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Virginia's rich soils have yielded a nation's foundation?from colonial settlements to the seeds of democracy. Rooted in agriculture, Virginia's vibrant history remains reflected through the enterprising efforts of an organic food company with a flair for flavor and respect for the state's heritage. Steven Lynch and his family own and operate Montebello Kitchens in historic Gordonsville, VA. Montebello means "beautiful mountain," and the Lynches live and work in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia.

The Lynch family's respect for the traditions and heritage of Virginia is reflected in the soups, sauces, spices, rubs, milled grains, dressings and marinades that are the hallmark of Montebello Kitchens and its brand, Olde Shenandoah. "Virginia was settled by hard-working families from England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany. Our family had a vision of creating fine food based on recipes of these Virginia families using the bounty of the season to evoke the tantalizing foods of a Virginia farm kitchen," owner Steven Lynch explained. "It is these recipes that resonate with the vibrancy of Virginia life.

" In the early 90's, Lynch and his family opened a three-table coffee shop in downtown Gordonsville. Soon, lunch was being served with signature sauces, soups and sandwiches. Eventually, Lynch and his wife Becky opened a full-service restaurant and gourmet market. As business grew, so did the Lynch family and Montebello Kitchens was created as an avenue for Steven to spend more time with his family, while still applying his culinary skills.

The family took the name from the nearby "beautiful mountains," but also from the company's first location?Montebello Farm, birthplace of 12th U.S. President Zachary Taylor.

Since then, Lynch has been working with organic ingredients, fresh herbs and spices to develop a product line he's proud to serve his friends and family. "Everything we make is what I make for myself and my family," he explained. Most of the recipes were culled from locally-grown products and first served at his family table or at backyard cookouts. Self-taught in the kitchen, Lynch would refine each recipe until it was absolutely perfect and ready for production. Consequently, he appreciates the value of each recipe's origins.

"Because we are a family business, we believe in shared obligations?to customers, to vendors, to employees," Lynch explained. "We believe that integrity, hard work and good will pay off in satisfied customers." That approach has been a recipe for success. Scott Hartman, associate store team leader of the Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville said the Lynch family has been great to work with.

"The customer response to their products has been very good?especially the peanut soup and barbecue sauce," Hartman said. "They participate in our farmers market, and demonstrated the products in the store. Once they did, their products started jumping off the shelves and into the shopping baskets." As a market that supports local producers, Whole Foods has proven a perfect venue for Montebello Kitchens. "Local producers can deliver fresher products faster and with less environmental impact," Lynch explained.

Most importantly, Whole Foods Market's support of local vendors fuels local economies while offering their customers uniquely regional flavors." Those regional flavors earned Montebello Kitchens an invitation to the Jamestown 2007 400-year anniversary celebration and helped land their products in gift baskets for Queen Elizabeth II and President George Bush during the Queen's visit to Virginia in May. In September, Montebello Kitchens will exhibit at ExpoEast in Baltimore which highlights natural and organic food producers for national grocery and specialty food stores. As participants in the Virginia's Finest program, Montebello Kitchens enjoys the benefits of support and promotion through The Virginia Department of Agriculture (VDA).

Montebello Kitchens' soups, sauces, spices, rubs, milled grains, dressings and marinades meet the standards established by VDA and reap the benefits of state support. And, demonstrative of the family-wide commitment to the business, oldest daughter Lolly pitches in by stamping products with the VDA-approved "Made in Virginia" stickers. "We want to bring buyer and seller together," VDA representative David Robishaw explained. "We work with local growers and producers and the Lynches are really growing their business. We want to help our Virginia companies and encourage people to buy locally-grown and developed products.

" A catalog of Montebello Kitchens products is available at www.montebellokitchens.com. Products are available at 40 retail outlets throughout Virginia. Additionally, Montebello Kitchens will be participating at a number of regional food festivals. To find out when and where, visit the company's website.

Lynch can be reached by calling 800-743-SOUP, ext. 702.

Steven Lynch, a native Virginian, has been crafting his culinary skills since an early age. He brings a vast expertise and colorful flair to all of his culinary creations. His impressive talent for creating the best in Virginia foods brings him significant and popular acclaim on Virginia Food. Find more information about Virginia traditions here.


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