Herb and Kathy Eckhouse founded La Quercia and work in all aspects of the business: selecting and buying pork, salting, trimming, and handling hams and leading the small group of dedicated staff who participate in our production. We work the full shift for first and second salting; we developed our own spice blends for our pancetta, lonza, bacon, guanciale, coppa, lardo, and prosciutto piccante; and whenever we can, we leave our desks to get our hands into the meat of the matter.
Kathy worked as a ranch hand and then as a researcher in Agricultural Economics at the University of California at Berkeley before she made home-making and mothering her primary occupation. A long time foodie (Berkeley born and raised) who lived in Europe for several years as a child and adolescent, Kathy is the person all of her friends describe as the best cook they know. She adds intuition and a fine food sense developed through years of making bread and pasta, inventing recipes, and reading cookbooks.
For Herb, this is his fifth career. He spent over thirty years in agriculture, from raising seed potatoes to working cattle to developing and marketing commodity crop and vegetable seeds. Before he and Kathy designed and built their prosciuttificio, he spent 5 years researching, experimenting, learning and making prosciutto at home.
Daughter Laurel is pursuing a PhD in Political Science at UC Berkeley after her years with Teach for America and as an Outward Bound trip leader. Daughter Sara works is Chief of Staff for the AMS at the USDA, having graduated from Harvard magna cum laude in biological anthropology. Son Aaron is a senior at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He's majoring in political science with a minor in biology and a serious focus on good food. All three children have pitched in over the years: supporting La Quercia at The Fancy Food Show, handing out prosciutto samples in 45° weather, mopping floors, and, of course, offering plentiful opinions!
We have a great team of dedicated people–Sebastian, Gladis, Johnny, Maria, Nick, Rosa, Joselito, Hector, Armando, Enrique, Carlos C, Jorge, Edibel, Jose, Luiz, Edgar, Alejandro, Carla, Sonia, Melvyn, Marcial, Big Carlos, Emilio, and Miguel--who learned the intricate work of making delicious prosciutto with us. No detail is too small to be examined and all practices are subject to review and re-evaluation. Everyone participates in making things better. We always appreciate feedback--we learn from what you like or don't like, so please let us know.
None of this work could happen without the consistently excellent work of our cleanup crew--Carlos C and Emilio. They take over once the meat is put away and get everything clean and ready for inspection so that we can start again the next day.
Sebastian is now responsible for organizing the plant crew. That means getting people in the right place with the right tools to get their work done in time. With the different cuts of meats and their different cycles, there's always activity on the fresh side, the cured side, final trimming and slicing. It sometimes feels like a 3 ring circus with all the rings going at the same time. Sebastian loves working with meat, so he takes on this task with infectious enthusiasm.
Johnny is our assistant Plant Supervisor. He focusses on the cured side, but he's an expert knifesman and has worked in all aspects over the last 4 years so we depend on him heavily.
And Kendra is our office manager: funny, super competent, and utterly charming on the telephone; much nicer than we are. Stephanie may be even nicer than Kendra! She now handles all customer orders--from pallets to samples. What did we/you do before they came?