Amy + John Gaw
Living on the East Coast next to the ocean, Amy was struck one day why she wasn't harvesting her own salt straight from the sea! After a few attempts, Amy and John now harvest their own Atlantic Ocean sea salt to use in everything form baking to cooking and cocktails to bottling and selling. Keep reading to explore the story of these two local creators and their philosophy towards their craft.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
Amy was teaching multi-generational cooking classes to vacationers and encouraged local sourcing. One day she was making a shopping list and as she wrote the words sea and salt she wondered why no one was harvesting a local product. She did a bit of online research and told her husband, John, to grab a bucket. It took a few tries before success, but salt happened. It was when the clients in her cooking classes asked her about buying the salt did the idea occur to put it in a jar and sell it. In 2009 Outer Banks SeaSalt launched for the holidays with 40 pounds and sold out quickly. We now produce about twice that much weekly.
Tell us about your products.
We only create one product, Outer Banks SeaSalt. We do not have flavors or add enhancements. Ours is good old fashioned, mineral rich, salt hand harvested from the clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Artisan” Mean To You?
It means sourcing the best ingredients available, treating them as precious and respecting the creation process. The heart and soul of the human worker, as well as respect for our planet, is essential to creating a small-batch, artisan product. The product also has to taste good!
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
Enlightened Palate’s Berry Cobbler Ice Cream
What Drew You To Food?
Amy has always been drawn to food and began studying cookbooks not long after she began to read. Amy and John were drawn to each other and salty love was born.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
Our neighbors. We live and eat coastal, Carolina style diet. We pull crabs and fish and shrimp from our nearby waters and the local fields are lush with strawberries and asparagus in the spring and collards and sweet potatoes in the winter. Country ham is always in the fridge and we pluck freely from the multitude of free-range greens in our back field.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
Well. We have this clever little byproduct called bittern, or nigari, and we are thinking about putting it in a bottle. We have had a chef use it as a tofu coagulant and our minds were blown. We are recovering and processing.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
Favorites are hard!
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Salt pickled cherry blossoms from our own tree (Sakura)
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Grilled soft-shell crabs with mashed sweets and asparagus topped with bits of country ham and yard onions. It is soft-shell season. We will eat as many of these as we can, until season ends.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
Tough one. Chef Eric Ripert would be a great one. He showcases only the best ingredients in often unadulterated states. We hope he might appreciate the nuances our briney salt can add to a simple piece of sashimi.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other artisans?
Do not try to be too many things to too many people. Focus on one product, one service and give it your all. Do not take on more debt than you absolutely need. Sell a jar, buy more labels. You will never regret not having debt.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
So many! We especially love the younger chefs who are foraging and trying underutilized fish species and take the time to know their sources. Chef Clark Barlowe at Heirloom in Charlotte is a dynamo at this. An old soul with a child-like wonder, he never makes the same meal twice.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Really?! Had to?! We do love local oysters, butter poached tile fish, salty bottarga, bitter field greens with mother-y vinegars and just baked, Knott’s Island peach pie.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
We love to head up the road to visit Chef Rodney Einhorn at Terrapin in Virginia Beach. He lives the Slow Food philosophy in the most luxurious way. Refined and ingredient-focused, he serves his seasonal menu in a low key, yet elegant setting.
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Eating other people’s food.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Anything with a funky bass line from the mid-seventies.
What is your favorite recipe to make with the product featured in our basket?
We cook everything with Outer Banks SeaSalt. We use it for baking, for adding to recipes and for finishing.
One favorite recipe is more a method we call dry-steaming shrimp. We are lucky to get freshly harvested, head-on, local shrimp in season, which is very different from imported, frozen shrimp (never buy!). Old-timers on Hatteras Island taught us to put a few big handfuls of head-on shrimp into an empty, heavy bottom pot that has a tight fitting lid. Put on the lid and turn the fire up to high. Your biggest job now is to try to be patient. After about 5 minutes, give the pot a shake or two, as if making popcorn. The bottom shrimp shells will caramelize and the shrimp will self-steam in their own juices. When you can stand it no longer, remove the lid and move the shrimp around. You probably didn’t wait log enough, so keep going. When the shrimp are pink and curled into themselves, dump out into a big bowl or onto a newspaper covered table. Sprinkle generously with Outer Banks SeaSalt and go at it. Remember to try eating the heads, too!