; A Flaky Process
The salt brine is then moved indoors to
shallow, stainless-steel evaporation pans.
Over the next few days, delicate salt
crystals will form, becoming more dense
than the brine and falling to the bottom of
the pans. Below, Maggard gently scoops
the salt crystals out from the bottom up,
using a slotted shovel so the brine can drip
out. Ultimately, the crystals go into plastic
trays that are stacked at a tilt on speed
racks (so brine can continue to drip out)
and moved to a dehydration room.
While attending business school in Copenhagen in 2004, Ben Jacobsen fell
in love with Maldon sea salt, the flaky finishing salt prized by chefs. Returning to
the United States—landing in Portland, Oregon—he was shocked to find that no
one here was harvesting anything like that high-end sea salt.
After his mobile-app-discovery startup went belly-up, Jacobsen began lugging
275-gallon wine totes of seawater from Netarts Bay back to his home in Portland,
where he re-created the laborious (and messy) process of evaporating the water to
make salt. “I destroyed cookware and pots and pans and made a mess in the oven
and everything else,” Jacobsen says. “It was definitely a learning experience.” Today,
his category-defining American flaky sea salt is the favored salt of celebrity chefs.
The process of salt-making is now much more e;cient at Jacobsen’s 6,000-
square-foot production facility on the Oregon coast, where the company has
built custom equipment. Jacobsen’s 42-person crew harvests 18,000 pounds
of salt per month, which is then sent to the warehouse in Portland’s Central
Eastside to be packaged and shipped out to Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods, and
thousands of other retailers across the country. “Like the people who went to
California 240 years ago and wondered if it was possible to grow grapes and
make wine there,” says Jacobsen, “we’re the first in our category to make great
salt in the U.S. mainstream.”
Creativity With Condiments
Ben Jacobsen, now 42, bootstrapped his company with $30,000 he raised on
Kickstarter. Since then, he’s never stopped thinking about how to push the
boundaries of salt. He has collaborated with Uncle Nearest 1856 Whiskey to make
whiskey salt, with Stumptown Coffee Roasters to make Hair Bender salt, and
with L.A.-based condiment company Entube to make mole, harissa, and curry
paste. In 2015, Jacobsen also acquired the artisanal honey company Bee Local.