The La Jolla Salt Company renders beautiful flake sea salt from the purified waters off the coast of La Jolla California.
La Jolla Salt Company
The La Jolla Salt Company was officially founded in Early 2014 but the foundation for the company started many years prior.
It was while serving in the United States Coast Guard as a Food Service Specialist that La Jolla Salt Company owner and proprietor Chris Polley was first introduced to the process of desalination. “Many of the ships in the Coast Guards fleet use the process of desalination to turn salt water into fresh potable water,” he says. “The byproduct of this process is Sea Salt!”
After leaving the U.S. Coast Guard, Polley returned to working as a chef in a few local San Diego restaurants. “This was right about the time when the farm to table movement began and Americans really started making more conscience food choices,” explains Polley. “The word organic was being thrown around a lot and honestly, in the beginning I really didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I landed a spot working under local chef and restaurateur Matt Gordon that this word, and the entire culture surrounding, it really started to make sense.”
Polley says that chef Gordon is strict when it comes to selecting ingredients, with never a single item brought into any of his three restaurants containing any unnatural ingredients. “This philosophy forced us to make many everyday dining staples on our own using only raw natural ingredients,” he explained. “When I saw that the menu included some items with sea salt, I decided to revisit the idea of rendering our own in house using local waters.”
When it came to sourcing water for the sea salt, the first place that came to mind was La Jolla. Known for its beautiful shoreline and strict ecological reserve limitations, Polley felt La Jolla was the perfect location to source clean mineral-rich ocean water.
With less than 10 inches of rain a year, and mostly sunny conditions year round, La Jolla turns out to be one of the best locations to render sea water into sea salt in the country. “I started off a little smaller than I am doing today. In the beginning I was going down to the Scripps Pier about once a week and collecting 30 gallons at a time in small five gallon buckets. I wasn’t always lucky enough to make it back to the restaurant with all 30 gallons. I remember one time having to pull off to the side of highway 52 because about 10 gallons of ocean water fell over in the back of my SUV and I noticed it leaking onto the street out of the back window,” Polley explains. “When I did manage to make it back with all of the water and began rendering it down, everyone was intrigued. We were now making one of the most fundamental ingredients available in the culinary world. We began making salt on a weekly basis and each time it came out just a little bit better.”
Once business picked up and the restaurant became too busy to allow Polley to continue the salt making process, he decided to continue on with salt making on his own. He figured out that the slower the ocean water was rendered down on the flame, the larger the flakes of salt came out. By utilizing more modernized cooking techniques such as induction, he was able to better control the temperature and rate in which the brine is rendered, and each batch resulted in bigger and more beautiful flakes of salt. “The process is very time consuming but making salt is actually quite therapeutic,” he says. “I credit the process for giving me a better appreciation for slow process artisan food making and distilling the importance of patience into my lifestyle.”
After making batch after batch of salt and starting to accumulate a good size quantity of product, Polley reached out to Dan H of Clove Street Press and they began working on branding and product design together. Polley had discovered Dan’s work through some printing that he had done with a local coffee shop, and really appreciated the simplicity of his portfolio. They worked on the design and logo for a couple of months and even changed the name of the company a few times before they arrived at the design and packaging that is used today. “It was only a few days after we rolled out the first few packages of salt that I began receiving inquiries and sample requests from some of San Diego’s most notable chefs,” says Polley. “In just a few short weeks we already had reoccurring accounts set up with some well known restaurants in California and Oregon. The chef that allowed me to use his own kitchen to conceptualize the idea behind La Jolla Salt Company is now one of the largest customers in San Diego.”
Polley’s vision for the future of the company is to continue making an essential ingredient to all cooking, using traditional techniques, and remaining as simple about it as possible. “I plan on continuing to roll out new flavor combinations as often as possible without ever jeopardizing the commitment I have to remaining 100 % All Natural,” he says. “As well as being the source for the salt that we are offering to the world, the word La Jolla also translates to the word “The Gem”.” (www.lajollasalt.com)
*Written by Maria Desiderata Montana