Not Ketchup – A Business Born In A Santa Monica Kitchen:

Santa Monica mom Erika Kerekes developed a line of “Not Ketchup” sauces after going on a cherry picking pilgrimage to Leona Valley.
Santa Monica mom Erika Kerekes developed a line of “Not Ketchup” sauces after going on a cherry picking pilgrimage to Leona Valley.

By Gerry Furth-Sides

It looks like any other garage on the street, but open the garage door of a certain house on Sunset Avenue and you don’t find the usual Prius, but cartons and cartons of fresh Not Ketchup Sauce that mark the start of a budding business.

Stacking and selling around her home office, is food friend to the community, Erika Kerekes.

A working mom in the area for 20 years, this generous, creative Yale University graduate and former online marketing consultant has for years been well known for her blog, “In Erika’s Kitchen” and for starting the first official food blogger organization in Southern California.

Erika is featured regularly on KCRW’s Good Food radio show, broadcast out of Santa Monica College.

Erika’s sunny disposition and generosity are summed up by her philosophy: “We have an open-door policy when it comes to meals. If I know you, you’re always welcome at our table. And if we haven’t met yet, what are you waiting for?”

For years, Erika’s threw open her kitchen and home for her signature Trufflepolooza truffle parties.

Erika describes herself as “a Santa Monica resident and Long Island transplant – who’s never going back.”

Her favorite room is a kitchen, which “my brilliant husband Michael designed to be the most usable space in which I’ve ever cooked or entertained.”

A year or so ago the kitchen took on new importance after the family went on their annual cherry picking pilgrimage to Leona Valley.

Her sons, Emory and Weston, in her words, “went wild, picking 30 pounds of cherries in as many minutes. After I made as many tarts, jams, jellies and toppings as possible, I still had 15 pounds of cherries left over.”

What to do?

The answer is in the downstairs fridge full of homemade condiments. The texture is reminiscent of ketchup, but the flavors are unique: Chipotle Cherry, Blueberry White Pepper (which has the bite of mustard and white pepper), Smokey Date (paprika influenced), and Spicy Fig.

The name evolved out of the ironclad U.S. regulations prohibiting use of the trademark tomato condiment label, “ketchup.”

So Erika starts with ripe fruit instead of tomatoes to form the base taste. Added to this are farm-fresh onions, pure apple cider vinegar, natural sweeteners (“no white sugar!”) and spices to give it a tangy, peppery kick – which enhance savory dishes and lend a tart twist to sweet ones. A food technologist developed a formula to allow the sauce a market shelf life. An inviting brown bottle completed the design.

While the word “Ketchup” automatically conjures up tomatoes, in fact, the first ketchups were actually made centuries ago from pickled, fermented fish in Asia, and Not Ketchup works well with Asian dishes. On the condiment’s journey by the explorers by way of Europe to the New World, it first evolved into a tangy non-tomato fruit condiment.

Not Ketchup sauces are designed for home cooks to handily transform ordinary dishes, ranging from grilled poultry, grilled cheese sandwich, burgers and sausages into extraordinary.

“Not Ketchup” dipping sauces are on local shelves at Bob’s Market, wine Expo, Luna Garcia and Santa Monica Seafood – where the chef also created a popular scallop salad dish featuring the blueberry sauce now on their menu.

And Not Ketchup is “a local” now venturing out into the world, first “east of Sepulveda” at Wine Expo (the sauces take crackers and cheese to a new level) and Buster’s Baskets and Flowers in Culver City Wine Expo.

Erika’s Not Ketchup also made a big impression at the national Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this past season, and shows have become part of Erika’s life. This summer Erika and Weston went to Texas to do six-hour demos with 500-800 samples with Not Ketchup at all nine Central Market gourmet superstores.

Erika’s philosophy with Not Ketchup is just as welcoming as her home.

Readers can follow her journey on the website, which also includes recipes and shopping information is available.