NEW YORK — Stocks and bonds aren't the only things that make hefty inheritances. Something as humble as Grandma's recipe for rum butter cake can turn out to be as lucrative as any blue chip stock.
Many amateur chefs are turning pro, converting yesterday's recipes into today's gourmet delights, as well as big profits.
Take Graham Sutton, for instance. During his childhood, Sutton used to watch his grandmother, Effie, make a golden rum butter cake. He kept to her original recipe to make the golden vanilla cake he markets, and modified it a bit to make a chocolate fudge cake, thus turning a kitchen hobby into Effie Marie's Sutton Cakes of San Francisco, which expects to triple its already impressive sales next year.
Sutton was just one of the cooks at the recent Fancy Food Show here who have taken a recipe and turned it into a commercial success.
"Everyone would like the opportunity to extend the memory of someone dear to them," says Sutton, who started baking the rum cakes for family and friends.
Caroline Longe of Vermont's Clearview Farms in Enosburg Falls, Vt., uses her grandmother's recipe for sweet and sour piccalilli relish. After turning her basement into a kitchen and enlisting the "reluctant" help of her four children, she started canning--pickles, jams and relishes--to feed her family. Last year, Longe processed $20,000 worth of condiments and jams--for everyone else.
And some restaurateurs have found that the family recipes made in their restaurants may do just as well on grocery store shelves.
Andy Pinkston and his wife, Karen, who run Lusco's in Greenwood, Miss., the restaurant his great-grandfather started in 1933, now peddle salad dressing, broiled shrimp sauce and fish sauce. Pinkston's grandmother developed the shrimp sauce and the fish sauce. The salad dressing comes from Pinkston's great-aunt, now 82.
"They would have loved to do something like this, but they didn't have the know-how," says Karen Pinkston.
The president--known as Madame Kuony--of the Postilion foods and owner of the family restaurant of the same name in Fond du Lac, Wis., says she thinks her mother, Elizabeth, would have liked the idea of her gourmet treats being made and sold in jars.
Kuony has 23 products on the market. The plum pudding, mincemeat, mango chutney and Cognac sauce are all derived from her mother's recipes.
Beverly Buckley Stern kept her father's recipe for his English toffee and went on to get the company its biggest accounts. She has taken over as the owner of Buckley's Original English Toffee, made in Baton Rouge, La.
She says her father, Spurgeon Buckley, now in his 70s, is still very interested in the business.
"He'll stand next to a can of toffee (which has his silhouette on it) and he'll tell people 'That's me,' " she says. "My dad started making toffee in 1958 for the local church bazaar. He made the toffee in a greenhouse which he converted into a candy kitchen. He invented his own contraption, made out of parts of a washing machine motor and a drill press, to stir the candy."
Norman J. Dinkel Jr. also took over the family business. He is president and chief executive officer of Chicago's Dinkel's Bakery. He bought the company stock from his father and took over the bakery his grandfather, Joseph, started in 1922.
The stollen the Dinkels make today has changed only slightly since the days when his grandfather made it. Norman Dinkel has branched out and now the retail bakery has turned into a gourmet mail-order business.
Mom's Spaghetti Sauce
Vicky Huxtable of "Huxtable's Comestibles" of Vernon, Calif., says "My spaghetti sauce is a knockoff of my mother's. The beef stew is a knockoff of every mom's."
She has since developed many new varieties of pates, pasta sauces and refrigerated entrees.
Crowley Cheese of Healdville, Vt., was started by Winfield Crowley in 1882. His son George died in the 1950s, and the company was inherited by George's son, Robert.
Crowley Cheese is still family-run--by the Smiths. When Robert Crowley died, his brother, Alfred, sold the business to the Smiths, who were neighbors.
Four energetic women from Colquitt, Ga., make and sell Mayhaw jelly, also from a family recipe, although no one knows exactly from whose family.