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Remembering Emily Balducci Cardone

Remembering Emily Balducci Cardone

Team Beet Sep 1 , 2021

“Emily had the unique ability to turn technical information into beautiful stories that chefs wanted to read from beginning to end.” Michael Muzyk, President, and longtime friend

Last week, the Baldor team and the Balducci family lost Emily Balducci Cardone following a long illness. Emily was a big part of both Balducci’s and Baldor's story — even if you aren’t familiar with Emily’s name, you’re, no doubt, familiar with her work. 

In addition to delivering our on-hold messaging, magazine copy, blog posts, reports, and standard emails, Emily was responsible for writing our weekly News From the Farm email and report. This was a job that she took to heart, sitting in on our buyers' weekly market update meetings, doing countless hours of research and notetaking, getting the most up-to-date news from our buyers, and writing until every line and word was perfect. We’re heartbroken on our end, and it felt fitting to honor Emily with a News From the Farm-adjacent celebration, we hope would make her proud. 

There are so many ways to describe Emily, but one piece we keep coming back to, in all our conversations, is that she was, at heart, a Balducci, with a ferocious passion for ingredients, farmers, and producers, and for sharing all aspects of each of them, with everyone. She was cooking with cardoons and spigariello, carefully choosing the right radicchio for the right dish, and focused on the importance of good, beautifully-produced olive oils and vinegars, before many of us had even heard of, tasted, or understood them. She had ways to describe produce – citrus that was sparkling, mushrooms that cooked up into meaty steaks, truffles that were intoxicating – that stuck with you, long after you read her words. 

“Emily was totally Balducci’s. She was emphatic and knowledgeable and curious. She had a unique history with the company, and helped establish the DNA of Baldor. Emily was such a small person physically, but such a big person in spirit and fight.” Benjamin Walker, VP of Sales & Marketing, and colleague.

While we have many longtime employees at Baldor, Emily held a unique distinction, shared with very few: She started out first at Greenwich Village’s Balducci’s, her family’s produce-driven market. There, she worked closely with Alan Butzbach, creating a trendsetting, prepared foods-focused catalog with her now late aunt, Nina Balducci. The two conceptualized and perfected everything from savory Beef Wellingtons and memorable frittatas to authentically made rollatini, before writing descriptions, photographing, and sending out their proudly-developed offerings to homes and businesses, and arranging to have them stuffed into airline magazines.

Emily stayed with Balducci’s until they closed in 1999, and in 2001, she joined the Baldor team as, as people tell it, marketing’s one-man band. Here, she continued her passion – educating customers about ingredients, working with farmers, ranchers, and makers to communicate their stories, developing a unique skill for understanding what chefs want to read about and how they want stories told to them, and continuing her quest to get everyone to try standby and new-to-the-market fruits and veggies. Over the years, she and Alan were lucky enough to work together again in marketing. She was able, as director, to help expand brand awareness, and she was, of course, deeply established when the marketing branch blossomed from one or two people, to a full team. Thanks to Emily’s make-it-work attitude, she enmeshed herself into the team as it grew, finding places for herself, but more often than not, figuring out what pieces of work needed her attention, and jumping in, pen first.

“She had her heartstrings tied to the company. She understood the strength of our business is in, not just dollars and cents, but in people. She loved supporting the hard work of people, and she was dedicated, timeline sensitive, and very resourceful. She was a quiet storm.” Michael Muzyk, President

emily balducci cardone, anthony cardone, and michael muzyk

For every story about Emily’s commitment to her job, to Baldor’s success and ingredients, is a story about her working her magic behind the stove to make those ingredients come to life. An excellent cook who thrived when a holiday meal was in the works, when she was having family over on Sunday night, or when preparing a five-course meal  Italian vegetables, pastas, and meats, included  her stories of bringing leftovers and her famous chocolate chip banana bread to the office are legendary. Believing that food is a true connection point for relationships, she carried an open secret. Emily packed up that bread or those leftovers into small bundles, covertly delivering them to people, making them promise not to tell anyone, letting them know she baked or cooked just for them. The deliciousness of the food was worth the secret-keeping, but it turned out, it wasn’t necessary: There was a lot of secret banana bread eating happening throughout the office.

These clandestine banana bread drop-offs, sharing of leftovers, using her time to educate not only our readers, but people who worked at Baldor, too, about ingredients (particularly Italian vegetables), how to prep and cook specialty produce and which recipes were worth recreating, was the way that Emily showed love, deepened relationships, and made sure that everyone took the products and producers just as seriously as she always had. 

“In life, you don’t always get to work with someone you really enjoy working with. But working with Emily was a really good, welcoming experience. She was someone who had the same passion and same drive to make a big impact on the company and on life, and always made it fun to come to work.” Alan Butzbach, VP of Transportation, Facilities and Food Safety Compliance, and friend of over 30 years

A true testament to her commitment to Baldor and to people, demonstrated over and over again, during the past five years, as she bravely dealt with her pancreatic cancer diagnosis: Emily not only worked up until this past July (she truly loved what she did), but also strived to provide others living with pancreatic cancer something not many people could – hope. 

She proudly walked for the Lustgarten Foundation for years, first in support of Kevin Murphy, Baldor’s founder who passed away from pancreatic cancer, himself, in 2013, then quietly for herself, and then one day, just before the walk began, discreetly slipping on a Survivor hat. She knew that in the pancreatic cancer world, success stories were not common. Emily wanted to show those walking for themselves, for their moms and dads, for their siblings, for their cousins and friends, that there could be another outcome. She inspired them that day, and continued to inspire us, over these past several years.

emily balducci cardone, kevin murphy, and anthony cardone

As Michael, also a longtime friend of Emily’s, said, Emily loved nothing more than her family –husband, Anthony, and daughter, Amelia, along with her large extended crew, too – and sitting on the counter drinking a glass of wine, slow-cooked food simmering on the stove, and the clatter of dishes, from a meal about to be enjoyed or remembered.  

So, tonight we’ll raise a glass of wine to Emily. And the next time that we roll meatballs, simmer gravy all day, stuff an artichoke or bake banana bread, it will be in honor of Emily. We hope you’ll do the same.

To see a selection of Emily's writing work and read more of her biography, click here.

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