EXPOSÉ!!!: PICKLE PIMP TELLS ALL TO PIQUED PERSONAGE
Grillo grilled by gangly gadfly
BY SEAN CLANCY @SCLANCY
In the world of local, gourmet pickling, there are few like Travis Grillo, of Grillo’s Pickles. In part because the man’s rise from food cart vendor to swag ‘cuke rock star is almost too spectacular to believe, and in part because that “local, gourmet pickling” category isn’t exactly chockablock with members. We spoke with Grillo about business, foodie cosplay, and pickle penetration at his briny pleasuredome in Cambridge.
People had chances to penetrate the Boston market with pickles, but I don’t think anybody did it.
Where do you draw the line between a rip-off and an original take?
If another company came to Boston and tried doing what we’re doing—making fresh product, marketing the way we do—that would turn us the wrong way. We’d probably react on it. (Laughs)
We’ll leave it to the imagination.
Yeah, leave it to the imagination.
On the topic of quality, has this past year’s weather affected the supply side of Grillo’s?
For the last four and a half years we’ve been making pickles; this year has been the worst as far as quality. The heat is basically what’s affecting our produce. Most pickle companies buy the best cucumbers at one time. So we’re getting really good cucumbers right now. A pickle company would wait to process most of their product right now, and then it’ll sit in a jar until next summer, and that’s what you’d be eating, whether it’s pasteurized or jarred. But for Grillo’s we have a garden fresh pickle, a quick pickle, something you make weekly.
Do you look at the issue of climate change as something you want to be involved with, for the sake business? Or do you just deal with it?
For now it’s something we’re dealing with. There’s enough places processing pickles—from Texas to Canada to Mexico—that there are pickles around. We try to buy mostly from Florida, North Carolina, Ohio—mostly the United States.
It was completely hot throughout the whole United States for a good two-month period this summer. It was hot everywhere. That was a problem.
Before, you mentioned expanding Grillo’s in other directions.
My cousin and I always say when we’re old Italians we’d love to have a little shop where we’re making our sandwiches just using Grillo’s stuff. Grillo’s relish, Grillo’s hot peppers, Grillo’s everything. It might not be for a long time. We just want to sell Grillo’s pickles and succeed in that before selling everything we do to every store. Keep some of the trade secrets in our house.
Finally, any particularly salacious anecdotes from the pickle biz?
I was the bootleg pickle man for quite some time before I ever had any type of legal way of selling pickles. I remember wearing this pickle suit in the middle of the city. People would be like, “I would never wear that pickle suit, ever!” And this is a homeless guy. And I’m like, “okay, you’ll never wear a pickle suit.”
But that’s part of why I’m here today, succeeding with the company: because I chose to wear a pickle suit.
Yeah, people laughed at me, but now look at them. They’re still working where they were working, and I’m doing what I’m doing.
[1075 Cambridge St., Cambridge. @GrillosPickles grillospickles.com]