Wendy French Barrett, owner of and butter enthusiast at Wise Butter, grew up near the Amish community in Perry County, Tennessee. She spent many days driving around with her Papaw as he was in search of all of the best things to consume. He would take his old Sunny D bottles to fill up with spring water, acquire produce, and seek the best butter. Papaw said that it just tasted better.
Flash forward to a grown Wendy working as an English teacher, then working in corporate health care. Wendy felt her jobs were not fulfilling her creatively. She was spending her weekends cooking, thinking she could be content with separate work and creative lives. Her weekends cooking were what she most looked forward to, and fortunately for us, one of those weekends was making butter. Working that weekend with fresh cream to create butter from scratch, with her hands in the bowl, Wendy found the very first thing that was meditative for her. Realizing also how versatile and how many purposes butter had with added flavors led Wendy to her Eureeka moment: "I could do this! This makes me feel good!" Wendy soon found herself keeping a butter binder of recipes in what was formerly her poetry binder.
The road to Wise Butter has been a long one so far, where Wendy finds herself constantly relying on the kindness of strangers. Dairy is one of the most regulated products in Tennessee, and this was the greatest challenge for the fruition of Wise Butter. There would be no making small-batch butter from scratch, and even adding other ingredients to produce flavored butters was years away in the world of regulations. With all of the certifications needed to produce her flavored butters, Wendy was in the middle of a community effort to get her business off the ground. Wendy enrolled in the CO.STARTERS for Food Entrepreneurs class at The Skillery, wrote a business plan, did financial worksheets, and pestered the Department of Agriculture as they repeatedly gave her a flat out no. Meeting Laura Wilson at Citizen Kitchens lit a fire under her, and the final pushes were made.
Wise butter uses local ingredients whenever possible. Hatcher Family Dairy is Wendy's go-to local butter to add her labor intensive ingredients to, but during the Summer months, there is a cream shortage. During this time, Amish butter from Ohio is used. In the future, Wise Butter's goals are set on on stocking up in a way that local butter can be used year round. The locally harvested Tennessee Artisan Honey is used in two of Wise Butter's seasonal flavors, Balsamic Strawberry and (coming soon!) Peach, along with Green Door Gourmet's organic strawberries and the Peach Truck's peaches. Having taken on Papaw's love for the best tasting local ingredients sets the beginning flavors of Wise Butter apart. Wendy's perfectionism sets the deeper flavors with her processes, from roasting and hand peeling each clove of garlic, to finely combing each pound of fresh basil down to 9 ounces of the best leaves and tender skins.
Creating recipes is Wendy's favorite part of the process. Having eleven sample flavors in her class at The Skillery, it has been difficult to keep it narrowed down. The three flavors always available are Apricot Almond, Chipotle, and Roasted Garlic Basil, with an additional two seasonal flavors. These flavors meet Wise Butter's standard of being tasty, over the top delicious, and functional and helpful to the home cook. One can simply add Wise Butter to any any basic ingredient, and Wendy's labor brings all the seasoning and flavor needed to 'churn up the volume' of a dish.
Wendy feels that every part of the job is so fun. She gets to be around what she calls designer produce, and a community of people that love working with it and creating and enjoying specialty foods as much as she does. Her favorite part of the Richland Park Farmer's Market on Saturday is hearing how people have used and enjoyed Wise Butter. She loves to see pictures of their food and hear their ideas for flavors. The next best part is the dogs. Wendy says the market is like the best dog show ever. Add getting to spend the day outdoors to the wonderful relationships with the market shoppers and seeing the dogs, and you have Wendy's perfect day.
Find Wise Butter at The Richland Park Farmer's Market every Saturday, May through November from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Remember to take pictures of your creations with Wise Butter to show off to Wendy so that you may delight together!