Beginner’s Mindset by Matt Jamie

Bourbon Barrel Foods, owner, Matt Jamie Speaks on the Beginner's Mindset in this new blog post

Innovation is at the heart of Bourbon Barrel Foods, and Matt Jamie is the visionary behind it all. With a passion for crafting artisan foods, Matt’s creativity knows no bounds. Through dedication and hard work, he has established himself as a true pioneer of artisan foods. His passion for innovation shines through in every product, inviting food lovers everywhere to experience the flavors of Bourbon Barrel Foods.

Matt Jamie shares his process and his mindset for product innovation.

Bourbon Barrel Foods The Beginners mindset Bluegrass Soy Sauce Matt Jamie Quote Not knowing what to be afraid of has allowed me to move quickly and without fear.
Matt Jamie started Bourbon Barrel Foods with the single idea – brew soy sauce in spent bourbon barrels.


My outlook on life and business has always been met with a touch of naïveté. I don’t act like I know everything and am far from an expert. It’s a healthier approach and allows an openness to be creative. Almost childlike. I’m not sure I’d be where I am today or have the success I’ve had without this approach. Not knowing what to be afraid of has allowed me to move quickly and without fear. It has allowed me to make decisions with an intuitive gut feeling and raw, intentional emotion. It’s an approach I’ve taken in many aspects of my life. I knew nothing about business when I started nearly 20 years ago, and I still feel like every day is “Day One.” As if I just started. I’ve learned a great deal, which signifies growth. I’ve acknowledged my process over time, connected to it, and embraced it. The other day, I was listening to a podcast on the creative process, and a particular term resonated with me. They mentioned the “Beginner’s Mindset.” It gave meaning and a connection to my process. It’s extremely satisfying and validating to hear other creatives discuss a process that I embraced instinctively and actually give it a name. I had no idea it was a thing. So cool. Made me proud.

I dug a little deeper, and it turns out this concept has origins in Zen Buddhism, which really surprised me – the idea that I was naturally connecting with myself on that level.

Beginner’s Mind, Shoshin (Japanese: 初心), a concept from Zen Buddhism, embodies the idea of a “beginner’s mind.” It emphasizes maintaining an open, eager, and unbiased approach to learning, similar to a novice, even at an advanced level.

Bourbon Barrel Foods was created with a single idea—microbrewed soy sauce in the United States. I look back on how Bluegrass Soy Sauce has developed and everything I’ve done in the past 17 years. To take something from start to finish, I approach it with the same beginner’s mindset I had when I started the company—developing a product without putting any expectations on it. I know I have a skill set. When I have an idea to make a new product, I have to believe in it. This mindset has benefited me by simplifying the approach, trusting my instincts, and not giving up. I was told making soy sauce wouldn’t work by many people, and I’m so glad I didn’t listen. 

I tackle tasks with a relaxed attitude, aiming to achieve goals while not getting hung up on expectations of what the final product should be—staying true to my methods because they’ve been so important to the innovative products we make at Bourbon Barrel Foods. The products we make are not new for the most part. They’re my interpretations of classics. Changing the slightest thing after looking at a product like soy sauce, with fresh eyes and a bit of innocence, to see just how simple something can be. I want to look at something that’s been done forever, determine how I will put my mark on it, and make it unique, dialed in and evolving.

Bourbon Barrel Foods History and Heritage of Bluegrass Soy Sauce Matt Jamie at his Press
Matt Jamie looks over the 4th generation of custom built presses. This one is called KenZilla, after Matt’s father, Ken, who built the first three presses for the company.

Developing a product with a specific outcome in mind is detrimental. What I’ve seen in my life and the evolution of my company is that I need to be open. I need to see how things go. The Bluegrass Soy Sauce has been an evolution. Breaking it down to simple manufacturing and then trying to scale with the growth and popularity of the product. I see efficiencies clearly and yet know very little about manufacturing. I know what will work for us. Right or wrong, it works for our purposes at that moment. I’m not afraid to mess up or make a mistake. I tell everyone who works at Bourbon Barrel Foods that mistakes are growth opportunities. Not everyone has it in them to be so carefree in their approach. I get that, but it doesn’t stop me from encouraging them to adopt a beginner’s mindset. Because, more often than not, the simplest answer is the right one. Why complicate things?

I want to produce products people will enjoy – something that will elevate their cooking. Something that will add a depth of flavor you don’t get anywhere else, something that will become a staple in the pantry. That’s the joy of developing new products. 

I carry this motto over into my lifestyle, too. When I cook, I don’t stress about using exact ingredients. It doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s an ease to the approach that makes things stress-free. I’m not thinking about perfection. I’m cooking how I want to cook and coloring outside the lines. That’s where the magic happens. Perfectly imperfect. Wabi-sabi. I work with what I have.

Bluegrass Soy Sauce is the original soy sauce and is used in the other sauces in the Bluegrass Soy Sauce collection.
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘び寂び) embodies a worldview that embraces impermanence and imperfection. This aesthetic is often defined as the appreciation of beauty that is inherently “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” It is commonly found in various Japanese art forms.

Even though I’m nearing 54, I feel much younger. The Beginner’s Mindset helps me manage stress, be myself, and navigate life with ease. Contentment without any expectations. It’s not a bad way to live…