What’s new in food: Couple trade corporate life for kimchi

LISTEN AND YOU SHALL LEARN: “Because we come see the kimchi every day, we can listen to it every day,” says Colleen Queeney, co-founder of Queeney Kimchi. “It tells us when it’s getting to its perfect fermentation point.” She and her husband, Michael, launched the business this past winter. Photo courtesy of the Queeneys

Colleen Queeney was working for a startup company in Silicon Valley in the 1990s when a fellow engineer showed her how to make kimchi. She fell in love with the fermented cabbage condiment and perfected her craft, learning from non-English videos featuring Korean women without subtitles. After 35 years of working in corporate America and making kimchi for friends, Queeney left her job last fall and started Queeney Kimchi in Asheville. She launched the business at various farmers markets this past winter and has plans for continued expansion.

Queeney met her business partner, husband and best friend, Michael (who also left his 40-year corporate career), during her time in Los Gatos, Calif. “He brings all the financial, legal and logistical knowledge,” she says. “I bring all the food, fermenting, planning, business development, product development and sales to the table.”

The couple moved to Asheville in 2002 with their then-infant children, Annie and Ricky, and Colleen eventually helped build the project management office for Mission Health’s information technology department. For the last seven years, she was the vice president of project and product management at Guardian Research Network in Spartanburg, S.C., where she helped develop artificial intelligence to match patients with cancer treatment trials.

Queeney says she and her husband decided to sell kimchi full time after friends and family members started offering to pay for it. The couple produce six small batches at a time, fermenting by hand and pressing the kimchi every 24 hours with wooden mallets to prevent it from bubbling over. This process can last six to 11 days, depending on the thickness of the cabbage leaves.

“Because we come see the kimchi every day, we can listen to it every day,” says Queeney. “It tells us when it’s getting to its perfect fermentation point. When it smells, tastes and crunches right, we refrigerate it to stop the fermentation.” Once each jar is ready, the Queeneys apply hand labels “and a lot of love,” she says.

Queeney Kimchi can be bought from local markets, farmers markets and on the web.

For more information, visit avl.mx/dhh.

Black Mountain community’s new café

Harrison Jones was on a connector flight from Charlotte to Minneapolis when he met his future wife, Lexi, in August 2019. Harrison, a native of Waynesville, was traveling to a friend’s wedding in Hawaii and had to make a last-minute flight change — and ended up on one where Lexi was a flight attendant. Earlier this month, the now-married couple opened Recess Coffee and Baked Goods in Black Mountain.

The year they met, Harrison was living in Kathmandu, Nepal, doing anti-human trafficking work but was visiting his parents in his hometown for the summer. He and Lexi started going on dates when she had layovers in Asheville. When he returned to Nepal at the end of that summer, she visited frequently. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrison returned to the United States to be closer to family. He and Lexi married in Whittier but then moved to Nepal, where they ran a coffee shop employing youths who were vulnerable to trafficking. But family — and the mountains of home — called again, and the couple landed in Black Mountain in 2022.

Ever since that first serendipitous encounter, the Joneses had dreamed about opening their own bake shop focusing on croissants, sourdough, coffee and community. “We’ve come to know our beautiful community … to be full of people with intricate stories,” says Harrison. “We wanted to build a place for them to share those stories and connect.”

The café, open Thursday-Monday, features weekly specials as well as regular items such as a chocolate cherry sourdough loaf and ham and cheese croissants. All items are made daily from scratch by Harrison and Lexi.

“Recess was everyone’s favorite subject growing up,” says Harrison. “Our shop continues that feeling by giving people a place to belong and to be curious.”

Recess Coffee and Baked Goods is at 107 Black Mountain Ave., Black Mountain. For more information, visit avl.mx/dhk.

Local creamery places in world cheese contest

Looking Glass Creamery won third place for its Drovers Road cheese in the Natural Rind Cheddar class at the World Championship Cheese Contest, held March 5-7 in Madison, Wis.

The dairy farm is run by husband and wife Andy and Jennifer Perkins, along with a small group of employees. “We are delighted to be in the ranks of some of the best cheesemakers nationally and internationally,” says Andy in a press release.

The biannual competition drew cheesemakers from over 25 countries, with over 3,300 total entries.

The farm and store are open to the public Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Looking Glass Creamery is at 115 Harmon Dairy Lane, Columbus. For more information, visit avl.mx/dhj.

Cuban eatery expands in RAD

Beginning Monday, April 1, Guajiro Cuban Comfort Food will extend its operating hours, offering diners an evening option until 10 p.m. Early next month, El Patio de Guajiro — an extension of the restaurant — will open next door.

The new hours are a response to customer demand, says Chris Barroso, owner.

The new addition, featuring beer, wine and cocktails, will include indoor and outdoor seating and host local art showings, live music and private events.

Guajiro Cuban Comfort Food is at 122 Riverside Drive. For more information, visit avl.mx/prwu.

Münki snack maker expands

Asheville-based healthy snack maker Münki Food Co. is getting a new production facility as well as a product makeover, owners Matthew and Gretchen Brown announced in a press release earlier this month.

The company, known locally for its healthy products and sustainable practices, produces snacks, granola, hot chocolate and creamers found in coffee shops and specialty food stores around the country as well as online.

“After 10 years of nonstop production, we are taking a few months to travel to meet with new suppliers, revamp our product line and soak up some superfood inspiration,” says Gretchen.

A limited supply of the company’s current products is available on its website.

For more information, visit avl.mx/av6.

Heroes of Hospitality nominations sought

Explore Asheville is inviting nominations for its Heroes of Hospitality Awards program, which “honors top-of-the-line service from front-line staff and volunteers in the travel and hospitality industry in and throughout Buncombe County.”

Nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory service employees or volunteers of a visitor-facing business or organization are eligible for nomination.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 12.

For more information and a nomination form, visit avl.mx/dhi.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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