Big Sur Salts is a manufacturing company that sells sea salt and sea salt blends made from hand-harvest sea water obtained in Big Sur, CA. The significance of the water source location is that it is far away from municipalitites and therefore it yields the purest water possible.
The blends are a mix of fruits, nuts, herbs and vegetables that are sourced directly from farms around the Central Coast. This region is one of the largest agricultural areas in the United States, which allows Big Sur Salts to source and use the freshest ingredients available. That being said, the Central Coast is one of the only locations on the planet where this can be done to such high quality.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
In November of 2015, I was in a rut and drinking a beer on a cliff overlooking the ocean
in Big Sur. This huge wave rose 30 feet or so above the water and drenched me. Changed my whole day. Brought some water back in the beer bottle, left it outside and the water evaporated. Mixed it with some stuff I was going to compost, and the rest is in the rearview.
Tell us about your products.
As for the company, Big Sur Salts is a manufacturer of all natural culinary and specialty
salts that are 100% sourced and harvested in California, on the central coast. What separates us from other salt manufacturers is that we are very set in using everything around us. The incredible part of where we live is that the farms go right up to the ocean, right to the point of madness; “Where the bounty of the harvest meets the salt of the sea.” Every ingredient used in our products comes from a farmer in the area, or is, at least, sourced in the area.
When someone purchases one of our products, a portion of the profits goes to the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. This local non-profit helps clean and maintain trails and lobbies for legislation to keep the Ventana Wilderness and the northern Santa Lucia mountain range as a wilderness. Keeps home the way it is.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Artisan” Mean To You?
Not allowing the world to get too large. Crafting for your customers on a per order
basis, or at least as close to that as you can get. Keeping it personal. I like to hand deliver our products, as much as possible.
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
What Drew You To Food?
I’ve worked in kitchens going back to middle school. When I was 14, I lied about my
age and was a dishwasher at a Ponderosa Steakhouse, just outside of Philadelphia. This continued on and off through high school, at a variety of places (the dishwashing thing, not the lying about my age thing). Until I was 27, I bounced around the east coast working at a couple of Ruby Tuesday’s and a slew of Waffle Houses and Outback Steakhouses. I’ll never eat a Bloomin’ Onion again, but a patty melt... absolutely.
In 2015, I lived in San Diego and began experimenting with wine and craft beer in food. It was there that I challenged myself the most. Plus, I kept dipping into Tijuana, which I feel is one of the hottest culinary regions in the world (northern Baja). At one point, I decided to do a series of plates based on classic Doctor Who episodes. My journey to the dark side was complete.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
I grew up on the east coast; that’s the foundation. Mmmm... cheesesteaks. Having
moved to California from Atlanta in 2003, Highway 1 is what inspires me now. Look where the highway goes - San Francisco, the Monterey Bay, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, LA, San Diego, Tijuana... There is so much inspiration to be found throughout. Roll down the road and absorb.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
I’m experimenting with fermented foods in the Big Sur Salts products. I have also started a line of beverage salts and seasonings, completely independent of Big Sur Salts.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
The product I am most proud of is the Old Coast Canyon blend. I wanted to recreate the aroma of stepping out of the car in Big Sur. The blend is our Pico Blanco sea salt, wild sage, leek, thyme, and orange peel. Totally nailed it.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Carnitas tacos from a popular local dive.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
The first thing to pay attention to is why you’re doing it in the first place. Is it simply because you hate your day job, or is there a higher purpose? Maybe you want to take your current gig to the next level. What product are you making? Is it something already out there? What separates your product from others like it? Really define what value the product has to you, not just financially. Then, find like minded chefs and artisans to collab with. If others around you are as excited as you are, it becomes “a thing”. Become the product.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
I keep meeting them! John Cox, Brad Briske, Tabitha Stroup, Vanessa Lauren, Dakota Weiss, Matt Beaudin... too many to name.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Chicken wings. Spicy bbq. Specifically the wings at Smoke and Barrel in Washington, D.C. Craft beer and wings will be the death of me.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
Filming a pilot for a concept I had titled Brü Appétit. Film crew, host, the works. The premise was a blend of craft beer and locally sourced ingredients. Flew to Atlanta and sourced squab with falconry, went on an 18 hour wild hog hunt in Alabama, sourced local honey from a swarming hive in Gadsden, Alabama (got stung in the face), and got to be part of a cook-off against some great chefs.
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Traveling. Not just to be somewhere; to immerse myself in a culture.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
I usually stick Spotify on and play Wu Tang radio. Unless I’m in date mode - then it’s the rat pack.
What Is Your Favorite Recipe To Make With Your "Old Red" Blend?
Breakfast. I usually kick it with a Bloody Mary made from El Sur celery salt, and I use the Old Red over eggs and locally sourced wild hog sausage.