Salt: The Magic Ingredient

Posted on January 28, 2011

When culinary giant James Beard asked, “Where would we be without salt?,” he spoke for chefs everywhere. Here’s what a few local chefs had to say on the subject.


“Salt is everything. It’s the first thing I learned as a chef. I’ve got bricks of all different kinds of salt: sea salt, Italian sea salt, fleur de sel, Himalayan salt. Himalayan is the purest salt there is. How do I know how much to use? I’ve got a big tub of spoons that I use to keep tasting as I cook. You have to keep tasting.”—Mark Helms, Ravenous Cafe, Sacramento

“We mostly use a kosher sea salt and a Mediterranean sea salt blend, which has different seasonings like oregano and chili flakes and garlic. The Mediterranean we’ll rub on our steaks or salmon before we grill them; it really adds a lot of flavor. We sometimes use Himalayan and black lava salt, which has almost a smoky flavor. Salt can be overdone like any other ingredient. We don’t use as much for seafood because it already has a natural saltiness.”—Raphael Kendall, Capitol Garage, Sacramento

“As a pastry chef, I use kosher because it’s a finer grade, but I do like sea salt to season meats, burgers or chicken. On a piece of steak, it gives it a little crust as well. I probably tend to use too much salt, so I have to be careful. If something goes out too salty, you’re done—it’s ruined. If you use a medium amount, people can always add their own.”—Tara Hullander, Wine Konnection, El Dorado Hills

“We don’t use a whole lot of crazy salts yet, though we see a lot coming down the pike. We’re a kosher-sea-salt-only kind of place. I like it because I have great big sausage paws and it’s easier for me to pick it up with my fingers.”—Clay Purcell, Tower Bridge Bistro, Sacramento

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