Interview with Branches Olive Oil & Vinegar Owner, Daniel Sullivan

If you live in South Orange County, CA, you must check out Branches Olive Oil & Vinegar in Mission Viejo!  If you not, you can also shop here!

Branches Olive Oil Company is like a magical world of culinary fairy dust, where your cooking is transformed in a snap. They stock 30+ varieties of premium single origin extra virgin olive oils, infused olive oils, and flavored balsamic vinegar all hand-selected for their freshness and purity. They also carry an exclusive selection of small-batch, hand-crafted items like nut butter, chocolates, flavored honey, jams & spreads, spices, salts, charcuterie, olives, soaps, tea towels & pottery, each with a story as delightful as their taste.

Got a wedding or special event? Want to wow your clients with a classy gift? Branches offer Specialty Food Gift Packages featuring gourmet olive oil and vinegar pairings with personalized labels, plus a hand-picked selection of their finest accompaniments.

They also host events! A boutique, industrial olive oil bar by day, the space is transformed after hours to host parties, concerts, photo/video shoots, business networking events, and more. It gives a light, spacious vibe with white ceilings, reclaimed wood, steel, and concrete materials throughout.  Check out the photos below.

Now let’s get to know the owner!  We recently had the pleasure if sitting down with the founder, Daniel Sullivan.  Check out our interview below.  Also…we’ll let you know our current Branches obsession at the end!

Q:  Tell us about your career path. How did you get your start? How and why did you open Branches Olive Oil & Vinegar?

A:  I grew up in the fine dining industry, the son of a family business owner that distributed specialty foods to the best restaurants in the states of NC, SC, VA, and GA. Everything from premium Black Angus and Wagyu Beef, Specialty fresh-cut seafood, cheeses from all over the world, etc. Naturally, my family became friends with some of the finest culinary minds in the Southeastern United States. One of the chefs we served owned 4 specialty olive oil and vinegar shops, and I had admired his business model for years and tinkered with the idea of putting my own spin on it, as olive oil and balsamic vinegar had been most beloved condiments of mine since I was a child. Then once I started learning of the deeply unfortunate state of olive oils in our primary grocery stores, how 69% of all the commercial brands do not test out to extra virgin status, it gave me the final degree of resoluteness I needed to branch out and start my own company.

Q:  What’s your favorite food and/or drink to pair with your oils and vinegars?

A:  I’m such a sucker for well-made Neapolitan pizzas. They are hands down my favorite food item to pair with my oils and vinegars. Although, I don’t get to make such quality pizzas too much lately as a small-business owner. One of my go-to’s lately is oven-braised brussel sprouts, quartered, salt + pepper, olive oil, until crispy (20 mins @ 425 degrees), then finished with the Cask 10 Aged Balsamic once they come out of the oven. So simple but so profoundly delicious.

Q:  What’s your secret to keeping your customers coming in?

Easy. Consider others, or in this case consider the customer, as greater than myself. And when I say easy, I mean easy to answer, sometimes more challenging to put into practice. But when it is a deeply resolved heart-decision, to genuinely consider others as greater than yourself, it is the most inviting thing on the planet. It’s a giving up of oneself for the well-being of another, which is pretty much the definition of love. So yeah, I think the secret is just trying to love, as well as we possibly can, every single person who walks into the shop.

Q:  What are some of the challenges of being a business owner?

A:  Balance. Definitely balance. Balancing friendships, relationships, community involvement, other businesses, while also making sure I’m creating space in my life to breathe, enjoy relaxation, enjoy my passions and hobbies, and not giving in to the misconception that the chief end of man is to work or perform. It’s tricky. Sometimes just choosing to let go of certain business opportunities for the sake of your friendships and for yourself honestly…that’s also what love looks like: laying down your life for your friends and family.

Q:  What motivates you?

A:  To be completely honest and unashamed of the most genuine answer I could give, Jesus does. My passion for hospitality is a gift and I know it comes from Him because rather than draining me it actually gives me life and energy. And I enjoy His character so much, it has shaped both who I am and what I do more than any other single force I can think of.

Q:  What is a food trend you’re on board with?

A:  Matcha. I’m super into Matcha lately. I actually got a Matcha set for my birthday last month, special whisk, special bowl and all.

Q:  If you hadn’t started Branches Olive Oil & Vinegar, what would you be doing?

A:  Most likely working for either a food distributor out here to learn the food business more or a restaurant consulting company. I was looking into those opportunities before I started Branches. Oddly enough, I’m still also working as a CPA on the side, as that’s my professional background and education.

Q:  Who do you look to for guidance and mentorship in the business?

A:  Clarke Merrell. He’s the chef in NC who owns several successful restaurants and oil & vinegar shops. He gave me some guidance in the early stages of Branches.

Q:  What are your next moves?

A:  Instituting a monthly Social @ Branches, on a fixed day of the month, say every 3rd Saturday, with live music, food, wine, giveaways, and just a good ol’ time!

Q:  What is the most fun part of your job?

A:  I honestly just love people. I love connecting with and meeting new people. I love having a platform/venue where people come and enjoy what I’ve created and put together. But also, I must say, it’s so much fun when a new product comes in or new samples and we get to do tastings just with the staff. There’s a fun buzz in the atmosphere with new items.

Q:  Describe your Branches Olive Oil & Vinegar in 3 words.

A:  Mouth like, “Wowwww!”

Q:  If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before opening your business what would it be?

A:  There will be slow days early on. But it’s ok. You’re not failing. The slow days are just opportunity to create the atmosphere that you want folks to come in and experience. Allow the silent spaces to give you the opportunity to breathe, process, and grow, and to fill the silence with gratitude, joy, and creativity.

Q:  Who would you most love to dine with?

A:  For their company, I’d have to say, Jeanne Guyon. For their food, I’d have to say, Grant Achatz. Jeanne is a lovely and mystical French lady from the 1600s who I’ve been reading about lately. Grant is the head chef of Alinea, an amazing three-Michelin star restaurant in Chicago.

 

Ok, now here is our current Branches obsession & a must buy…drumroll…

Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar

Grape Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon,
Origin of Grapes: Lérida, Catalonia, Spain,
Profile: Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, this cabernet sauvignon vinegar has an intense deep purple color. The acidity is smooth with a well-rounded fruity flavor and hints of fine oak. Use this vinegar on meat carpaccio or reductions. It is also great for pickling and on vegetables and salads. Surprisingly versatile with Asian Food and WOK preparations.

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Address:  23854 Via Fabricante, Unit D1, Mission Viejo, CA 92691

Phone:  949.215.6051

Website:  https://branchesoliveoil.com/