Oakland, Calif.—After nearly 30 years of wide-ranging travels to discover outstanding products made by small-scale food artisans in Spain, France and beyond, and introducing them to appreciative chefs and home cooks across America, Kitty Keller, founder of KL Keller Foodways, has announced her plan to retire and transition the company to Manicaretti Italian Food Importers. “With my friends, Rolando Beramendi, founder of Manicaretti, and Francisco Lizarraga, COO of Manicaretti,” Kitty wrote to customers and colleagues, “we have decided that during these tumultuous times, KL Keller producers and their products will be better served under the aegis of a strong national company such as Manicaretti.”
The two companies have a longstanding association. Sara Wilson, managing partner of both KL Keller and Manicaretti, says, “The transition is an obvious progression. Without Kitty’s and Rolando’s dedication to these heritage farmers and artisan producers, many would not have been introduced to the US, and some may not have survived, let alone thrived.”
Rolando Beramendi has long championed the KL Keller products and embraces their addition to the Manicaretti portfolio, “Only renegade California could give us a tastemaker such as Kitty Keller. A fearless trailblazer, Kitty brought us the gift of flavors of France and Spain, including the best Fleur de Sel in the world—the only product I carry in my suitcase wherever I go! It is impossible to imagine the flavor and sensory explosion that is California without Kitty’s unfiltered contribution.”
Gilles Hervy Fleur de Sel became a nationwide favorite once KL Keller made it available in retail and foodservice packaging. Other iconic finds include Piment d’Espelette Powder AOP, a sought-after spice from La Maison du Piment made in the tiny Espelette region in French Basque Country, and Banyuls Vinegar from La Cave de L’Abbé Rous, a sherry-like vinegar that is prized by chefs and home cooks across the nation. Many KL Keller products have also earned the coveted Specialty Food Association’s sofi™ Award such as Bacalaos Alkorta Cod Fillets in Olive Oil and La Maison du Piment Sweet Black Cherry Jam.
Kitty’s enthusiasm about the origins and traditions of the foods she imports is contagious, and her storytelling and usage tips have delighted her customers and expanded pantries across America. She treasures the collegial relationship she has had with customers—who can forget the joyous Cava gatherings at the Fancy Food Show?—and the resolve and dedication of the producers she has represented. She says she is relieved and grateful to transfer the sales and management to those who share the same philosophy about quality and artisan ingredients. As she often says, “In this business there is no substitute for sincerity.”
Kitty will be working through the transition. The full transcript of Kitty’s announcement can be found here: klkellerfoodways.com/blog/announcements/important-announcement-from-kitty-keller
For archived stories about the KL Keller products and Kitty’s quest in discovering them, visit: klkellerfoodways.com