San Jose born. Rooted in Canada.
This is how Irene Painter, founder of My Kind of Mustard, describes the genesis of her brand, an artisanal mustard company whose mission is to educate and introduce Americans to the joys and many uses of mustard.
“It’s been a challenge and also a joy,” laughs Irene in a recent interview. “I have baptized many people into mustard.”
“Mustard is so much more than American mustard, which definitely has its place, but I wanted to show how diverse and
delicious it could be. Europeans use it much more as a condiment, almost like Americans would use ketchup; I wanted to introduce it to everyday cooking, not just for burgers and hot dogs. Every jar of our mustard comes with a recipe card showing a different way to use it.”
The recipes for her mustard brand originated from her European roots. In 1992, Irene’s father, Bohdan Borody, a Canadian born third generation Ukranian, and mother Donna, began selling hand crafted jams and jellies at a small farmers market in their local town of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The recipes had been inherited and were family heirlooms. An instant hit, their product line quickly expanded to over 300 varieties of condiments.
“They made everything from jams and jellies to chutneys to hot pepper jellies to mustards, just everything,” Irene states. “I spent my summers working in their commercial kitchen and selling at our stand.”
She left for college earning a degree in landscaping. Her internship at a San Jose landscaping company turned into a job and seven years later she found herself married and contemplating a change of career. Her parents, who had moved from Calgary to Edmonton, had continued their company, called The Jam Lady, and had offered her to take over at any time.
Irene and her husband Ben decided it was a great opportunity.
“I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I was at a place where I was ready for change. But we wanted to make it our own. Instead of going full force, we decided to pick one product line that was unique,” Irene explains.
“America is hungry for real food and I feel it is ready to embrace a line of American made, San Jose based mustards. The locally sourced movement is so strong but condiments are often left out of this equation, particularly in food service.”
They wanted to take over the family business, but they also wanted ownership of the product while maintaining the family continuity.
“I always say, ‘from my father’s table to yours’. My father loves mustards and he had one named Bohdan’s Mustard. We make the same one, but we named it Ben’s Mustard to honor the head of our family.
It’s little touches like these that showcase the heirloom quality of their product, handed down generation to generation, each making it their own.
Similarly, Irene started selling her product to local Farmers Markets before taking her wares to local, mom and pop grocery stores.
Her real breakthrough, however, was joining the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“My product was so different than the other members, I would always come with my basket of mustard and pretzels and they would always wonder what the mustard lady had to try,” Irene laughed.
It was through the Chamber of Commerce that she landed prime mustard real estate in the San Jose Giants Stadium.
“They prepare amazing BBQ menu options through the use of our mustard food service containers,” Irene states.
Stanley’s, the San Jose Sharks restaurant, as well as their concession stand now serve her mustards at the Shark’s Ice Arena, and many local pub and tap rooms have also begun featuring her brand.
“I really wanted to grow organically, but there was a point that I was VP, salesperson, distributor, producer, and there wasn’t enough of me.”
Enter Purveyor’s Kitchen.
“It was the perfect fit,” Irene says. “They are a small co-packing company that has our same values. They are allowing us to expand and grow but also maintain control of our product. Other co-packing companies in the Bay Area are huge and definitely not artisanal friendly. Purveyor’s Kitchen takes care of everything from product development to production. They make it all happen.”
And just in time, as Irene and Ben expect their first child, their mustard business is flourishing, and the Bay Area is embracing locally made and sourced ingredients more than ever. It only makes sense, as Irene says, “to source local right down to the mustard.”