We dedicate this special section to the makers of Beijing – the entrepreneurs, crafters, and movers and shakers who provide new ways of experiencing this great city. We know there are many out there who have exciting endeavors in mind but are just waiting for the right moment. So we hope that you find inspiration in each maker whom we’ve invited to participate in this feature.
Preserved foodstuffs are ubiquitous at Chinese supermarkets but let’s be honest: many of us don’t really want to munch on those rubbery spicy strips called là tiáo (辣条), or vacuum-sealed marinated eggs, or other local snacks, however appetizing they look. Luckily for us, there are makers like Drew Ezzell of Bubba’s Pantry who specialize in making, preserving, and jarring food items with probiotics – living cultures that help support a healthy digestive system. And speaking of help and support, Bubba’s Pantry donates 10 percent of their sales to Lifeline Shanghai, an English-language crisis hotline across China.
beijingkids: Is Bubba’s Pantry a childhood dream? Tell us more about your business.
Ezzell: Growing up, I was always interested in biology. As a kid, I watched the Discovery Channel way more than I watched cartoons. At a fairly young age, I got really into cooking and knew I wanted to work around food for the rest of my life. Fermentation is the natural marriage of those two interests. Bacteria, yeasts, molds get a bad rap these days but in truth, humans have been using them to preserve foods since the dawn of man. I think it is incredible that each jar of ours is its own little ecosystem with countless microorganisms calling home.
Share with us a memorable story with your customer and how did that help you build your brand better?
I’m of course very grateful to every business owner that has decided to offer Bubba’s Pantry products at their bar or restaurant. One of my regular customers bought a large picnic basket full of our products. He and his girlfriend went up to the Great Wall and enjoyed a picnic on their anniversary. They even sent me a lot of great pictures from the day! It feels great knowing my products were a part of such a special day for them.
We know that Beijing is a land of opportunities so what can you tell people who are planning to set up small businesses?
I work way more than I did prior to starting Bubba’s Pantry, but I am also way happier, and I can’t put a price on that. If you believe in it, go for it!
What’s that one thing that makes you stay in Beijing?
When I first moved to Beijing I was a teacher. While I run Bubba’s Pantry, I also work as a food tour guide for Untour Food Tours and do voice acting for a large AI company. But in all of this, the community here has kept me tied to Beijing. For such a large city, the expat community in this city is pretty tightly knit!
Contact Ezzell at WeChat ID: DrewEzzell or 157 2660 0124, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the digital version of the Making the New Beijing feature article in the beijingkids November 2018 Beijing Makers issue
Photo: Lens Studio