Foodie parlays passion into profession
On weekends, before sitting down to a cheeseboard and a nice bottle of wine with his fiancée, Jeremy Mantesso would often whip up a dip to serve with it. With a lot of encouragement from happy friends and family, those Damn Good Dips have evolved into a growing business.
Some of his old stanbys – the candied pecans, olive tapenade, kale edamame, and a traditional hummus – are included in the line of dips but Mantesso is constantly creating new flavour combinations, often inspired by local and seasonal ingredients, taking full advantage of the best Christmas present he’s ever received, a food processor.
The product line now includes four hummus variations – turmeric, truffle, pumpkin rosemary (seasonal) and beet balsamic (seasonal), in addition to labneh (yogurt dip). They are all vegetarian or vegan.
Mantesso said he now accesses a commercial kitchen, where he works out the recipes over several batches, fine tuning the ingredients.
During one of those days in the kitchen, after ruminating for weeks on a good name for the dips, it was his mom who just walked by casually and interjected, “You should just call it Damn Good Dips.” And that was it.
Mantesso said he loves simple and delicious foods that are easy to throw together.
Having been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as a young teenager, Mantesso said he has had to learn how to follow a specific diet and live a healthy lifestyle. He has had to switch to a vegetarian diet and has introduced exercise to his routine.
“At the end of the day, I just really wanted to focus on something that could be prepared quickly but is also good for you because I find all too often you’re sacrificing convenience for health,” he said.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Mantesso took hospitality at University of Guelph and said one of his first jobs steered him into the food and beverage side of the business.
Even before the pandemic struck, Mantesso and his fiancée had moved up to Creemore, where his parents live, in order to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. The company Mantesso was working for had folded and he found himself with time to experiment in the kitchen.
“COVID, and losing my job shortly before that, it kind of helped me rethink what I would like in a job, having a good work-life balance and moving out of Toronto… after enough nudges I took the plunge,” he said. “I’ve always liked experimenting with food.”
“At first I was grateful to be able to get out and feel like I was doing something productive or useful rather than being on CERB… and now I really think I have a shot at making this a full-time profession,” said Mantesso.
He said he never really had aspirations of being his own boss or starting his own company but is finding the non-corporate, low-stress work environment, where he is accountable only to himself, is quite empowering.
In the future, Mantesso is looking to expand his line into anything you can dip spread or slather, starting with a new line of compound butters. The first – a garlic, chili, basil – launches Friday.
Damn Good Dips is available at 12 retailers throughout Simcoe County, including Creemore 100 Mile Store and Beaver Rock in Stayner.
Order online at damngooddips.ca. Free delivery in Creemore, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach.