Jacobsen Salt Co.
When we walked up to the small storage facility we were invited to in Portland to meet Ben Jacobsen for our interview, we weren’t exactly sure we were in the right place. But then the door swung open and there was Ben. He greeted us with a big smile and an outstretched hand. He is a charming, warm, and inviting man. He stores his salts going out for delivery in a shared space with a couple other small business owners. There is a strong sense of community there.
Our conversation began with asking him about his past. Over the past couple years since starting his business he has had so many big name media sources write articles on him, and probably been asked the same questions so many time’s, it made me wonder if he was sick of telling his own origins story. He replied with an absoulutley not. Your origin is the most important part about where you have come from and where you are now. I won’t ever get tired of talking about whats happened to get me where I am today. I’m thankful for it. It wasn’t a suprising answer, considering his business is just shy of being two years old, practically a baby still in the business world. But this baby can walk!
He has been to more than 25 different locations along the Oregon and Washington coast to try and decide which place had the best quality of sea water to harvest his rich pacific crystals from. It turns out that he chose a place that is pretty close to my heart, Netarts Bay. My father would take my brother and I clam digging there when we were kids and I have fond memories of splashing around along the beach. Not in a million years would I expacet there to be something so pure and valuable as flake salt to come out of such an unsuspecting area.
He started out taking his salt to farmers markets and seeing if that could provide him the money for gas to get back down to the coast to harvest more seawater. Now he sells his salt all over Portland now, collaborating with other local businesses such as Xocolatl De David, Salt & Straw Ice Creamery, as well as providing his finishing salts to restaurants such as Ned Ludd and Ox.
He doesn’t subcribe to any particular title either. I asked him if he aspired to be that of the Selmelier status, or essentially being a professional saltist, and he says though he does strive to know as much as he can about the product he makes and sells, as well as the rich history behind it, he doesn’t care for any particular title. He could even care less about the title of being a foodie. It seems what Ben cares about is making the best product he possibly can, forging positive and lasting relationships with loyal and new customers, and just being the best possible business owner, salt supplier, salt maker and person he can be. In our opinon, he’s more than succeeding.
He began a kick starter campaign to add on to their coastal facility, which in the past was a diner, but is now used to produce, prep, and package Oregon’s first finishing salt. The facility is to be expanded and turned into a farm/garden to plate type of place, where he will host dinners and invite chefs and cooks to prepare food from their garden, chicken coops and stable to share with the lucky few who are able to be invited on the revolving guest list. He wants people to be able to experience what salt can do to food and inviting those who make food for a living in to experiement with his product seems to be a first rate way of taking a step in the right direction.
His process seems fairly simple, evolving back to the basics of salt making in the European tradition, conisting of the sea water, massive steel drums, and lots of heat. The process is more complicated than that really, like when it comes down to it having to sometimes extraxt different basic elements out of the sea water to purify the remaining content which is rich, delightful flake salt. He says there are varied ways to control the flake size an the way the salt comes out in the end by adjusting certain variables in heat and using different batches of salinity in the water that is harvested. But the main idea is to just get the best product possible.
I asked him if he had any ideas of how he might progress in his business. He has no current plans to expand beyond the making of salt, but I also asked him if other fine products such as wine, chocolate, or even preserves might be in the distant future for him, and he says at this point the focus is just making his salt and his business the absolute best it can be, servicing every customer big or small equally. He does have some pretty amazing secret projects he is working on that he divulged to us… but we took a solemn oath that we would not tell a soul. BUT! We definitley will be keeping up with Ben and his developments and featuring him on our blog again.
My last question for him was what food does he like to put his finishing salt on the most. His answer was poignant and simple. Eggs and Toast or just a sliced tomato. “slice a tomato open from the garden, sprinkle a little flaked finishing salt on there, and you’ve got heaven.” He is a man after our own hearts…