Pictured: Brandon with his children Aidan and Sienna/
Brocia opens Bleu Handcrafted Foods
If you’re looking for a more personal culinary experience far away from the madding crowds at Vons, you may wish to visit Bleu Handcrafted Foods, which opened on Main Street next to P3 and Base Camp Cafe on Wednesday.
Bleu Handcrafted Foods features fine cheeses, wines, cured meats and more. Owner Brandon Brocia also personally creates the daily specials. On Thursday, for example, the specials list included Confit Pork Ribs, Duck Confit, Arugula Pesto, Spinach Spaggetti and Squid Ink Pasta.
Brocia, former Food and Beverage Director/Executive Chef at the Westin, said his goal is to “create gourmet elements for people. Get them out of their box a little bit. In most cities, you have [a shop like] this. In Napa, they’re on every street corner.”
The customer, said Brocia, will notice the difference immediately. To illustrate his point, he referenced the “Island of Cheese” at Vons. Everything is pre-packaged. So if you want to experiment, it’s a gamble. And most people don’t want to gamble $15 on a block of cheese they can’t try ‘til they get home and unwrap it.
At Bleu, where Brocia buys his cheese primarily from small family farms located in-state, he’ll customize portions into whatever size you’d like – and you’ll get one-to-one attention. “People come in looking to make a particular dish, or to create a cheese platter for their Fireworks viewing party, and I can guide them,” he says.
“It should be about more than filling your shopping cart and heading to the checkout stand. Let’s taste it, talk about it.”
To borrow the Footloose Sports tagline, at Bleu, you can “try before you buy.”
Brocia started his culinary career with the Charthouse Restaurant in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. He moved to Mammoth in ‘97 for the winter, transferring within the company to work at the Charthouse in Mammoth. He fell in love with the area and moved here permanently the following year. He met his wife Theresa during the 2000-2001 season when both worked for Connie Black at the Double Eagle Resort. The couple has two children; Aidan, 5, and Sienna, 2.
“I’ve always wanted to work for myself,” said Brandon. “Be an entrepreneur. Prove to myself that I can do it.” And given his long experience in the area, Brocia feels like he knows what it will take to survive the dreaded shoulder seasons.
The cheeses and the cured meats hold well. “My inventory is almost non-perishable,” he says. “And my overhead is low,” he adds, noting that he is the show for now – there are no employees.
“I sold four bottles of Rosé yesterday. I wouldn’t sell four bottles of Rosé in a summer at the Westin. It’s because I had the time to talk about the wine, explain it … Mammoth Lakes is a destination spot for people from all over the world. They want to experience what we have in California.”
Sheet: Do people think you’re crazy for opening up a new shop in this economy?
Brocia: I feel there’s a niche that needs to be filled. People will buy luxury items that are accessible. A $50,000 car may not be accessible but a nice glass of wine paired with the perfect cheese … that’s a luxury moment, and that is [accessible].”