Steve Stallard has lived by the mantra “Because Life is Short” since he was a teenager, but the creation and impact of one of the most popular Michigan-made line of food products is anything but fleeting.
Stallard, who was trained at the legendary Culinary Institute of America and later worked at gourmet restaurants including Taillevent Restaurant of Paris, The Greenbrier Club, Dow and The Amway Grand Plaza, created Grand Rapids-based BLiS Gourmet in 2004.
He pioneered using barrel-aged items with the launch of domestic roes and maple syrup, following up with one-of-a-kind products such as barrel-aged vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, and fish sauce, as well as salt and spices. The ingredients were all chef-driven and developed as the finishing touches to dishes.
Stallard began dabbling in barrel aging while working professionally and using maple syrup and bourbon as his “house” cure. He wondered: “What would happen if I put syrup in a barrel?” The discovery, through trial and error, was a revelation.
He began a quest to source the best barrels and perfected the craft syrup. The barrels that hold syrup for 6 months to 1 year then get another use as roughly a gallon of the syrup is absorbed into the wood, providing an environment that boosts flavors of other ingredients used in food prepration.
“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re adding products that would benefit from that (syrup),” Stallard said, noting the items are used in professional kitchens around the world but are equally friendly and adaptable in home kitchens by cooks of all skill levels.
DISCOVER THE STORE: The complete BLiS product line is available here
The recognition of BLiS products is long, including awards as best in show at the Bissel Maple Farm Craft Maple Syrup festival the past two years and a SOFI award from the Specialty Food Association for the best dessert topping.
The sauces, syrups, rubs and oils have also earned praise in nationally renowned magazines and food sites such as Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits and Bon Appetit as well as cooking show and media celebrities like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.
On the horizon, BLiS teases, is a limited-edition Jamaican rum that will launch at Mammoth Distilling tasting rooms Labor Day weekend.
Check out the video below to learn more about Blis Gourmet products:
Here are five of the favorite recipes from the BLiS creative team:
Vegetarian “BLT” (sans bacon)
- Good whole grain bread
- The best heirloom tomatoes available
- 2 tbsp Duke’s or homemade mayo
- 1 tsp BLiS rye aged apple cider vinegar
- 5 tbsp BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce (per 3 slices of tomato)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Organic leaf lettuce (Bibb, Boston, Red Leaf, etc.)
- Cracked black pepper
- Marinate 3 thick tomato slices in BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce and olive oil for 45 minutes
- Blend mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, and apply liberally to toasted bread
- Layer with marinated tomatoes, lettuce, and top the tomatoes with cracked black pepper
- 2 pounds meaty chicken wings
- Frying oil (we recommend peanut oil)
- 5 cups BLiS “Blast” hot sauce
- 1/3 cup BLiS bourbon barrel aged maple syrup
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- Fry wings until crisp and done
- Combine hot sauce and maple syrup, and then whip in the melted butter until emulsified
- Toss wings in sauce and enjoy
Elote (Mexican street corn)
- 6 ears fresh corn
- 1/3 cup Duke’s or high-quality mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp BLiS Santa Fe spice rub
- 1 tsp lime zest
- Mexican crumbling cheese (we recommend Cotija)
- Grill corn in husks until tender
- Peel back husks and liberally spread the mayonnaise on the corn
- Sprinkle with BLiS Santa Fe seasoning
- Top with cheese, cilantro, and lime zest
Green Chile Bison Burgers
Ingredients: (makes 2 burgers)
- 1 pound ground bison meat
- 5 tbsp BLiS smoked soy sauce
- ½ tsp BLiS Elixir
- Sliced Monterrey Jack Cheese
- 1 large onion sliced thin
- 1 small onion diced
- 2 cups roasted, diced, and peeled hatch peppers or green chiles
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp Adobo spice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano
- Mix ground meat and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy thoroughly, let rest
- Caramelize the large sliced onion, adding the maple syrup and elixir at the end to make an onion jam
- Sauté the diced onions and garlic in olive oil until clear, add the chilies, spices and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy and cook for 15 minutes on low heat
- Cook burger to medium rare, lightly grill the bun
- Add heaping tablespoon of chili sauce, then sliced Monterrey cheese and melt the cheese. Add the onion jam on top of the cheese, and one more scoop of the green chilies.
Lime Glazed Salmon
- Four 5-6oz Salmon fillets – skin on – scaled (cross score the skin with a razor blade or very sharp knife)
- Olive oil or Grape Seed oil
- Kosher salt
- 2T BLiS Blast Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce
- 2T BLiS Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
- Zest of one lime
- Juice of ½ lime
- 1 small clove of minced garlic
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Prepare glaze by whisking Blast hot sauce, maple syrup, lime zest, lime juice, and garlic together in a small bowl.
- Set aside.
- Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt
- Heat a liberal amount of grape seed oil in a large oven-safe nonstick pan over high heat until very hot
- Place salmon in the pan skin side down (making sure there is plenty of oil beneath the salmon to prevent sticking)
- Sauté for a few minutes until a crust begins to form
- Remove from heat, spoon/brush some of the maple syrup/Blast glaze over the salmon (reserving about half the glaze)
- Slide the pan into the oven and continue to cook the salmon until just cooked through
- Remove from the oven and baste with the pan sauce
- Plate salmon and spoon the remaining lime glaze over the salmon