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Tastemakers

Birmingham’s newest foodie entrepreneurs have us hungry for more

From the Ground Up
Liv Fuller 

Olivia Fuller believes in a hands-on approach when it’s clear something needs to change. Living in a community plagued by food scarcity, Fuller and her family grew their own food, and young Olivia followed in the footsteps of her Nana. “My Nana grew everything she ate on our family farm, and I learned to farm the way many farmers do: by weeding and picking rocks out of the vegetable garden,” Fuller says. “My early fascination with beekeeping and mushroom foraging led me to a degree in agriculture.”

While in school, she dreamed about making a difference through farming — then was exposed to ideas that left her feeling disappointed. “I was exposed to a food industry hostile toward farmers who didn't fit the mold of big agriculture,” she admits. “I felt I had to choose between being myself and being what a ‘farmer’ should be.”

After officially choosing herself and moving to New York City to pursue modeling and acting instead, Fuller found herself working at a rooftop garden; her life’s calling was not willing to let her go. Today, she is a “farmer first” horticulturist, interested in connecting farmers with communities and creating nutrient-rich, sustainable foods. 

As you read this, Fuller is launching her Liv Fuller brand, and the first product is Sparkle Mushroom Honey. With only four ingredients hand-selected for brain health and stress reduction, this raw honey is the complete antithesis of any “big honey” (begone, bear bottles!) on supermarket shelves. Squeeze Sparkle Honey into coffee or any beverage — and best, of all, feel good about the Liv Fuller story and purpose. 

“We source all our ingredients from small U.S. farms and producers,” Fuller says. “This allows us better control over the quality and origin of our ingredients. We want to use our products to highlight the people behind the food and provide the consumer full transparency about what they are putting into their bodies. We’re making our own rules and reinventing everyday ingredients into sexy, responsibly-sourced, good-for-the-planet foods — and I’m being unapologetically myself.”
Livfuller.com

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Must-have Mustard
True’s Gourmet 

Mary Clayton Jones named her gourmet hot mustard after its authentic origins: the kitchen of her mother, Trueheart, whose grandchildren call her True. The 89-year-old mustard aficionado “had been making and gifting her mustard for decades,” according to Jones, and then, during the pandemic, Jones began making the family recipe for her friends. Once people began requesting it, it became more of a business than a hobby. “And now, two years later, we have a product!” she beams. 

In her own words, Jones “jumped into the deep end” right away to make True’s a success. A prop stylist for print media, she recruited recipe developers to use True’s in a number of concoctions with the intent to share recipes with website visitors. She even took a batch of her new hot mustard to the Atlanta Gift Market which, she says, “was a great way to introduce herself and get True’s into stores.” 

Not normally a mustard fan? Not a problem, says Jones. True’s is a seamless ingredient that makes even the most unlikely dishes flavorful in a surprising way. “My husband recently made a dipping sauce for shrimp with True’s Gourmet Hot Mustard, Sriracha, soy sauce and pickled ginger — and it was amazing,” she shares. “ I would have never thought to use it that way, but that may become one of my new go-tos!” 

As of now, Jones is busily working on a counterpart to the original mustard: an ultra hot version, debuting soon. A self-described “condiment girl,” her refrigerator is always a smorgasbord of marinara, pesto and other accompaniments . . . but like all good business owners, she believes in her own product most of all. 

“I incorporate True’s to elevate whatever I’m cooking or eating — I love it on a simple chicken salad sandwich with avocado or making a simple salad dressing with it,” she says. "The learning curve to owning this business is ongoing for me, but I love that this is my mother’s legacy.”
truesgourmet.com

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It’s a Marshmallow World
Deliciously 

Malissa Nelson laughs when I ask if she’s always had an affinity for marshmallows. “Actually, I’ve always shied away from excess sweetness and anything artificial, so marshmallows were a no!” she exclaims. “However, life has its plans.”

Once she became a parent, Nelson realized the value of marshmallows for engaging small hands and adding a sweet treat to a regular day — but store-bought marshmallows with their phony ingredients simply weren’t cutting it; she would have to create her own. With that, Deliciously was invented.

“Ingredient quality and integrity are the foundation of everything I’m trying to do,” she says. “Nothing artificial, ever. We use only non-GMO, pesticide-free, organic when possible — I’m very supportive of regenerative agriculture practices. I’d love to get to 100% organic and certify our products.”

The flavors of Deliciously far exceed the standard marshmallow. Gourmet varieties such as matcha and rose pistachio are alongside favorites like banana pudding and cinnamon sugar. The marshmallows often include texture as well — bits of cookie, nuts or even fruit. “They're a blank canvas for creativity,” Nelson says. “I get to talk to people, share stories, help them create s’more flavors they’ve never thought of and see delight in their eyes when they taste our marshmallows.”

To date, Deliciously's treats are shipping to all 50 states. Nelson also offers s’mores roasting service for corporate and private events and peddles them at popups and food markets, enjoying conversations with locals and figuring out what they might crave next. She’s enamored with the Magic City’s love for creativity and how she’s had “nothing but positive feedback” from a place her family has called home for just a few years — a place she hopes will welcome Deliciously’s next ventures: the “functional marshmallow,” touting nutrients and protein, and perhaps a storefront. 

“I’d love a “S’more-front” where we not only explore the world flavored marshmallows and s’mores have to offer but also create a community gathering place that helps us live out our mission: to bring you an infinite amount of deliciously sweet, joyful, memory-making moments.”

deliciouslymarshmallows.com

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Food of the Gods
Ambrosia & Nektar 

Theo Theodorakoglu was always captivated by the flavors and aromas inside his family’s Greek kitchen — flavors which are part of his heritage and a connection to a simple, wholesome time. After moving to the United States a decade ago for an engineering opportunity, Theo has continued annual voyages to Greece, still savoring his love for her native foods: verdant produce, flavorful dishes and a less processed way of eating. “I knew I had to bring these things back home [to the United States],” he says. 

His mission became clear: to introduce Grecian ingredients through Ambrosia & Nektar, an online boutique for premium, organic delicacies sourced from his homeland. Not only are the products healthy and packed with nutrients, they’re sourced from artisan producers who are located in “unspoiled, pristine areas,” Theo explains. He adds that Greece’s biodiversity – over 1,300 endemic plants and numerous flowers, herbs and trees — create ingredients far superior to others. 

Ambrosia & Nektar's bestsellers include the label’s Premium Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Premium Wild Forest Honey, which the company has dubbed a “mythical superfood,” and Premium Organic Pomegranate Juice. Of the superfood honey, Theo says, “it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and is an excellent source of carbohydrates, antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, trace elements and minerals for keeping the body in balance." Meanwhile,  the pomegranate juice is naturally sweet — not at all tart like some other products found stateside — perfect alone or with a splash of club soda, and the Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is single-sourced from ancient olive trees in Crete. 

Ambrosia & Nektar’s products are available through the main website, as well as through Instagram and Facebook. In addition to online advertising, email marketing and a blog, Theo hopes to partner with local businesses on carrying select products and participate in culinary events. In the future, Ambrosia & Nektar will add additional items — including those from other countries — but the vision for the company will remain as pure as its offerings. “It will always be a small, well-curated selection of premium, organic delicacies,” Theo concludes. 

ambrosia-nektar.com

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