Pimento passion

Cuisine People

June 25, 2024

Finicky Foods pimento cheese containers

Finicky Foods founder Jessica Gaddy turns her passion for cooking into a gourmet snack-food business.

by Jennings Cool Roddey

For Jessica Gaddy, the kitchen has been a place for creativity and experimentation. But it was the rave reviews from friends and family about her homemade pimento cheese that dared her to dream bigger.

“My friends would say, ‘Oh my gosh, Jess, this is so good; you should sell it,’” says Gaddy, founder of Finicky Foods, a gourmet snack-foods venture best-known for its pimento cheese.

In 2017, the Hickory native and her husband, Eric Gaddy, began hosting get-togethers on their 4-acre property in Waxhaw to extend their passion for cooking for others. Campout parties under the stars became their hallmark, with guests treated to a spread that included Gaddy’s signature pimento cheese. After receiving countless compliments about her recipe, she refined it further and took the bold leap into entrepreneurship.

“I really enjoy making food for people in a way that means something to them and that they can enjoy,” she says. 

Her decision to start Finicky Foods in 2020 was rooted in her love for cooking, which she inherited from her father. “I grew up in the kitchen watching my dad cook. He was a single dad, and he was trying to do what he could to give family meals,” Gaddy says. 

Portrait by Slice of Jess. Photographs by Shrimp & Grisettes.

Finicky Foods offers several flavors of pimento cheese, including Everything, Carolina, Dill, Vegan Original and Vegan Jalepeño. Both vegan options are made with dairy-free shredded cheese and sour cream and egg-free mayo. Smoked Gouda, a 50/50 mix of smoked gouda and cheddar cheeses, and Spicy, an earthy flavor incorporating ghost peppers, jalapeños, and Spanish hot paprika, are bestsellers. 

“The key, I believe, to a good pimento cheese is first and foremost not using pre-shredded cheese,” Gaddy says. “My second highly suggested rule would be using sharp or extra sharp cheddar blends and, of course, Duke’s. Its sharp tang adds that extra bump to a super savory bite.”

Along with Duke’s Mayo, which originated in Greenville, S.C., Finicky Foods supports other Carolina brands, including dehydrated jalapeno from Harmony House Foods in Franklin. 

The best way to eat Finicky Foods’ pimento cheese is on a cracker, preferably one that is sturdy but not too flavorful, Gaddy says. “While it’s good on a burger or grilled cheese, it’s truly best, in my opinion, as a dip.” Gaddy recommends Wheat Thins or Firehook Crackers, which are typically found in the specialty-cheese section of the grocery store. 

Her ideal snack plate includes gherkins, berries, apples, crackers, a chunky hard cheese, something chocolate and Finicky Foods Dill pimento cheese. “I typically follow the rules of balance — a little bit of sweet plus salty plus tangy,” Gaddy says. 

Her business name stems from Gaddy’s blog and social-media handle, @finickylady. In 2012, she started blogging about local restaurants, which later led to professional food photography. “The name of my business is simply an extension of my life and personality as a way to officially share my creations and joy of cooking with the community.”

Along with pimento cheese — which can be found at ​​Pasta & Provisions, Salted Melon, and coming soon, select Food Lion stores — Finicky Foods also offers baked goods (sourdough, shortbread scones, cookies, cakes) plus whipped butter, protein bites and farm-fresh eggs at weekend markets or via custom orders. You’ll often find her at Front Porch Sundays at Atherton Mill, local brewery pop-ups or seasonal markets at OpenTap in south Charlotte. 

“At the end of the day,” Gaddy says, “Finicky Foods is more than pimento cheese.”  SP

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