From dishwashing to pop-up culinary entrepreneur, the story of Noms Eatery is one of learning the ropes.
Like many in the industry, co-owner and head chef, Bryan Baltazar began his culinary career behind the scenes before moving up to food prep and eventually a culinary arts degree from the Chicago branch of the Illinois Institute of Art. All the while, his passion for food and curiosity in flavors broadening.
“I haven’t looked back since,” he said. For the other half of Noms’ duo; Jennifer Palazzo, co-owner, general manager, and chef assistant; the passion was contagious.
“Bryan taught me cooking truly is an art with unlimited creativity,” said Ms. Palazzo who is also engaged to Mr. Baltazar.
Long wanting to establish her own business, Ms. Palazzo saw her opportunity in tandem with her partner. “It made complete sense to combine Bryan’s passion for nutritious, locally-sourced food and my passion for selling a product in which we feel immense pride,” she said.
The pair moved east when Mr. Baltazar was offered a job as a private executive chef cooking for fraternities and sororities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, something was missing.
“I felt a burning desire to share my talents with more people and wanted to inspire people to develop their relationship with food,” added Mr. Baltazar.
Soon after, Ms. Palazzo enrolled in a 10-week business planning course at the Westborough-based Center for Women and Enterprise. Therein, she was introduced to the Worcester Regional Food Hub and the resources available through membership.
Noms launched in April 2019, with a pop-up event at Redemption Rock Brewing Co. in Worcester.
The brand’s cuisine is familiar and creative, said the co-owners. When asked to describe their flavor profiles, the pair used the words “seasonal, cultural, unique, and fresh” to describe their menu.
Thanks to their start from the Food Hub, the Noms duo hopes to build a strong following in Central Mass and open a restaurant and market within the next five years. By that time, they hope to establish an online ordering system, larger event catering capabilities, take-out options, homemade products to go, and decrease their carbon footprint.
Inspired by collaborations with Southport Café and Grocery in Chicago and Restaurant North in Armonk, N.Y., Mr. Baltazar said he is driven by “out-of-the-box” creativity.
Wanting to hone in on the farm-totable experience for both himself, as chef, as well as the health benefits it provides his customers, Mr. Baltazar said a central mission is “to serve delicious, creative food his customers know is fresh and sustainable.”
In addition, he said: “We try to capitalize on the abundance of the fresh ingredients New England has to offer and also incorporate local greens and cheese in our creations.”
In addition to serving nutritious, locally-sourced food, Noms also offers gluten-free and vegetarian meals. Individuals with those restrictions, said Mr. Baltazar, “often struggle to experience amazing meals because their options are limited.”
There’s another demographic with which Noms food resonates as well.
“Because we are deaf, [the local] deaf community has become some of our biggest customers,” he said. While Mr. Baltazar characterizes his experience in the culinary industry as a deaf person as “difficult,” today he said: “Communication is relative. Food does not care what language you speak.”
Starting Noms, a business based on their terms and defined by their creativity, said Ms. Palazzo allowed the pair to break away from discrimination. She admitted there’s often a learning curve with non-deaf customers and those who aren’t fluent in American Sign Language, but after one visit, “communication becomes a non-issue.”
Over the past year-plus, the two have found membership in the Worcester Regional Food Hub integral to their growth and awareness of the Noms brand.
Utilizing the commercial kitchen at the Greendale People’s Church allowed them to “set a strong foundation” prior to establishing a possible brick and mortar space of their own, said Mr. Baltazar. The central location, business support, and connections to local farms and fellow food businesses, he added, are all top reasons membership is valuable. Ms. Palazzo is thankful for the patience Food Hub Director Shon Rainford has shown as they get the brand up and running, adding: “We owe much of our initial success to the Food Hub and will forever be grateful for their support.”
Emily Gowdey-Backus is the Director of Communications with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and edits the Chamber Exchange. She can be reached via email.