Chef Keesha O’Galdez serves her Citrus Pistachio nuts at the Live Loud pop-up at Bronx Native. By Amanda McHugh.

South Bronx chef Keesha O’Galdez didn’t set out to create her own candied nuts brand — but when it happened, she embraced it.

Her serendipitous journey into the world of nuts began in 2019, as she was preparing a dinner for a pop-up event. The Bronx-born chef topped her first course with a sprinkling of candied pistachios, made from her own recipe. The clients loved the nuts so much, she gave them two bags – and one got stolen.

“I thought that if they were good enough to be stolen, they were probably good enough to be purchased,” O’Galdez, 44, said.

That led to the launch of Live Loud Foods, O’Galdez’s candied nuts business. She currently sells online and at Bronx Native, a shop in Port Morris that hosts pop-ups, open-mics and other events. O’Galdez also plans to expand into Manhattan. Live Loud Food items will soon be sold at a grocery shop in Greenwich Village, she said.

O’Galdez hosted a Live Loud Foods celebration and launch on March 9 at Bronx Native, showcasing her two opening nut flavors: Citrus Pistachio and Caribbean Jerk. As a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Arts in Manhattan who also holds a masters degree in business from Simmons College, O’Galdez said she plans to expand her candied-nut combos as her enterprise grows, with a third flavor coming out soon.

As a Bronx native herself – born in Eastchester and now living in the South Bronx – O’Galdez, former “Chopped” contestant on the popular Food Network show, said there was no better place to debut her new business.

“Since this is my hometown, it means the world to me to do the launch here. I love the people, authenticity and diversity of cultures in the Bronx,” she said.

O’Galdez said she plans to shake up the nut aisle in grocery stores with her unique products, but is also committed to making candied nuts that are as healthy as possible. Her Caribbean Jerk flavor has no refined sugar and her Citrus Flavor is made without corn syrup.

Shanai Williams, 22, who sampled the Live Loud Food nuts at Bronx Native, was sold.

“These nuts are slammin’! Really, really good,” said Williams, who just moved to the Bronx.

Amaurys Grullon, the founder of Bronx Native, described his shop as a “creative ecosystem” that welcomes merchants like O’Galdez.

Shanai Williams samples the Live Loud Food nuts at Bronx Native. By Amanda McHugh.

“We have a physical space here that acts as a cultural hub, but we have many other projects as well,” he said. “There is the Bronx Native Market where local vendors and entrepreneurs can showcase and sell their products, along with open mics for up-and-coming artists, workshops, and more.”

That’s the kind of energy O’Galdez said she hopes to bring to her Live Loud Food brand as it expands and hopefully grows into a long-term and sustainable business based in the Bronx.

“Down the line, we would love to employ youth and people from the Bronx as a way to give back to the community,” said O’Galdez.

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