It's A Woman's World: Red Bee Honey's Carla Marina Marchese

Jeanne Muchnick
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Fairfield County is full of trailblazing women, particularly in the culinary world. Which is why, with 2018 being proclaimed the Year of the Woman, we felt compelled to honor the pioneers among us.  

Our new series, “It’s A Women’s World’ is devoted to Fairfield County female influencers who’ve forged their own paths, often in food-related fields long dominated by men.

Whether farming the land, bringing healthy food to the masses, feeding an entrepreneurial spirit or injecting feminism with food, these groundbreaking ladies have set a new definition of women’s work, creating new paths and setting examples for those who follow. 

How'd they do it? Read on. So far, we've highlighted Silvia Baldini, the first female chef in Fairfield County to win “Chopped,” This week, our focus turns to Carla Marina Marchese, founder of Red Bee Honey in Weston. Have a suggestion on someone you’d like to see featured? Email steph@ctbites.com. 

Carla Marina Marchese, Founder of Red Bee 

Why She’s A Pioneer: She started beekeeping by accident, when being a female beekeeper was downright provocative (and unheard of), and now her company, Red Bee Honey, has grown – 18 years strong – into a sought-after national brand. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts – she had an international design career for 15 years– she became enthralled with bees and the terroir of honey after a visit to a neighbor’s apiary in 2000. She soon dove headfirst into beekeeping, taking courses, acquiring Italian honeybees and eventually making her own honey under her own brand. What sets her product apart -- aside from being the first Italian trained honey expert in the US -- was her design sensibilities and signature apothecary bottles, elevating honey to a high art.

After selling for 10 years at the New Canaan farmer's market as well as in other regional venues, her products are now sold nationally to celebrity chefs and the finest cheese and food stores.

On a visit to Montalcino, Italy, aka “The City of Honey,” she became passionate about the diverse flavor profiles of varietal honey then signed up for their honey courses. Red Bee flavors include bamboo, blueberry, clover and wildflower and are not to be poured in tea, per say -- Marchese describes her honeys like fine wines -- but are better suited for finishing and pairing, i.e. for drizzling on muffins, adding to salads or serving with cheeses.

Along with the local honey she produces on her Weston farm–-- Red Bee specializes in rare and unique honeys from around the country, all sourced ethically and with top-notch quality control.

In addition, Red Bee produces other honey-related products such as lip balms, soaps, body oils, beeswax candles and gifts. 

Marchese, who’s big on educational workshops, is the author of Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper and the co-author of The Honey Connoisseur: Selecting, Tasting, and Pairing Honey. She is a member of the Italian Register of Experts in the Sensory Analysis of Honey, founder of The American Honey Tasting Society and acts as a consultant with The National Honey Board, Slow Food USA and other commercial honey companies. 

On Being A Woman In A “Man’s World: “Being a female beekeeper, some assumed that I couldn’t answer the hard questions about bees,” she says. “But I proved them wrong.”

There are also subtle things to running a business that have come up over the years she says; like being paid on time and that feeling of not being taken seriously when, in fact, she’s persevered and thrived. Her advice to other entrepreneurial women: “Believe in yourself and find your unique voice and style, be fearless, trust your instincts, stay ahead by reinventing your brand.”

What’s Next: Marchese is dedicated to demystifying honey and to that end is on the road constantly. She’s also busy hosting workshops in her newly built honey house barn, as well as presenting guided tastings and author talks about the diverse world of honey flavors. And, she’s looking to grow the business through licensing into other categories such as kitchen-centric honey and more lifestyle products.