Charles Hay was a chef by trade. He started out learning how to bring different flavors together to create well-balanced dishes at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I.
He went on to cook at a few places overseas in Ireland, Scotland and Korea, but when he came back to the states, he found himself in between jobs. His mother, Sandy Hay, had seen a unique store that served olive oils and balsamic vinegars and told him to go check it out.
Where: 821 Dawsonville Highway Suite 230, Gainesville; 9924 Davis St., Suite 5, Braselton
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Contact: 706-714-6457, www.olivebasketonline.com/
“I went and tasted it and I thought the oils and vinegars were really good,” Hay said. “So we decided to go for it.”
Hay and his mother opened Olive Basket at 821 Dawsonville Highway, Suite 230, last October. The Gainesville location is their third along with others in Athens and Braselton.
“For the most part, we’ve been getting really bad olive oil in the U.S. for a long time,” Hay said. “In fact, most of the time, the stuff we taste is rancid, and we’ve developed a taste and use that as a baseline for olive oil.”
Instead of the typical olive oil that has probably been sitting on the shelf at the grocery store way too long, Hay said his olive oil is handled in the most efficient way possible.
It’s shipped from a different part of the world, depending on the season, to Veronica Foods, where it’s infused with flavors like blood orange, baklouti green chile, persian lime, tuscan herb and others. Veronica Foods then sends it to Olive Basket, where it can be tasted and sold to customers.
It’s a small store, but it’s packed with tons of flavors. With the balsamic vinegars included, Olive Basket has around 40-50 different flavors. It’s when they are combined that Hay says they will “surprise you.”
“We do a lot of different flavor combinations,” Hay said. “And when you get a really good oil and vinegar together, it will knock your socks off.”
The taste isn’t the only reason Hay and his mother got into the olive oil and balsamic vinegar business. He said there are many health benefits to using olive oil that is handled properly.
“If you’re consuming good olive oil, the bad cholesterol goes down and the good cholesterol goes up,” Hay said. “There’s heart-health benefits to it. There’s such a variety of good things about olive oil that you want to share with everybody.”
That’s what Hay and his mother now plan to do in Gainesville, along with teaching cooking classes to show how the oils can be used.
“Business has been pretty good,” Hay said. “But, I mean, we’d always like to see more people in.”