Published On: Thu, Jun 1st, 2017

Greg Conocchioli is Always in a Jam These Days

From the basement of Carversville Christian Church just north of New Hope, Gregory Benjamin Conocchioli has been meticulously crafting some of the best preserves and marmalades in the world.

He’s only been making the stuff for four years, but he’s already won six medals from the World’s Original Marmalade Awards based in Dalemain Mansion & Gardens in England.

Although Conocchioli actually produced his first batch of preserves with the help of his Staten Island neighbors when he was eight years old in 1963, the rest of the world would have to wait five decades to experience his fruity creations.

Conocchioli started out at the legendary Gimbel’s department store in Center City, and spent seven years in the retail home and design fields.  Growing bored, he changed his career to food service. Greg’s grandfather, Biago Conocchioli had opened Happy Day, the first pizzeria on Staten Island, in the 1940s, and his father was the proprietor of Cellini’s, an American Continental restaurant. Gregory quickly went from working as a server at several Philadelphia restaurants to owning his own catering business.

From 1984 to 1993, Conocchioli was renowned for orchestrating lavish galas, weddings and soirées as Chef/Owner of What’s Cooking Catering. Philadelphia magazine named Gregory’s Peanut & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie the Best of Philly in 1984.

Yet, Conocchioli again craved career change.

“At 40 years of age, I decided to take a sabbatical,” he recalls.

Conocchioli moved to New Hope and opened Varieté, a small store in nearby Frenchtown, N.J., where he sold his handmade miniature quilts, pillows, textiles and art. He eventually re-opened Varieté on West Ferry Street in New Hope, where in enjoyed success as a purveyor of gourmet goods. In 2007, Conocchioli left the store, and started a handyman business.

Then, in 2012, Conocchioli was asked by his niece to plan her wedding. She had only one request: “Please make your beloved homemade preserves for my wedding favor.” He produced 150 jars for guests.

“After the wedding, people started calling me to ask where they could purchase my preserves,” remembers Conocchioli. “That’s when a light bulb went off: I was always making just for family and friends — it never occurred to me to turn it into a business!”

He found a suitable production kitchen for rent at the Carversville Christian Church, and five months later in 2013, he launched Gregory Benjamin Artisan Preserves and Marmalades. Conocchioli used only locally grown fruit and berries, picked at their peak and sourced from Bucks County farms. That same year he was named a “Best of Phil” for his preserves by Philadelphia magazine, and in November 2013 his Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Lemon Blueberry and Apricot Preserves were recognized as Best Artisanal Spread by Cooking Light magazine.

In 2015, Conocchioli’s Country Christmas Marmalade received the Artisan Marmalade Gold Award at the competition, and Real Simple magazine touted his Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Preserves. An in 2016, he obtained the Artisan Marmalade Silver Award for his MacGregory Benjamin Orange Marmalade created in honor of author Beatrice Potter’s 150th birthday, a Bronze Award for his Scented Blueberry Rhubarb Lemon Marmalade, and a special commendation for his Sealed with a Kiss Raspberry Chocolate Orange Marmalade. In 2017, he won two Silver Awards for his Citrus Blend Marmalade and his Almond Apricot Orange Marmalade, and the Bronze Award for his Marmasalsalade, a lime-based extravagance with peaches, mangoes, tomatoes and peppers.

“For a novice like me to be recognized by the most revered experts in marmalade in the world in such a short period of time is simply unbelievable,” Conocchioli observed. “Never in a million years did I think all this would happen.”

Later this spring, Conocchioli says he’ll roll out a series of cocktail-inspired marmalades using locally-produced craft spirits. Find out more about Gregory Benjamin’s award-winning artisan preserves and marmalades online.

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