We’re happy to inaugurate our “Three Questions” series today with a short interview with Leigh Vickery about her history in the food business and her company Leigh Oliver’s. We hope it helps to introduce Foodways Texas members to a larger audience and profile the myriad interests and occupations of our members. Thank you to Laura Davenport for rounding up our members for these short interviews. You can learn more about Laura at her blog, whitefluffyicing.com.
How did you get into the food business?
I grew up in Mississippi, in the kind of home where the family table was an important place of gathering, talking and enjoying good Southern cooking. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother and by the time I was 10 years old, the kitchen was my favorite creative outlet. I still have a very strong connection between cooking and enjoying life with my family and friends. I think that feeling is what initially drew me to wanting to see if I could make a business from what I liked to do.
I started Leigh Oliver’s because many of the foods we enjoy at home were not on the shelves at the grocery store. One day I was making white queso, and I thought to myself, “I wonder if anyone would buy this.” Naively, I called Whole Foods Market’s headquarters in Austin and actually got the buyer on the telephone. He told me to come see him, and to make a long story short, Whole Foods Market became our first customer about a year later. I owe a lot to Whole Foods for giving us our first shot. They have held our hand through many ups and downs, and I am so grateful for their willingness to help little businesses like ours.
Tell us more about Leigh Oliver’s.
The name Leigh Oliver’s is derived from my first and middle names. I am named for both of my grandmothers, so it just seemed fitting to name the company after two people who helped teach me how to cook.
Leigh Oliver’s is most known across the country for our three white queso dips: White with Green Chiles, White Hot with Roasted Jalapenos and our Spinach Queso with Tomatoes. We sell these in about 30 states now! Our White Hot Queso is the queso chosen by the Dallas Cowboys to serve in their new stadium – they use it on their famous cheese steak sandwiches and their premium nachos.
We have built our relationships with our retail customers in such as way that they call us when they are looking for something new for their shelves. That’s how Leigh Oliver’s MSG-Free Cantina Fajita Seasoning landed at Costco, as well as a new line of cookies Costco asked us to develop. We call the line “Cookie Mama” and our first offering, the “Cowboy Cookie,” just hit the shelves this month.
People ask me why I am in the food business, and the bottom line is it’s simply because I just like to feed people.
What specifically attracted you to the mission of Foodways Texas?
My favorite part of Foodways Texas is that at its heart, we are uniting people through the pleasure of good food. It doesn’t matter what color we are, who we voted for, where we go to church or how much money we have; we all share a common table. There are not too many things left in this world that unite people the way food does.
Leigh Oliver Vickery is the founder of Leigh Oliver’s, a company devoted to all-natural fun foods. Currently, Leigh is developing “Food Family Style,” a cookbook for MOPS International to be released in August 2012. And beginning in mid-August, East Texans can find Leigh on television, cooking away on KETK NBC and FOX News. She blogs at www.onebighappytable.com.