Southern Supper Series: Tracy Blanchard of Big T Coastal Provisions
We are proud to have a growing number of culinary creatives as Summit alums–their businesses run the gamut from operating restaurants to developing products for market to creating culinary content. In this series, we are talking with them about their personal food favorites at home as well as how they took their business “to market”. Today we are chatting with Tracy Blanchard of Big T Coastal Provisions. Their 100% seafood dips have garnered them a loyal following, as well as a 2016 Southern Living Food Award and a 2017 Coastal Living Food Award (they love them as a beach snack).
Five ingredients always in your pantry:
- Variety of pastas and rice
- Variety of beans
- Baking supplies like brown sugar, chocolate chips, sprinkles
- Chips and crackers
Five ingredients always in your fridge:
- Duke’s mayo
- Bacon or Sausage
Favorite local seasonal produce:
Hands down, tomatoes. I’m growing my own this year….fingers crossed!
If you had to choose one last meal, what would it be? Why?
Immediately I think pasta of some sort. So I start thinking of a memorable Italian meal I’ve had and I am reminded of Il Mulino Uptown in NYC. It’s such a classic New York Italian restaurant. Service is beyond and the food is outstanding. This is long, so forgive me. Start with a Rucola Salad, arugula, olive oil, lemon and shaved parmesan. Next, a Bucatini all Amatriciana with pancetta, onions and a rich tomato sauce. Broccoli Rabe for some greenery. And then the whole, salt crusted Branzino fish. The waiter serves it tableside and removes the salt crust and debones the fish. It is really spectacular. I would throw in a yummy peach cobbler for good measure, but of course I couldn’t find it at Il Mulino.
What is your “signature dish”?
I suppose our customers will associate us with seafood for sure, so I would say the dish I execute best is étouffée. I like it because it is versatile…you can add shrimp, crab, crawfish, andouille, etc and also adjust spice levels to your taste. I like anything spicy and I love rice (born and bred Southerner here!). Making the roux is my favorite part because it takes patience to wait for it to turn the luscious dark color intended.
To Market….To Market
How did you get into the culinary business?
I went to the College of Charleston and majored in political science and minored in international studies. While my particular field of study didn’t prepare me for my job now, it lead me to my husband, Tony, aka, Big T, who made his mom’s crab dip for me, even in college! We didn’t get around to forming our company until I was 44, so most of my experience was in sales and raising children! And I just love to cook, so getting into this industry was fascinating to me.
What do you wish you had known going into the culinary business?
As for lessons, there are plenty! Even though we did a fair amount of research prior to launching it, nothing can prepare you for selling a perishable consumer packaged product in the world of supermarkets. We are still learning to this day, but I would say a certain amount of naiveté in the beginning worked in our favor. We sent our original crab dip to the buyer of one of our best customers today….no labels, no pricing, no ingredient statement or nutritionals. He asked questions like, how much will it retail, what are your plans for promoting the product, what about slotting fees? We knew nothing!! But his love and belief in the product eventually led us to being in their stores. It’s a learning process to this day!
If you could take over an Instagram account for the day, who’s would it be?
Southern C Alum, Holly Hollingsworth Phillips! I couldn’t pull off her style, but that’s what I admire about her. She doesn’t seem to follow any rules, and in fact, she seems like a rule breaker. I would take over her Instagram account while following her around on her fabulous travels. She’s definitely one of my favorites.
If you could ask one person or brand to take over YOUR Instagram account, who would it be?
Definitely Libbie Summers, another Southern C alum. She is colorful, a bit zany and a person that seems to march to the beat of her own drum. Just take a window pane view of her Instagram account and it is full of color and whimsy.
*Both of these ladies have far more style and creativity than me, but that’s what I so admire in them.