Chautauqua adds three
new artisan food exhibitors
The food exhibitors will set up
near Lanier on Elm Street
(September 2013) – after taking over a catering business from her father, Alexa Lemley and Samantha Aulick thought they should add a little more pizzazz to their offerings. They were met with an unexpected demand for their twist on marshmallows.
“We’re the only merchandiser in the world recognized as artists,” said Aulick. In 2006, they took over Lemley’s Catering, Alexa Lemley’s family-run business. “Alexa and I are the third generation in her family to operate the business,” Aulick said, who would not reveal their ages.
Samantha Aulick (left) and
Alexa Lemley (right) have
expanded their catering
business to include gourmet
In 2009, Lemley was inducted into the Indiana Artisan program for 240Sweet Artisan Marsh-mallows. “We were accepted on the first attempt,” said Aulick of the business, 240Sweet, located in Columbus, Ind.
Lemley has also been Artist in Residence at the Indiana State Museum, where she demonstrated the art of making marshmallows for museum visitors. When customers bite into one of their marshmallows, they are met with the unexpected, she said. “They have a flavor all their own – a body and texture. People are surprised and delighted.”
The duo will be among three artisan food producers to join this year’s Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art exhibitors. These food producers are the newest addition to the show, which is entering its 43rd year in downtown Madison, Ind. The other two artisan food producers are Frittle Candy of Indianapolis and Simply Divine Baker from the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Ind. All three artisan food producers will be located on Elm Street.
• 240Sweet Artisan Marshmallows, Alexa Lemely and Samantha Aulick, Columbus, Ind. (artisan marshmallows)
• Frittle Candy, Carrie Abbott, Indianapolis (soft version of brittle)
• Simply Divine Baker, Sisters of St. Benedict, Ferdinand, Ind. (specialty cookies
All products at the Madison Chautauqua must be one-of-a-kind food creations by the exhibiting artisans, according to show coordinator Georgie Kelly.
Lemley and Aulick make more than 200 different flavors of marshmallows from heritage recipes, ranging from chocolate chip to chicken. The pair comes up with their own recipes and even teach marshmallow-making classes.
All natural and organic ingredients are used in each batch of marshmallows, giving them a unique, one-of-a-kind flavor and consistency. “There is artistry in each batch. Every flavor has a different texture and weight,” said Aulick. “The food reacts differently in each flavor because no artificial flavors are used.”
She cited their lemon-flavored marshmallows as an example. Both the lemon zest and the juice are put into the mix. To give uniqueness to the product, “You have to take into consideration how juicy, tart and how big the lemons are,” Aulick said.
Once the pair added their marshmallow offerings to the catering business, “it took on a life of its own,” she said. The confections are sold locally in gift shops and shipped all over the world. “We have a few whole-sale accounts, but I prefer direct sales.”
For this reason, Lemley and Aulick travel to many festivals and art shows to sell their artisan products.
In addition to running a full-service catering business, the pair also makes artisan salts, sugars and extracts. They concoct a bourbon barrel aged sugar that many of their customers like.
“As a Madison, Ind., native, I always loved the Madison Chautauqua while growing up,” said Aulick. A few years ago when the pair began marketing their creations as artisan food, they applied for the Madison Chautauqua but were turned down because at that time the event did not include artisan food producers. Aulick was persistent with her requests, and finally organizers “made room for food at the Chautauqua,” she said.
“Artisan foods are something that we have not done in the past,” said Kelly. Including artisan food exhibitors helps expand the show, she said.
“Like any business, we’re always looking for something new,” said Kelly. “We want something to attract people’s attention.” The addition of artisan food exhibitors “keeps things fresh.”
A lot of research went into the idea of including artisan food exhibitors in the show, Kelly said. “We have worked with and gotten advice from several artisan food producers to learn, from their perspective, the different aspects and requirements of showing and selling their product.”
When selecting food artisans to invite to Chautauqua, Kelly said organizers looked to the Indiana Artisans organization for artists who participated in the food section. “These individuals were already juried and found to have quality products.”
Kelly added: “Everything in the Chautauqua is arts-related. Just as we jury in artists, we also jury in musicians in the same sense.”
This year’s food exhibitors are no exception. All products must meet certain qualifications to be included in the Madison Chautauqua.
Exhibitors must adhere to Indiana State Department of Health labeling requirements and charge the appropriate sales tax on products that need to do so. Products cannot be mass produced or commercially made. Artisan food producers have to participate in the show themselves, not send representatives.
Recently, 240Sweet Artisan Marshmallows has participated in the Mellwood Arts Festival in Louisville and River Breeze in Jeffersonville, Ind. Aulick and Lemley stay busy participating in shows in Chicago, New York, Kansas City and Pennsylvania.