COVINGTON, Ky. - After graduating from Syracuse University with a journalism degree, Mavis Linnemann-Clark worked in Chicago, editing a magazine and four academic journals.
It didn’t take long for the Ryland, Kentucky, native to realize that being an editor in the big city was not her true calling in life.
“In Chicago, I didn’t know anyone, so I starting hosting dinner parties to make friends,” she said. “Everybody loved my parties.
“After a while, I was spending all of my time cooking and none of my time editing,” she said. “So I decided I needed to go to culinary school.
“I studied catering,” she went on. “When I was growing up, my parents always threw parties, so catering was natural for me.”
In 2010, Mavis enrolled in culinary school at Kendall College, the top culinary arts program in Chicago. The previous Christmas, Mavis had asked her mother to give her a canning pot, and she taught herself to can homemade jams.
“It was love at first canning pot for me – once I started, I just couldn't stop!” Mavis said. “I am a mad scientist of jams, jellies, chutneys, and sauces.
“I love doing fun flavor combinations,” she said. “All during culinary school, I was making jam on the side and giving it as Christmas gifts. The next Christmas, people came to me wanting to buy my jam to give as gifts.”
After graduating with a certificate in catering and personal chef in 2011, Mavis moved back to northern Kentucky, got married, and started a catering business, The Delish Dish.
“Kentucky called me home, I guess,” Mavis said. “I could be a big fish in a small pond, or a little fish in a big pond in Chicago, where everyone wants to be a chef.”
Mavis continued making jams for her family and friends before launching Made by Mavis two years ago. Her fledgling business has been nominated for Martha Stewart’s 2015 American Made awards.
Mavis’ family owns a business that is a blueprint for longevity. Her parents, Guy and Marsha Linnemann, are the fifth-generation owners of Linnemann Funeral Homes in northern Kentucky, which has been in business for 150 years.
Made by Mavis/The Delish Dish rents 3,500 feet of space in the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen in Covington, making it the largest renter among 10 companies that share it.
Made by Mavis’ Kentucky Proud products are currently sold in 25 stores in Kentucky and Ohio. That number will go up significantly with a major announcement involving Mavis and several other Kentucky Proud producers in late September. The upcoming announcement means jam production will immediately quadruple from 50 to 200 jars per day, which shocked the five full-time and seven part-time employees who work for both of Mavis’ businesses.
Mavis credited her two years as a member of Kentucky Proud for helping her business grow.
“I’ve been working with Ben Shaffar and Roger Snell at Kentucky Proud,” she said, “and they’ve been helping me source products locally, getting me in front of so many more people [retailers] than we could’ve done otherwise, and providing us with so much guidance along the way.”
Mavis buys strawberries, blackberries, and herbs from local farmers to make seasonal flavors, which she sells at a local farmers’ market.
“I wish we could use more local produce than we do,” Mavis said. “Kentucky Proud is helping me identify local growers, but when I tell somebody I need 400 pounds of raspberries throughout the course of a year, they look at me and say, ‘What?’”
Mavis uses Alltech’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout beer for her Bourbon Barrel Stout Syrup, which is made for pancakes and waffles. “Your excuse to have beer for breakfast!” the website’s product description quipped.