Q&A With Kugelettes’ Laurie Saidiner
It’s never too early to start thinking about what you’ll be eating next year and I think you should put Kugelettes on your list. Los Angeles teacher Laurie Saidiner created the Kugelettes, a miniature version of the traditional Jewish Kugel noodle dish that’s packed with just as much flavor as the original Kugel you know and love — along with having the added bonus of the convenience and portion-control of the Kugelettes. Not only that, the core four Kugelettes flavors (traditional, blueberry, green chili salsa, and sun-died tomato with cheese) are vegetarian and organic. They’re perfect for eating on-the-go or if you just feel like a sweet or savory treat. Saidiner gave me a preview of the Kugelettes and, let me tell you, I devoured mine very quickly — they’re delicious!
And so far, the product has generated lots of interest and success for Saidiner. Earlier this year, she appeared on the Food Network series Food Fortunes (think: A food Shark Tank), where she impressed investors Robert Earl, Scott Gerber, Dan Glickberg, and Michele Hoskins with the Kugelettes. “After one bite the consumer audience and the entire investor panel declared Kugelettes delicious,” Earl said in a statement. “I plan to stay close to Michele and Laurie’s progress and do what I can to support their success.”
While I was meeting with Saidiner at Brentwood Cafe, a couple actually came over to us to inquire about the Kugelettes on our table, enthusiastically remarking that they’d buy many of them in a heart beat. For right now, Saidiner and her team are working on ways to distribute the product to you in 2016, so you too can can order as many as you want in a heart beat. Saidiner was nice enough to answer a few questions about this delicious dish and taught me all the ways to eat one. Check out the video below.
What was the inspiration behind the Kugelettes?
Actually, I grew up with Kugelettes, but they were made in a traditional, big pan. It was a recipe back from my grandmother. My grandparents were bakers and had their own bakery here in LA. I’ve grown up with food all around me. I decided it was time to take the Kugel to a new level. I liked the fact that when I made them, there was portion control. I knew how much I was eating, because I might otherwise eat the whole pan. So could everyone else in my family, too. This way, everyone had to share a little bit better. It’s a passion; I love cooking.
When did you start cooking and what was the first dish you ever made?
I used to sit on the floor in my mom’s kitchen and relax and talk and watch. I was always my mom’s helper. The very first real special dish I ever made that I can remember: I was about 8 and I made Eggs Benedict for my mother for Mother’s Day. I got a can of Hollandaise sauce and I learned how to make the poached eggs. That’s truly one of the very first dishes I remember. At night, I used to go to bed with cookbooks, so why didn’t I become a chef at some point? Looking back, I didn’t quite know that was an option.
What has the process been like for you going from idea to figuring out the recipes of the Kugelettes and to now where you are?
It started out as just an idea and a food that I knew I loved. I played with a little bit — it was a lot of trial and error, especially with the sweet ones until I finally found the flavors that would work. I tried a lot of different things and it took time. And that’s for sweet, which is what people normally enjoy. They do have savory, but they’re flavors like broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower, and that just didn’t seem like it would be inviting, kid-friendly or mainstream. So for this, I started experimenting in the kitchen. Again, it was a process of trial and error until I finally got the right ones.
Then I thought okay, let’s see what happens. I put it in a contest and if it works — it worked. In truth, now I have over 30 flavors. I know I’ll have seasonal ones — my most popular is Pumpkin Cranberry, which I wish I could’ve brought today, but I ran out.
How much of boost of confidence did your successful appearance on Food Network’s Food Fortunes give you in your product?
First, I have to share how I found out about the show: Through Craigslist! I responded with my material and next thing I know, I get a call and they wanted me to audition. They interview me and find out I’m a teacher for the deaf, among other things and they said they’d call me. I was in New York City for New Year’s Eve, watching the ball drop and I get a call asking if I can be available on particular dates.
So I made sure to do my homework — I rewatched ABC’s Shark Tank a lot and I got everything ready. The excitement, the charge, and the electricity I got out of it — nothing could ever top that. Except the birth of my children. It was exhilarating, it was exciting, and I must have received over 1,000 contacts on my website from all over the U.S. I mean, everywhere. All four investors brought me back and now I have definitely one investor with another right behind.
How has it been juggling teaching with building your own business?
I’m a special kind of teacher — I travel from school to school. I see all the kids who are deaf and hard of hearing. I work with the kids and I work with the teachers. I have a couple of schools which are entrepreneurial charter schools and I shared with them that I was going to do this. Every single class watched; they made sure they taped it and watched. They tried the Kugelettes and loved it. It’s fun to share these with my students. They get an idea of who I am and, because I’m also hard of hearing, they see that you can accomplish anything you want.
As for teaching ate same time, it’s tough. I’m doing two full-time jobs right now. But let’s see where we go.