Open for Business: Peoria native brings plant-based perspective to area

Open For Business

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Joe Zich is bringing a plant-based perspective to Peoria. 

“It just really sat well with me. And it’s something I don’t try to be pushy on it or anything. It’s just something that has been delightful for me and I try to share it,” he said.

With a lot of color and nutrition, the Peoria native is gaining local attention with his line of fermented foods: 309 Cultures. He started working on the idea in January 2019 and after seven months, he got approved by the health department. The business’ title is a nod to the city that raised Zich and the intricacies of his process.

“I just kind of liked the niche of it and how there was a lot of kind of new terrain there.”

joe zich

According to Zich, his path toward entrepreneurship started in a unique way.

He said, “So I had been making hot sauces for a couple of years, just because I wanted to make my own hot sauce that didn’t have vinegar. So that kind of led me to fermentation.”

“It’s a lot of chopping and shredding and then just kind of mixing in all the spices and herbs and keeping the salinity the right amount,” said Zich.

The process requires some trial and error and a lot of science. 

“Fermentation requires a certain level of salt and just kind of salting according to the weight as I go. Instead of adding water which is a lot of fermented foods with chopped vegetables and then a saltwater brine poured over, I mix in the salt and then submerge it in its own juices under ceramic weights and put it in these old German props,” said Zich.

Twenty-eight days later, customers get to pick from three products: sauerkraut, purple kurry kraut or kimchi. Zich doesn’t have his own storefront to make his colorful creations, so he shares kitchen space with a local business. Then, he partners with other local stores like Sous Chef in Peoria to sell his product.

“I’m just happy to be a part of like the scene in Peoria. I really think that the city is kind of in a sort of Renaissance. You know especially pre-pandemic, the arts on so many levels were just booming and I think it’s it’s about to return and I’m excited to see…”

joe zich

While Zich said he doesn’t push the plant-based lifestyle, he does have high hopes for his customers.

“I’m hoping they get a feeling of wellness and not just in a general sense. But that they would feel a difference the next day of like, ‘Hmmm, that digests a little better. I don’t have as much bloating or things like that,'” said Zich.

His interest in earth’s natural dishes originally peaked when he decided to go plant-based a few years ago, citing health and environmental reasons. Now, Zich just can’t get enough. 

“In terms of like science, that was just something I could never really get into. But years later as I started getting into food and nutrition, I started to kind of get reacquainted with it and now I just like crave it,” he said.

Down the line, Zich plans to continue to sell his products at locally owned business instead of chains. He’s also planning to sell at farmers markets for the first time.

309 Cultures can be found on Instagram and sold at select local stores.

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