For the love of food: North Salem’s Gina O’Rourke launches charcuterie business, The Board Beauty
Gina O’Rourke (Martino) has been assembling antipasto boards since she was a little girl. Born into a big Italian family whose primary love language is food, the North Salem mother of two now runs her own charcuterie business, The Board Beauty.
The Board Beauty is both a passion project for O’Rourke and a homage to the fond family memories of crafting charcuterie boards with her grandfather at the kitchen table. “I started making them with him when I was little,” O’Rourke reflects, laughing about how she and her brother would compete over who could make a better board. “My dad always hosted Christmas and [when] my grandfather would come, he would always have all the goodies,” she says.
The “goodies” came from O’Rourke’s grandfather, Al Martino, who began his career as a butcher in the Bronx. Martino's son John, (O'Rourke's father) later founded Martino Provisions, a food distribution business, and purveyor of the Boars’ Head brand in the 1970s. Following in the family food business footsteps, John Martino began his own Boar’s Head route which he operated until his recent retirement. O’Rourke’s uncles, cousins, brother, and husband are all a part of the Boar’s Head family. John Martino’s trucks were appropriately labeled “it’s a family affair.”
O’Rourke, a 2003 John Jay Cross River graduate, set out to work in the Fashion Industry after earning her degree in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing from Johnson and Wales. But after interviewing at many of the major fashion houses post-graduation, O’Rourke realized that her heart wasn’t in it. “When I graduated I realized [fashion] is more of a hobby than a career,” she explained and decided instead to work for her family’s food business. O’Rourke applied her creativity and fashion background as a merchandiser, creating visuals and marketing materials for Martino Provisions.
In 2021, O’Rourke began planning her next career move. “I’ve always wanted to start a business and I was toggling around with what I wanted to do,” she says. “I just started making these [charcuterie] boards and my girlfriend said, ‘you need to start selling these,’ and I thought, who’s going to buy these?” After allowing that initial doubt to pass, O’Rourke decided that between her Boar’s Head and fashion experiences, this new venture was “a no-brainer. I had all of my creativity from fashion, and I pieced it all together.”
O’Rourke took a leap of faith, and with a few posts of her artfully styled charcuterie boards on social media, the business took off. The Board Beauty includes an offering of meat and cheese boards as well as vegetable and dessert boards. O’Rourke’s passion is charcuterie, which is no surprise considering her family roots. The Board Beauty is aptly named; Al Martino, who passed away in June of this year, had a special name for his granddaughter, “beauty.”
When O’Rourke first shared her business idea with her grandfather, the inspiration for her business, the conversation went a little like this:
O’Rourke: “Grandpa, I started a charcuterie board business”
Al Martino: “A what??”
O’Rourke: “ A charcuterie business, really it’s antipasto…”
Al Martino: “Gina, don’t ever call that charcuterie again.”
Unbeknownst to Martino, charcuterie is a French word, literally meaning flesh (chair) and cooked (cuit). While the term dates back to the 15th century, it was only recently adopted in the United States to describe artisanal meat and cheese boards. The Board Beauty takes appetizer platters one step beyond traditional antipasto boards with cheese carefully woven into patterns and cured meats shaped like flowers.
“That’s my signature,” O’Rourke says of the flowers. "I’m a visual person, I’m very meticulous about things. You could go and buy a board from a [grocery store] for $200.00 and it’s just laid out on a platter.” O’Rourke is all about presentation and creating an eye-appealing visual that is the center and conversation piece at an event or gathering. O’Rourke even has a custom greenery wall to hold and display individual charcuterie cones which she designed together with an Etsy maker, complete with a neon-lit sign that reads “Mangia!” The charcuterie cone display wall will be available for rent and will be present at The Board Beauty events.
While O’Rourke currently serves the local community through custom orders, home parties, and bridal shower celebrations, her dreams extend beyond North Salem. “My vision is to build an arsenal of things. I would love to do weddings and huge grazing tables,” she says excitedly. Branded boards with instructional printouts of how to assemble a beautiful board and even a traveling charcuterie truck, are just a few ways that O’Rourke hopes to grow.
What O’Rourke ultimately hopes to accomplish through The Board Beauty is a “sense of comfort and family” when someone receives a board. “Family is my number one,” she says with conviction. “I picture being on somebody’s table, creating that [sense of] warmth. Food brings people together at the end of the day.”
The Board Beauty will be at North Salem Arts and Food Festival on Saturday, October 15 in Croton Falls.
[Related article: North Salem Arts & Food Festival to take place Saturday, October 15 in Croton Falls]