Meet the Producer: Samantha Cheek Swan
Founder of Cottage Lane Kitchenuser rating
There’s no place like home for Samantha Cheek Swan, owner of Cottage Lane Kitchen, whose flagship product Get Me a Switch, a sweet and spicy pepper relish, has been made by her family since the 1800s. After leaving her art gallery job in 2009 and traveling the world with her husband, where she collected condiments for inspiration, Swan was pulled to return to her roots in North Carolina. She set about re-creating the recipe that had been handed down for generations, and after careful refining of the ingredients and standardizing the types of peppers to use, she launched her business in 2011. “My Southern side is continually nurtured through my business and basing myself back in the old North state allows me to relish—forgive the pun—in all things Southern,” she says. And while her previous career had her traveling the world, there has always been a constant for Swan—her family's home on Cottage Lane in Chapel Hill, hence the name of her company. Her line has already grown with the addition of Cape Fear, a habanero-based relish, and soon-to-be-introduced Smokey Mountain.
Swan shares more with foodspring.com.
Your product names are really clever. How do you come up with them?
The names reflect the Southern heritage and landscape from which they were created. So Get Me A Switch came to me while riding in the car one night with my husband. We were trying to figure out a commercial name as we always just referred to it as “pepper relish” in my family. A completely generic name, right? But Get Me A Switch evokes being young, a bit naughty, but more over, to me, the sense of being with famil and love since they were trying to bring you up right. Plus it works with the product as it switches from sweet to hot in your mouth, giving a tap on your taste buds to call them to attention. The name Cape Fear is just a great name and again relates to North Carolina, although most people know it from the movies. Cape Fear, of course, has the added habaneros, but it's not too hot so you won't enjoy your food. We hope to launch Smokey Mountain in 2013.
Did you ever imagine that your career would take you back to your family's land where you now continue the tradition of making your family's relishes?
Not at all! Life is a journey that can't be planned. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow and listen to life to know where it will lead you. However, I always wanted to have our family relish on my table, especially since I grew up with it but no one was making it since my grandfather died. Someone in our family had to take up the mantle and look where it's led.
Who is your culinary idol and why?
The other side of my family is European and I grew up watching Delia Smith and used her recipes when I first started cooking, but then I really got into food through Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Valentine Warner. I like how they make cooking yummy dishes look easy, delicious and fun. Cooking with fresh ingredients should be that way. And they end up being so tasty.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Pizza and pasta, especially my husband's spaghetti vongole--my comfort dish. He still needs to teach me his secret to making it as his is perfect every time.
Any interesting culinary experiences lately?
I still dream about a seafood tomato-based orecchietti dish eaten in Puglia, Italy, in 2010. It was at a little touristy cafe, but it's one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.
Aside from your products, what three items can you always find in your kitchen?
Yerba mate tea; wine--red, white, rose, sparkling; and condiments. I know I'm cheating here, but I buy every one I can to taste and experiment with it, especially if it's spicy.
If you weren’t a specialty food manufacturer, what would you like to be doing instead?
Traveling, either being a perpetual tourist, if I could afford it, or a professional traveler and get paid doing it. Traveling is in my blood—to see and experience new places, meet wonderful people and taste different flavors around the world. I enjoy seeing all I can on this planet and want to do as much of it while I am able. Essentially, I'm just happy relishing every day wherever I am and hoping others do the same.