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The Fortune Favors Story
Origins: Chef Eric Rupert
Fortune Favors founder Eric Rupert was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the oldest son of a 20-year-old waitress at Mickey’s Dairy Bar, and Richard Rupert, a former Syracuse quarterback and Army vet. The family’s first home was a non-working farm with a coal-fired furnace and no running water. Money was often tight; the boys ate government cheese, powdered milk, and liver stretched to feed five. Rupert draws a direct line from food insecurity and his near-constant hunger as a kid to his future career path. Eric began his culinary career in 1981 at The Ovens of Brittany, an iconic Madison bakery. Within the seemingly rigid structure and recipes of baking, he found a freedom to innovate. One fateful evening, he watched the movie Babette's Feast, and had an epiphany. He immediately switched to savory cooking. Around the same time, as good fortune would have it, Madison’s legendary epicurean destination L’Etoile was looking for kitchen help. L'Etoile already had garnered a national reputation under chef and owner Odessa Piper, as one of the early icons of the Farm to Table movement. Six months into his time at L’Etoile, Eric was invited to be L'Etoile's co-chef along with Chef Piper. With Eric and Odessa at the helm, L'Etoile would win a James Beard Award in 2001. Eric went on to spend decades as a chef, from his own Kafe Kahoutek to the state-of-the-art corporate kitchens at Sub-Zero/Wolf and Epic Systems.
Fortune Favors began as a mistake. Or was it something more magical, more...fortuitous? Eric was hard at work in the kitchen, the stovetop crowded with pots and pans, when he accidentally dropped some pecan halves into the wrong pot. When he saw them again later, he stopped and looked more closely. They had a perfect, shiny glaze as though they had been intentionally and carefully conjured. He tasted one, and was surprised at how crunchy and delicious it was. Over the next hour, as if in a trance, he ate them all. He added salt to a second batch, and shared them with family and friends. They were instantly spellbound, and a ritual was born: Eric would prepare these enchanting treats for campfires or holiday gifts, and they would be instantly and utterly devoured. He marveled every time someone took their first bite. In all of his legendary culinary career, he had never seen a food make people as happy as his candied pecans did.
Fortune Favors the Bold
In a leap of faith, Eric left Epic as executive chef in 2021 to found Fortune Favors (originally called Nutkrack), with co-founder Jessica Benish. He went about the task with a humble and grateful Midwestern sensibility along with a healthy dose of nostalgia and humor. The pair opened a neighborhood pecan shop on Madison’s east side, which quickly gained a cult-following as people tasted the candied pecans. Today, Eric and a small team of food-lovers are sharing Fortune Favors candied pecans across the nation. Fortune Favors appreciates and celebrates the power of food to connect people, but doesn’t take life too seriously. Life is moments - connected. Best spent with good friends and good food. Magic from the mundane. Simple joys and pleasures. All you have to do is pass the can of candied pecans.
Fortune Favors those who taste something extraordinary, and share it!