Richard Romano- Screamin’ Onionz
We own Aha! American Healthy Appetite and we make shelf-stable jarred food products produced with whole ingredients from the Hudson Valley. Our signature product is Screamin’ Onionz which are NY State onions slow-cooked in craft sauces. We use 4 whole ingredients, are gluten-free, all-natural and have no added sugar. They replace raw onions in recipes, so they save time in the kitchen.
What attracted you to Dutchess?
I grew up in Hopewell Junction, but came back with my family after 20 years in the hotel & restaurant profession in Manhattan. Dutchess County always felt like home to me and now its great to share it with my wife and kids.
How has Dutchess County influenced you and your professional role?
My Dad bought a restaurant when I was 13. I worked there every weekend, along with a paper route, and all summer long, until I graduated high school and left for culinary school. I also worked in the kitchen at IBM Poughkeepsie and helped to serve thousands of people a day. This prepared me as I headed off to Manhattan to become an Executive Chef, General Manager, Director of Operations and to eventually assist struggling restaurants with distressed property turnaround and later opening a bunch of restaurants for notable chefs and restaurateurs. Some of which ran the highest-grossing restaurants in the country. Dutchess County provided me with the base I needed to succeed.
Favorite Dutchess County past-time or activity?
We love to be outdoors for a nice walk, riding bikes along the rail trail and hiking, when we have time. I love watching the stars at night, identifying constellations, and looking at the moon with my children. I used to love doing that as a kid.
Favorite Dutchess County eatery?
I really have to say that our favorite eateries are the ones that support our Screamin’ Onionz. They really helped us understand the versatility and ease of use of our product which led to creating them in gallons. This led to us approaching private and public schools. We thank them so much for their faith in us.
What do you think would be a surprise to anyone visiting Dutchess for the first time?
I would say they’d be surprised at all the farms, farm markets and specialty producers utilizing locally grown products for their creations.
Advice to anyone visiting or looking to do business in Dutchess?
I would let them know to look into the Dutchess County organizations supporting small business growth here. We didn’t realize the overwhelming amount of assistance and programs here geared towards propping up businesses. For us, the Think Dutchess Pitch Competition led us to be a Think Dutchess Ambassador which led us to the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Corporation’s “Farm and Food Funding Accelerator.” The Think Dutchess pitch competition really prepared us to go in front of potential investors, to hopefully procure investment for the growth of our company within the next few months.
Think Dutchess checked in with our Ambassadors during the NY State Pause from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the county moved forward, learn how these leaders adapted to change, championed local business and remained a critical part of keeping our county businesses working, and our friends and neighbors positive about the effects and outcomes the pandemic created.