He started as a dishwasher, now he’s the chief pasta maker and a chef at Marzano, the Italian restaurant near Pacific Lutheran University.
Now Ben Herreid has his eye on his next career move – business owner.
Arista Pasta & Specialty Foods is the project he’s trying to scale larger. He’s hosting a dinner Sunday at Marzano where potential investors – or just people who want to eat his pasta – can hear about his business. (The dinner is booked – but he’s got a Kickstarter account. Early investors get pasta before anyone else.)
This summer, Arista had a successful summer selling at the Puyallup Farmers Market. Next summer, Arista will begin its first real push at getting its pasta to the people – Herreid has booked Tacoma, Proctor and Puyallup farmers markets and might sell at more.
Herreid makes his pastas by hand, using bronze die extrusion. His favorites are a mushroom ravioli; a Venetian-style bigoli, which is something like a thicker version of spaghetti; and his favorite this fall, a fennel pappardelle.
Herreid let me pick his brain about starting a pasta business, here’s what he had to say:
Q: How did you start working at Marzano?
A: I was selling furniture and I hated it. I worked for a lady who loves Marzano. I thought, ‘I’m going to see if they’re hiring at any level.’ I walked in and they asked if I saw the ad. I just stopped in, I hadn’t seen it. I just quit my other job and started at the bottom. I worked in dishwashing and that was enough to tell me that I’ve got to stay.
Q: How did you work up to becoming a staff chef so quickly?
A: I went through the State of Washington Culinary Apprenticeship Program. She (Marzano owner Elisa Marzano) signed onto it. She did all the paperwork. I went to classes (at South Seattle Community College) there and wrote down my recipes and spent long hours. That’s been my life the last seven years.
I helped her start (the product line called) La Golosa – it’s like Gordo, “little chubby girl,” a girl who likes to eat – selling vinaigrettes, compound butters, olive tapenade. … That’s when I started making my fresh pasta and ravioli and gnocchi. Then I realized that it (has) a market. She’s basically gifting me the whole line. I’m going to do pestos, too. I’m going to put my Arista brand on it.
Q: You sold your products at the Puyallup Farmers Market last season?
A: Yes, we’ve done Puyallup. Our goal is to go into a shop eventually.
Q: How much fundraising do you need to do to that?
A: We’re trying to raise $20,000 through Kickstarter and hopefully match that and have at least $40,000.
Q: You’re looking at locations – tell readers what they’d find if they stopped by an Arista shop?
A: We want to make pasta in the window and have people watch the process.
Q: What’s it like working with Elisa Marzano?
A: She’s tough, she doesn’t take any crap, but at the same time, if you’re willing to put in the effort, she’s willing to show you how it’s done. She does not cut any corners. She doesn’t do anything halfway. That kind of attitude really helps push other people down the same road as her. If you can survive Elisa, she’s going to make you a better person.
Q: Tell readers about the premise behind your pasta.
A: We just basically fiddled around until we had the right formula. I’ll continue to use the same extruded pasta recipes as at the restaurant. I will do new and different things all the time, but I’ll be using the standards we set at the restaurant.
Q: What are those standards?
A: We’ve been using double OO flour and which is … more than twice the cost of regular flour, it’s imported. It’d be nice to get American flour and have the same quality someday (we’re looking). We do everything in house – we’re hand doing everything ourselves. … That’s why I love pasta, it’s a craft. It’s like doing woodworking, you have to know the feel of the dough. It feels like something you can really learn.
Q: What if you don’t get the storefront – what’s next?
A: Our hope is to be at the (farmers) markets next year and to sell to local restaurants; and if they would love to serve it we can do whatever they want; and we’re not really that expensive.
Q: Are you looking for grocery stores to carry your pasta?
A: We can go to H&L and the other high-end-food places. There should be a pretty wide market for what we’re doing. Hopefully we’ll be off and running right away.