An avid baker, Nan Kohler started milling her own grain as a way to ensure she had the best quality product for her creations. Working with select farmers throughout California, Nan is reintroducing ancient grains to mill everything from Sonora Wheat Flour to Polenta. Now that's something we can get behind.
When did you start milling?
I started milling out of my garage with a 12-inch mill built by a father and son up in Chico, CA in 2012. Officially opened for business in Pasadena in the fall of 2013.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
My love of baking and my interest in where my ingredients come from are what led me to be interested in how flour is produced and specifically who grows and mills our wheat here in California.
Tell us about your products.
I source wheat and other grains and mill them in small batches on an authentic stone mill. I practice what is called whole berry milling, which means I do not temper, or soak, the grain in order to try and separate the bran and the germ from the starchy white endosperm center: everything gets crushed and milled together, which means my flour has superior flavor, color and nutritional value.
What Does "Artisan" Mean To You?
To me it means hand produced goods on a much smaller scale. Something created by a singular vision: one artist’s unique perspective and expression of taste.
What is your favorite artisanal treat?
Jamón ibérico de bellota from Spain. Life changing.
What Drew You To Food?
I grew up in a household that included a lot of cooking, baking and entertaining. I also worked in the wine industry for several years, so I have a very long history of being engaged with food and chefs in one way or another.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
Travel and a lot of exposure to different types of food and cultures.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
I received a sample of a new wheat, called Charcoal wheat. The berries are espresso colored and when milled, it makes the most gorgeous cocoa colored flour. It has very strong gluten properties, making it especially beautiful for pasta. I am working on a way to cold smoke it, playing on the name of the wheat and infusing it with a smoky flavor that I think will be tremendous for fall pasta dishes.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
I do, but the answer to that question depends entirely on what day of the week it is and what I feel like baking! I will say, though, that I have fallen deeply and madly in love with Sonora wheat, and if I’m not baking with it exclusively, it’s almost always a part of my flour blend no matter what I’m making.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Whatever new grain sample I am able to put into the mill and tinker around with. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for the recipe testing I would love to do!
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
Actually, I’d love to do the reverse! I’d like to go back in time to see and taste for myself the wheat that was being grown pre green revolution. I’d love to see what they were doing back in the day rather than show them what I am doing.
What's The Best Piece Of Advice You've Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
Trust your palate and be original. Inspiration from others is necessary and a great motivator, but imitation is boring.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You admire?
It is incredibly tough and challenging to launch your own business. I have great admiration for food artisans, bakers and chefs who have taken the leap from corporate backed ventures to their own one-person operations or more intimate, chef driven venues. High on my list are Don Guerra of Barrio Bread in AZ, Dave Miller of Miller’s Bake House in Chico, CA, Bruce Kalman of Union Restaurant here in Pasadena, and Zach Pollack over at Alimento in Silverlake. They are succeeding at what all food artisans want to achieve: feeding their passion, controlling their quality of life, and supporting their local food communities. Anyone who has the guts to go out on their own and try to create something unique and special is automatically an inspiration to me.
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