Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Handmade and Home Grown (and another Giveaway!)


Entrepreneur Stefan Grosberg puts a Trinidadian spin on an Italian classic with his Shadon beni (chardon béni) pesto. I love that he uses local flavours in new and extraordinary ways. Even better the farm to table approach of growing herbs which go into his amazing line of pestos is why I am here at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning tramping through his beautiful garden with my camera.

basil and heliconia

Stefan graciously submits to the awfulness of having his picture taken with steady aplomb. I must admit that I am intrigued by his quiet confidence and composure. Here is a 24 year old young man with a perfectly good degree in Chemical engineering who has instead turned himself towards starting up a food production business.

pink drop flowers and herbs

BLDP: What is your educational background?

Stefan: I studied science subjects in school and come from a family with a background in engineering. Chemical Engineering was my degree of choice. At that time, Trinidad was in great need of engineers. There were many projects planned and the economy was booming. I thoroughly enjoyed my studies and experiences while away and have no regrets whatsoever. I graduated in 2008 from the University of Bath, UK, then did a stint with an oil refinery. However a failed attempt at getting funding for a PhD and an economy which was no longer employing made me return home and take up a job with my family's business.

redbrickhouse composite

BLDP: How did you arrive at the idea of growing herbs and making pesto for a living?

Stefan:I heard about the slow food movement late one night on Travel Channel. It was captivating and it inspired me to grow vegetables and herbs. I started with a handful of containers which then grew to three beds. Later on, I was introduced to a group of organic farmers, one of them with connections to Italy. Utilizing my Slow Food connections I was soon on a plane to Italy to start my travels and learn about more about traditional and regional cuisines. In middle of all this, basil bushes that I had grown needed to be pruned. In my home we don’t waste anything so I decided to make pesto! I took it to Upmarket and the response from people was good. One thing led to the next, fast forward some time and I now I am doing it full time!

chardon béni pesto on hops

BLDP: Did you imagine that after studying at University that this would be your current path?

Stefan:I remember myself about 8 years old, coming home from school (we had just gotten cable TV) and on the Discovery Channel there was a show called Great Chefs. I watched this religiously. I loved it. I loved the food creations. I played a lot in the kitchen mainly with baking cookies, brownies etc but as I got older, well it just wasn't cool to do that sort of thing!

BLDP: Having invested heavily in your education what do your parents think of your current shift into agriculture and food production?

Stefan:My parents, bless them, have always supported my siblings and me. They will stand by us 100% and have always told us that in anything we do, do it to the best of our ability. They will be proud of us. I am truly grateful for them, their guidance and support.

BLDP:Who came up with the name for your company and the logo? 

Stefan:The name was the result of a lot of thought and contemplation! A very good friend of mine did the original artwork and logo. The name reflects my philosophy about food that is home grown and made by hand thus 'del mano' which means from the hand in Italian.

BLDP: What products do you currently sell?

Stefan:  There is a traditional Italian pesto which I make with Genovese basil that is fresh from my garden. I also make a Shadon Beni Pesto which is a pesto done in the style of South American Chimichurri. My tarragon pesto was inspired by the fresh scent I got every time I brush past the tarragon bush in the garden. I am constantly developing new flavours and have two new surprise pestos at the moment that you can find out more about on my facebook page which is the best place to learn about all my products old and new.
BLDP: Where are your products sold?

Stefan: Currently I only have Shadon Beni Pesto available for retail sale. It is available for home delivery in Port of Spain and environs from dMarket Movers and in San Fernando at The Gourmet Genie. This will change very soon though, with Basil Pesto and Roast Melongene Pesto joining the retail line up. There are always new pesto ideas coming through my brain and I feature them at UpMarket to judge how people enjoy them and to see how they need to be tweaked, or in some cases dropped! In addition to the monthly UpMarket I'm working with other outlets in the Port of Spain area to carry my products.

BLDP: Would you describe yourself as a good cook?
Stefan: I only cook for a hobby, and God help my sous-chef! I pride myself in flavors, but technically I'm rubbish.

BLDP: What is your favourite thing to cook or eat? 

Stefan: I enjoy Mediterranean style cuisine generally speaking, but good creole food with salty flavors like pig tail, or creamy coconut milk and spicy ginger are all flavors that captivate me.

BLDP: Which is your top selling product?(like I don't already know:-)

Stefan:Shadon Beni Pesto.


BLDP: Which part of the business do you enjoy most, the growing of the herbs, the making of the pesto or the marketing?

Stefan:The growing is a good time for contemplation and even relaxation. When it is time for harvest though, its early morning work. I'm not a morning person. Certainly creating new pestos and tweaking flavors is exciting. When making pesto to fill orders, once you get in the zone the work is fun. Marketing isn't my strength, or at least I don't think so...but a good friend told me to love up my loving it up, I'll get better at it. Really though I love what I do, the flavours I work with and the principles I stand for. I just want to share that with everyone.

True to his word about sharing Stefan has so kindly agreed to give away 3 bottles of Del Mano Pesto so that instead of just reading about it one lucky reader can actually taste these condiments.

I must tell you all that my personal favourite is the Shadon Beni Pesto. This herb is the backbone of the popular Trinidadian green seasoning marinade which flavours almost every dish in this country. It is used in soups, salads, chows (chutneys), and on every type of meat.

In some small way I consider myself an expert on shadon beni so yeah the first time that I tasted Del Mano Shadon Beni pesto I expected to like it. What I did not expect was that I would finish off the entire bottle! What started off as just a taste on a crix biscuit soon turned into a full on lunch of just a bag of crackers and one bottle of Del Mano Shadon beni pesto. When I ran out of crix I substituted with a slice of bread (hops) which turned out to be perfect for sopping up the last greasy bits of pesto and saved me from the disgrace of actually licking the plate.

closeup hambuger
Its grilling season and I cannot think of a more perfect time for someone to get this giveaway.  I can tell you that the shadon beni pesto goes well on anything that comes off the grill. Try it on your corn, roasted vegetables, shrimp, meat, chicken and fish. You are limited only by your imagination. So here is what you do:

1. Follow this blog by clicking on the google friend connect button
2. Click on the Facebook fan page widget in the side bar and click on the "like" button.
3. Leave a comment HERE on this blog saying that you have met the requirements of #1 and #2.
In the comments don’t forget to leave leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win. To avoid being spammed please type email in the following format janejohndoe(at)gmail(dot)com
4. Please don't enter a bunch of times under different names and email addresses. It's one entry per person


A winner will be chosen by number generator. If the first number chosen doesn’t qualify (i.e., the commenter didn’t follow the rules above), then I will move on to the next number until I find a winner.

You have exactly 3 days from the time that I contact you to get back to me with delivery instructions. If I don't hear from you within that time I will give your prize to someone else. So make sure you keep checking your email around the time of the drawing.

The giveaway will be open until 6:00 PM EST Wednesday 20th July 2011. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter and will be responsible for the pick up of their prize. Unfortunately this giveaway is restricted to residents of Trinidad only.

Congrats to the winner! Danielle I will contact you by email.

Submitted to
Hearth and Soul Hop at Sunshine and Smile



  1. That guy looks great! That pesto looks better than any pesto I have eaten.

  2. Thank you so much for dropping by:) Your photos are so very gorgeous .. i love all of them but my fav is that brick wall!

  3. Absolutely loved reading the interview..great insight behind own grown food..I love the pictures- especially of the fruit (mangoes?) hanging from the branch!

  4. Gorgeous photos Wizzy, they're so beautifully and light. I really like the idea of a tarragon pesto and he has some great ideas!

  5. That shadon benni is gorgeous! And your photo now has me craving a burger.

  6. Lovely photos. That pesto looks yummy, gotta have it!
    I have met the requirements.

  7. i want a bottle! tell him to ship me one to jamaica i'll pay the shipping!

  8. Have completed 1 & 2.
    Wonderful products, wonderful garden. Can't wait to try the real thing
    Kate Wong

  9. Tanvi- no not mangos. Here in Trinidad the fruit are called pomme cythère.

    Abigail - well come on over I'll throw one on the grill specially for you!

    IrieDiva wouldn't it be awesome if he shipped! Go over and ask him on his FB page. Great idea:-)

    Thanks to all who have commented so far. Your support for Del Mano pesto means a lot:-)

  10. What an interesting interview. I can feel the connection, as I graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree as well, and had years of work non-related to food. But I am currently doing what I really feel for - food! And Del Mano's story really inspires me. Thanks. :)

  11. What beautiful photos! I love the ginger flowers, absolutely gorgeous. How I wish I was eligible for the giveaway, it sounds delicious :) Good luck everyone.

  12. LOVE this perfect pesto post. I had never heard of this cute gentleman and all his crazy good pestos. I wish I had access to buy them. :)

  13. I'm not eligible for the giveaway, but I wanted to comment on your great interview and photos! I'm wishing too, that he shipped that wonderful pesto! :)

  14. Girl, your photos are amazing! That one of the open pink flower at the top took my breath away and then the stunning simplicity of the yellow leaf - love it. Now, as for this man and his pesto, I can't decide which looks yummier! ;-) Good thing my husband doesn't check up on the comments I leave...

  15. Pesto looks delicious. I love always handmade ones compared to store bought. thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul hop.

  16. Lovely clicks and interesting interview!



  17. nice pics,
    thanks for sharing

  18. Wonderful interview and photos :D
    *kisses* HH

  19. Hey, I've had some of the wonderful pesto...slathered it all over fresh italian bread and baked grouper. Bought it at the last UpMarket. Yum!

  20. Super interview! How cool to move from chemistry to food. It soulds fairly logical to me, actually. Wonderful, too, that Stefan has so much family support. Quite lucky. I am curious about that Shadon Beni pesto. Is it available in California yet?

  21. I'm really late in catching up to things - but great post! so wish I was home to experience some of these things you are showcasing :-) Good work.

  22. Hi; It's fantastic blog, very useful
    Dr. Ashraf