The jacobsen Salt Co. is an artisanal company that specializes in fine finishing salt from the Oregon Coast. Before launching his food company on Kickstarter, the 37-year-old founder Ben Jacobsen had a really unsuccessful internet startup, making salt as a hobby: he discovered quality salt when he was living in Scandinavia, moved back to his native Oregon only to find out that nobody was making great salt even though the nation is almost surrounded by ocean.
Fine Dining Lovers spoke with Jacobsen - now running a successful signature brand, becoming a supplier to famous chefs across the US, such as Chris Cosentino and April Bloomfield - in order to find out more about finishing salt and the experience of starting up a gourmet venture in the US.
You launched your company a couple of years ago, through a quite successful Kickstarter campaign. Why? How was the experience?
I started with Kickstarter because I really needed funding and we were far too young of a company to get a bank loan. It was a great experience, though more work than I anticipated.
What is the hardest obstacle you overcame or have to overcome?
Growth. Because we're doing something that hasn't been done in the USA in quite a while, we need to create our own process and standards for growth, and that is definitely challenging.
What are the characteristics that make a finishing salt special?
To me, taste, texture, and appearance are the three primary qualities of a finishing salt. Our salt is exceptionally clean and briny, with no bitter aftertaste. You can actually eat it on its own it tastes so good. The texture of our salt is a very delicate flake, and you can control the application to food with your fingertips really easily.
Which foods or purposes should people use salt flakes for?
Don't overcomplicate using good salt. It can be as simple as putting great salt on your toast and eggs in the morning, or a piece of fruit for a snack, and vegetables and a roast chicken for dinner.
US salt vs Northern European salt (e.g. the Brittany one): any major differences to mention?
The terroir is most definitely different. I tested more than 25 spots of water in Washington and Oregon (American Pacific NW), and the salt I created from each location was strikingly different. As such, our salt definitely tastes different than Northern European salts.
What's the first reaction, the comments that people make when they taste your products?
I love seeing people's reaction when they taste our salt for the first time. It's usually something like "Wow, that's SO good!" There's no better feeling in the world to me than making a food that brightens someone's day. We're lucky to play a small role in making food better.
Observing the US food scene from Europe, one could tell that in Oregon seems to be a bold new food movement. How do you explain this phenomenon?
I think people are just paying attention to food more than they used to. Food matters, and it's this outlook that is changing the way Americans eat. In Oregon, we're really lucky because we have so much beautiful farm land, coastal forests and fisheries that are home to the food we eat every day.
What is the most important thing that you have achieved so far?
Making great salt every day. Quality is the only reason we're here, I just hope that we can continue making great salt and never compromise quality.