The art of curating intricate displays of mixed meats, fruits, and cheeses on rustic, wooden boards that appeal to both taste and sight has taken the world by storm. During the pandemic, many utilized their free time to practice creating these beautiful, edible arrangements with hopes of bringing them to future gatherings. Charcuterie became a hobby for many, but for Gilli Rozynek, BC ’20, it turned into a lifestyle.
When Rozynek studied abroad in Spain her junior year, she saw charcuterie as a vehicle to spark conversation and build camaraderie. Back in the United States, she saw an uptick in popularity of people making their own charcuterie boards during the pandemic, but there wasn’t a place people could go to buy them. So, Rozynek decided to make this realization her career reality and opened Kured, a fast food—like charcuterie experience in Beacon Hill.
Rozynek grew up in Westport, Conn. and decided to attend Boston College after being admitted early action. As an undergraduate, she studied marketing in the Carroll School of Management and minored in applied psychology and human development in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development. She said that her diverse mix of major and minor classes provided a solid basis of knowledge to help her start her business, both in terms of practical marketing expertise and insight into human psychology.
During the summers while she was an undergraduate, Rozynek got real-world experience under her belt through a variety of internships, from brand marketing to media buying and planning.
“I would say the marketing classes at BC, which gave me the opportunity to participate in summer internships, definitely helped elevate and teach me the ins and outs of how to build a real brand,” Rozynek said.
The idea for Kured began during her semester in Madrid, Spain when she learned about Spanish culture and traveled all over Europe.
“There’s this market called the Mercado de San Miguel, and I would take the train home from school every day in the main plaza where the market was,” Rozynek said. “I would always get a snack … they essentially were paper cones filled with salami. They weren’t cute but they were super tasty.”
As Rozynek continued her travels through Europe, she noticed how prominent the role of charcuterie was in European culture. She began to learn more about charcuterie’s history and demand as a product, but Rozynek said that what ultimately piqued her interest was the inter-personal outcomes that charcuterie could spark.
“I really liked what it can do—it brought people together on a daily basis,” Rozynek said. “You know, you sit down with your friends and have a beer and charcuterie and power this real conversation. I fell in love with the European lifestyle where people don’t prioritize work as much and they prioritize their relationships.”
When Rozynek returned to BC and started her senior year, she brought a piece of Spanish culture with her through charcuterie. Crafting charcuterie boards became a hobby that she shared with friends and family, she said. She even had an Instagram account, which was followed by her close friends, where she would post pictures of her charcuterie boards and cured meats.
In March 2020, when Rozynek and the rest of the BC community were sent home due to COVID-19, she continued creating charcuterie while she prepped for life after graduation. Rozynek had a job lined up after graduation as a marketing analyst at a big corporation in New York City, but in the summer after graduating she became involved with the SSC Venture Partner incubator program, where she solidified her idea behind Kured and pitched her business model for on-demand charcuterie.
“I was learning so much last summer in that incubator program, and I was on a trajectory of growth that I never really felt,” Rozynek said. “I really liked where I was headed. Kured is what really allowed me to grow the most I’ve ever grown, so I think that is what initially inspired me.”
While many people clung to stability during a time when the world seemed to be unpredictable, Rozynek took the opposite approach—she turned down her offer to be a marketing analyst and decided to pursue Kured full time, she said.
“I think the reason I actually decided to go all in on my business was the fact that I just graduated when the world was in shambles,” Rozynek said. “It allowed me to experience this feeling of fearlessness which I never really felt before.”
In June 2020, Rozynek launched Kured as an online service where customers could order custom-made boards. Over the next year, while focusing on building Kured’s brand and online presence, Rozynek also tried to immerse herself as much in the food industry as she could. She even started working at a butcher shop in December 2020 to learn more about the products she was developing.
“So I’ve actually been [a] cashier there because I really wanted to surround myself with food,” Rozynek said. “A lot of people who worked in the butcher shop had years and years of experience in food service, as well as managing a store, so surrounding myself around that definitely taught me a lot in a few short months.”
One year after it launched online, Kured opened its first store in June 2021 in Beacon Hill—within walking distance of the butcher shop Rozynek worked at. While the store provides an in-person ordering option, a lot of Kured’s business still operates online, Rozynek said.
“We’re both an online e-commerce and retail experience,” Rozynek said. “So basically, you can still order for pickup in-store or delivery, or you can actually come into the space in person and choose all your meats and cheeses, then we will assemble it right in front of you.”
Kured is the place to fulfill charcuterie needs, but it also is meant to be a full artistic experience. Rozynek set up the store as a place for artists to showcase their art. Every three months, a new artist is chosen to have their work featured in the store’s front display to be a gallery, and they even get to curate their own box that fits the theme of their show, which they receive a royalty from.
Rozynek said that Kured’s artistic element has been one of the most fulfilling parts of the business.
“I’ve always felt like artists are really the most powerful individuals on the planet, in my opinion, but they’re totally underrepresented and underpaid in society,” Rozynek said. “So I think getting to provide a space for these extremely powerful people to do what they love, and get paid and recognized, is by far one of my favorite parts.”
Daisy St. Sauveur is Kured’s current featured artist, following its first artist Henry Dunkelberger, BC ’20, who was one of Rozynek’s classmates at BC. St. Sauveur’s installation, Strangers in a Strange Land, will be in Kured’s window until December. The show “depicts the feeling of disconnection that people are experiencing after returning to their previously comfortable social lives. Themes of isolation, FOMO, and transition can be seen across every work, with paintings that appear fine on the surface, but hide inner turmoil upon closer inspection,” according to St. Sauveur’s artist statement.
St. Sauveur is originally from Cohasset, Mass., about an hour outside of Boston. While she has worked with galleries in the past, the opportunity provided by Rozynek has been her first artistic venture that incorporates food.
“It has been super fun and interesting,” St. Sauveur said. “I have never had a solo show like this, I really only had group exhibitions in the past. Curating the whole thing myself, creating an idea, and working with Gilli … it’s been super rewarding.”
As the featured artist, St. Sauveur was tasked with designing the outside of a charcuterie box and curating the ingredients within it. Her specialty box is called “The Pizza Party Box,” which features pepperoni, spicy chorizo sausage links, mozzarella pearls, hand rolled goat cheese, triple play parmesan, tomato basil marinara sauce, house-made pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and crunchy breadsticks. St. Sauveur’s box ties into the overall themes of her exhibit, and she said she hopes that the “The Pizza Party Box” unites people after a period of intense social isolation.
For the installation, St. Sauveur completed 20 paintings, 40 charcuterie boxes, and 20 shirts in just four weeks. Although challenging, she said that it was incredibly rewarding.
“I love how much freedom Gilli gave me,” St. Sauveur said. “She really kind of let me talk about the concepts I was interested in, and gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted.”
Additionally, Rozynek has curated boxes that are influenced by famous artists like Basquiat and Banksy. Rozynek said her favorite box—aptly named “the Millo”—is inspired by an Italian artist who specializes in street murals.
“It is super funky and the characters [Millo] draws are really imaginative creatures,” Rozynek said. “So I made the box very funky so it has like wild boar salami and is a more adventurous palette of products so that’s definitely my favorite.”
Kured also recently expanded into its new location in Fenway’s Time Out Market, which aims to bring together Boston’s best food, drink, and culture under one roof. Being asked to join more well-established restaurants at Time Out Market highlights the quick success of Rozynek’s business model, which she said she is continuing to expand.
“I remember I was going home back to the North End, and I saw a woman walking around the North End carrying a bag with her box in it,” Rozynek said. “That was a really cool, powerful moment because I saw that the brand is actually spreading around Boston.”
Rozynek’s hope for the future is to open more storefronts and to build Kured’s brand into a name like Sweetgreen.
“Sometimes the word ‘chain’ gets a bad rep, but we want to open a bunch of these stores in different cities across the country,” Rozynek said.
Though Rozynek has been able to build and grow Kured over the past year, this success was far from a guarantee when she turned down a job offer and went all in on her dream during a time when the entire world was in shambles, she said. To anyone with an idea that they are excited about, Rozynek advised that learning as much as they can and “just going for it” are the best things to do.
“I would simply take the leap because the worst thing that’s going to happen when you take the leap is you’ll either win and be successful, or you’ll fail—and all that’s going to happen is you’ll become more wise.”
Photos Courtesy of Gilli Rozynek