When asked to sit down with Stephanie Burt of the Southern Fork the answer should always be “yes!” Earlier this month Bourbon Barrel Foods founder Matt Jamie had the chance to talk to “The Southern Fork” about his favorite topics, Bluegrass Soy Sauce, Bourbon Barrel Foods, and what being a business owner means to him and his family.
The Southern Fork creator, Stephanie grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, on good Southern cooking and lots of books. She received both her BA and MA in English from UNC Charlotte and was a former instructor of English and American Studies there as well. Her writing has taken her from the haunted halls of old mountain mansions to the white beaches of the West Coast of Florida, but these days, all things culinary fill her plate. She is a full-time freelance writer for a variety of publications and loves that a pen and paper let her behind the scenes and in the kitchen.
Matt invited Stephanie to interview at the Bourbon Barrel Foods headquarters’ test kitchen, with mile high ceilings, elegant furniture made solely from the oak of bourbon barrels and furnished with state-of-the-art GE appliances. You can hear the acoustics of the large space throughout the podcast. Matt goes on to explain that Bourbon Barrel Foods hosts a local television production called The Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs in the space.
Quickly the podcast hits an important, yet rarely talked about topic, the Bourbon Barel Foods sustainability efforts. All of our products use local and ethically sourced ingredients, including the bourbon barrels. By law, bourbon barrels can only be used once to age bourbon; they are then sold for a variety of uses. The barrels are repurposed to ferment the Bluegrass Soy Sauce and smoke all of our spices and sugars. By using the barrels as an aging vessel, the product becomes infused with the essence of Kentucky’s finest bourbon and the rich, oaky flavors from the charred barrels. He explains how many times each barrel gets used and what its next life will be after it has reached its fermentation limits. “There is no waste of any of our barrels,” says Matt.
Soy Sauce is the most widely used condiment in the world, yet was introduced to the United States only about 60 years ago. He describes his process of creating the Bluegrass Soy Sauce in detail with Stephanie naming the bourbon barrels themselves as one of his ingredients. The climate of Louisville Kentucky is reminiscent of Japan, which is a major factor to aging the mash in bourbon barrels. Going through the lifecycle of four seasons in a bourbon barrel is key to the unmistakable bluegrass flavor. That and the combination of using local wheat, local soy, and local spring water to create his unique products. Matt goes on to explain that the state of Kentucky was what inspired him to become the only micro-brewery of soy sauce in the United Sates.
Good, clean, fair food is presently a widespread mindset. Matt brings up his basic business practices like sourcing Kentucky grown sorghum and how staying loyal and local has helped grow the business of the farmers he uses. Sticking with the motto of slow-small-simple and those key fundamentals are what brings out the essence of the Bourbon Country.
It is important to Matt to show his two children that he is doing what he loves. He hopes to inspire them to create a life for themselves doing something they are passionate about.
Stephanie sums it up best!
If you’ve listened to this show a while (or read my work), you probably know that I find how people find their great ideas very interesting. Eleven years ago, Matt Jamie of Bourbon Barrel Foods in Louisville, Kentucky had one of those great ideas — to become the U.S.’s only soy sauce microbrewery, incorporating, wait for it, used bourbon barrels into the process. He had what he calls a “chef’s arrogance” at getting the whole thing started, and these days, he’s not only making a Bluegrass Soy Sauce sought after and used by some of the country’s leading chefs, he’s branched out into various other directions as well, from making products for Woodford Reserve to cookbook writing to smoking salts and spices. Still, it all comes back to the barrel, and to Louisville, of course, where he works to make soy sauce, an item essentially “branded” on another continent, all about Kentucky local.