to do what we do.”

“I believe very literally,” she agreed, with fun.

After their successful salami efforts, the stage was set for further horticultural adventures. In 2019 a friend told Gustav in regards to the community garden at Wagner Farm. After helping the friend together with his garden plot, Gustav talked to Vivienne about the opportunity of working on one among their very own. She agreed, and after the discussion happened in late 2020, they signed up for the farm’s garden.

They planted their first crop in January of 2021 with only a couple of seeds. Those few created a bumper crop at harvest time that October since a single seed generates a plant that itself generates kilos of peppers, Vivienne said.

Over the subsequent two growing seasons, they learned so much about methods to successfully nurture peppers from seed, including the sometimes delicate balance required to transfer young plants from climate-controlled indoor spaces to the outside.

They learned methods to use peppers to create sauces, (the latter with some help from YouTube videos), becoming adept in mashing peppers, salting, and bottling the mash to ferment.

Once fermentation was complete, they added spices and extra ingredients like rosemary, cilantro, and tomatillos for a finished product. They tested the sauces with the assistance of feedback from family and friends.

Wilmette’s Vivienne Toppenberg relocates a young pepper plant into the garden plot she and pa Gustav Toppenberg operate at Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview. | Photo Submitted

The primary sauce they created for Ouilmette Spice is a pineapple- and mango-infused offering named Habanero Sunrise. Gustav said it stays his personal favorite; Vivienne likes the milder Electric Lime.

Their latest crop of sauces now features a super-hot offering, called Fermented Fire, with a base of truly impressive peppers, including the ominously named Trinidad Scorpion.

By their 2023 growing season, Gustav and Vivienne raised 48 different pepper varieties. Last summer was also after they became vendors.

When friends and other buyers asked if Gustav and Vivienne had other products, they went back to the kitchen and created salts infused with three of their popular sauces. They continue to be open to more experimentation; as an illustration, when one other vendor brought Gustav a few of his fresh peaches, the eventual result was a peach-infused sauce.

They’re currently deciding next steps for the corporate. They don’t yet have an internet site and state law prevents them from selling to people outside Illinois, but they’ve Instagram and Facebook accounts where people can contact them to purchase goods that Gustav and Vivienne then deliver.

They’ve been contacted by other area farmers markets, Gustav said, but must determine in the event that they can handle more.

As demand grew for his or her products, so did the communities during which they found themselves, from fellow pepper growers and other market vendors, to the purchasers who helped spread word of their business, Gustav said.

“Our social media has been so vital, and we’re so appreciative of those that maintain that connection,” he said. “If nothing else, it is a community story.”

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