A typical Mantry delivery: Bacon, beer and ale-infused jelly
A couple of years ago, two ebullient Canadian twentysomethings sensed opportunity in an artisanal food-of-the-month club that catered to dudes. Reggie Milligan and Kyle Zien put up a website and orders flooded in for a product that only existed, albeit vaguely, in their beer-sodden minds.
“We were like; ‘Oh no! We actually have to figure out how to do this now,’” says Milligan, whose lanky frame was once a fixture of Thomas Keller’s kitchen at The French Laundry. The pair—both born and raised in Vancouver—filled mounting orders by stuffing food items from small-batch producers into discarded oyster crates, squeezing them into a car and delivering them around Toronto in person. Recipients pried open their boxes to find thoughtfully curated contents such as hand-harvested birch syrup from Alaska, stone-ground hotcake mix from Nebraska and salted bourbon caramel sauce courtesy of a tiny, family-operated goat farm in upland Vermont.
“Get people fully engaged with food, and a new, deeper kind of social alchemy takes place.”
“People would discover these six unique, hand-crafted food items and immediately start exploring our suggestions for how to put things together,” says the mischievous-looking Zien, who also has the dubious distinction of having played Emilio Estevez’s young son in the 1987 movie Stakeout. “The feedback we were getting was super-encouraging right off the bat.”
With demand growing beyond Canada’s most populous city, Milligan and Zien teamed up with Calgarian product designer Tony Hancock, outsourced fulfillment, relocated to Manhattan and hired a Brooklyn-based carpenter to manufacture handsome branded crates. Though the 3-man operation has grown quickly, the founders’ original intent has remained the same: Inspiring guys to see food as a catalyst for bringing people together.
Milligan and Zien believe that once men have unique high-quality ingredients on hand and can put them together in a simple way, they’ll be compelled to show off what they can do. That might mean hosting a memorable dinner party they otherwise wouldn’t, assembling a long-promised romantic meal or just putting out lip-smacking snacks for game day.
“Is anyone going to remember the time you went to some restaurant years from now?” says Milligan, offering a visitor a slice of funky, whisky-infused salami from Creminelli’s of Salt Lake City. “But get people fully engaged with food that found its way from the four corners of the continent to your door, to your table, and a new, deeper kind of social alchemy takes place.”
Mantry offers one-time, three-month and six-month subscriptions for $75 per month, which includes shipping within the US (it’s $25 extra in Canada). Each bespoke crate contains six full-size artisan goods and a manual detailing product stories and recipes. Order by the 20th, and you’ll be making gastronomical memories by month’s end.