Lane Kaiser-Brown, one of the production managers at Carso's Pasta Co., grills slices of eggplants for one of the companies specialty lasagnas.
Family-owned pasta company serves up Seattle neighborhoods’ big-name companies
By Elizabeth Wang
For over 25 years, Carso’s Pasta Co. has been distributing homemade-style pastas to restaurants and markets all around Seattle neighborhoods.
Though their productions boast making pasta for Ken’s Market and The Ballard Market, creating original crab cake recipes for PCCC Natural Markets and even having mixed together the cheese and pasta for the Seattle-famous Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese, Carso’s Pasta Co.’s humble roots began just across the Ballard Bridge on the edge of Queen Anne.
Having worked for years as a chef at a steak and seafood restaurant, Dave Brown, founder and CEO of the family-owned business, knows a thing or two about food. When he started writing pasta specials to switch up the menu, his dishes quickly became the number one seller at the restaurant.
“I kind of became possessed with it,” Brown said. “It’s just another art form to me.”
In time, Brown took his food talents and turned them into his pasta-distributing company, Carso’s Pasta Co. It wasn't long before the company gained recognition and clients started asking Brown to come up with new pasta flavors and branch out into cooking other foods.
Now the company name has become a misnomer, producing not just pasta, but spreads, sauces, finished lasagnas and, at one point, cookies.
“We’ve taken that particular medium and expanded on it,” Brown said. “Everything you can make with pasta, plus we’re making meatloaves to quiches.”
Reed Kaiser-Brown, production manager and one of Brown’s three children, oversees most of what goes on behind the scenes -- supervising packaging, writing recipes, cooking pastas, spreads and soups.
Kaiser-Brown received his degree in Society, Ethics and Human Behavior from the University of Washington, but like his dad, most of his experience comes from the food industry. He’s had jobs ranging from deep-frying chicken wings to serving in high-class wine bars. Food has always been an integral part of his life.
“I started cracking eggs when I was four. Really young,” Kaiser-Brown said. “Cracking eggs, making a nickel an egg. Doing labels, making a penny a label. I’ve been doing that my whole life.”
“I was the kid growing up, that if we got sick, we didn’t get chicken noodle soup. We got taken to some small hole-in-the-wall place in Chinatown to get some dim sum,” he said. “Lots of kids didn’t even know what that was.”
Brown remembers receiving a call from a 9-year-old Reed asking how to make waffles for himself and his younger brother.
“Most people would say, ‘Get out the Krusteaz! And mix some water with it,’” Brown said. “But that’s not how we do it. It’s flour, baking powder, whip the eggs, make it from scratch.”
But growing up with a family business was a love-hate deal for Kaiser-Brown. He loved surprising people when they found out what he did for such familiar-named brands, but working for the family has been tough at times.
“You got to get along with everyone,” he said. “You’re not just working for someone; you’re working for your family.”
Though working with family is not always an easy ride, being able to be hands-on with all his food projects reminds him of how great his job can be.
“Pasta is just a fun thing to mess around with,” Kaiser-Brown said. “You can do so much with it. I have such a passion for food that I love cooking and writing recipes and working with different ingredients. I’ve become so connected with food. It gives me life.”
Carson Kaiser-Brown, Dave Brown’s daughter and inspiration for the company name, manages the office and most of the company’s clients. While Reed has embraced the family business more willingly, Carson has tried to fight it her entire life.
“I tell people you can fight a family business, but you’re going to end up there, so just give in,” she said.
She used to have two jobs, one with Carso’s Pasta Co. and one away from the family business to try and maintain a separate life. She eventually realized she was making more money at her other job, but spending more time working at Carso’s.
She knew, then, if she was willing to take a pay cut to spend more time working for the family, she must really want to do it.
“It’s not so much about the food,” she said. “It’s about the family. It’s just really nice feeling that you can work hard and it immediately benefits the people you love.”
From ginger curry pasta and hazelnut cheese tortellini to specialty crab cakes and quiches, the masterminds behind Carso’s Pasta Co. throw an innovative spin on every day Italian food and never stop trying to improve their recipes and expand their menu. It’s just become a way of life for the pasta family.
“From being introduced to different forms of food since a really young age to working with it now,” Reed said. “It’s just really hard to describe. It just means everything. It’s just what I do.”