Even if you love guacamole, you may not love making it: finding perfectly ripe avocados, or ripening them on your own; getting the avocado out of its tough skin; mashing; chopping whatever else it takes to make the guacamole your own; and, finally, keeping it from turning brown before you’re ready to serve.
You might make one bowl — maybe a big bowl for a party. But, making enough guacamole to use up a case (or two or three) of avocados? That requires a lot of love.
And, love is precisely the quality Tasha Tolbert brings to her company, Love Guac.
She didn’t grow up with guacamole. But, six years ago, she was living in New Jersey and pregnant. A friend served homemade guacamole, and Tolbert thought to herself, “This is really good.” And, because she likes to figure out how to make things, she taught herself to prepare it just the way she likes it. She brought that recipe with her when she moved to Georgia, and, as she said, “The rest is history.”
Tolbert began like many of us, making just a little guacamole, often taking it to work to share. Over the course of a few months, her colleagues at Cox Automotive began expecting Tolbert to show up with guacamole and chips at least once or twice a month (Cox is the parent company of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). One of her colleagues, Jenny Williams, told Tolbert she loved the guacamole so much she gladly would pay for it.
That was 2015, and the start of Love Guac. Tolbert began selling guacamole at work. Then, she built a website. In 2017, she started selling at the Peachtree City Farmers Market, convenient to her home in Fayetteville.
“The market is right in my backyard, and it seemed all the vendors had a good relationship with each other,” she said. “There was lots of foot traffic. It turned out to be a great place to start. There aren’t a lot of people making guacamole and taking it to market.”
From there, she ventured to the Newnan and Fairburn markets, followed by pop-up shops and parties.
Not content with just one flavor of guacamole, Tolbert began experimenting. She made guacamole with crab meat. She tried adding bacon. After two years of experimenting, she got the recipes down to the four that do best for her: Love Guac (the original), Drop It Like It’s Guac (with habanero, jalapeno and serrano peppers), Trop Guac (she adds pineapple and mango to the mix) and Summer Breeze (with watermelon added to the mix and the whole thing topped with feta). Vacuum-sealing the packages meant the guacamole could be frozen for up to a month, extending the shelf life of a product with no preservatives.
Developing flavors is a fun part of the job, Tolbert said. “I like salsa, and I love pineapple salsa. I love the sweet and spicy. When people try my Trop Guac, I tell them, ‘It kisses with the sweet and smacks you with the heat.’ Then the mango adds a little something special.”
Summer Breeze was the result of her deciding to let watermelon sub for the tomato in her original flavor, and adding basil instead of cilantro. “I love basil, and the combination is amazing,” she said. “It works so well together. When I’m out sampling, people are curious and a little skeptical. It’s awesome to see how they try it and then really like it.”
What’s next? She and Kandace Taylor of Taylor’s Dips are partnering to bring their products to Union City car dealerships, hair salons and barbershops. Their products complement one another, with Taylor’s spinach and artichoke dip being as good with chips as Tolbert’s guacamole.
“It just makes sense to take our food to places where the clients can’t readily get up from the services to get themselves something to eat,” Tolbert said. And, she’s working on getting nutritional labels done, so she can offer the guacamole to stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods.
How does Tolbert deal with the pesky problem of having perfectly ripe avocados when she needs them? She buys bright green, hard Hass avocados by the case. Then, she takes them home and ripens them in the oven. Keeping them in the dark is the key to getting them ripe, she said. For a home cook, a paper sack will do. Once ripe, the avocados launch a day of guacamole-making that can take up to five hours, from prep to mixing to packaging and cleanup.
“I really enjoy doing it,” she said. “When people tell me their guacamole doesn’t taste as good as mine, I tell them love is a real ingredient.”
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