Did you know that most condiments you’re familiar with today were originally fermented foods? That’s right — ketchup, mustard, relish and everything else, were all originally fermented foods before the modern convenience of chemical preservatives and other ingredients made fermentation unnecessary.
Most wellness lovers know about the importance of fermented foods for vibrant health. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the array of superfoods and supplement recommendations coming your way on the reg, the truth is that, by using authentic fermented condiments daily, you can easily integrate ferments back into every meal with very little fuss.
We’re falling for Chef Greg Arnold’s new brand Dark Horse whose fermented products from dijon mustard to beet sauerkraut intend to help you do just that.
We’ve been fans of Chef Greg for quite some time and – chance are – if you live in LA and eat well, you are too. Greg’s had his hand in just about every hard core wellness restaurant in the city we can think of. Learn more about him below and nerd out on ferments with us below…
The Chalkboard Mag: So, Greg. Why condiments?
Greg Arnold: Because everybody uses them and everyone loves them!!! Over the years, as a chef, I stopped using any kind of manufactured products and started making all these things from scratch. When you are trying to emulate condiments, the crazy thing is finding out how much sugar and salt you have to put in there to recreate what it tastes like in your memory. I’m working on making simplified, more health-conscious versions of these classics.
TCM: We talked about how most of the common condiments we know today were once fermented. Talk to us about that:
GA: Well, at some time in the last century, all sauces and staple foods began to use GMO foods, pesticides and high-fructose corn syrup to cut costs. Timeless foods like breads and grains were starting to get de-natured, the fermentation process was removed and preservatives were added; all of these things were done to increase shelf stability and increase profits but much to the detriment of the quality of food and, of course, our health. So, small things like condiments and sauces began to add to the overall toxicity of food. I’m just trying to return simple things back to their more natural state with a bit of a modern twist.
TCM: What is umami, and how did you land on this blend for your Umami Powder?
GA: Umami is the “fifth taste.” It’s the element of flavor that is savory, and it is also the element that lingers on your tongue. Like an hour after you eat a meal, it still tastes fresh on your tongue and in your mind. My mother is Japanese, so I grew up eating a lot of umami-rich foods, and the concept in my mind of what a food should taste like is very Japanese. The umami powder is a flavor booster like a modern flavonoid but made from plants and not chemicals.
TCM:What’s your favorite way to use the umami blend?
GA: I originally made it to spike broths and sauces and make the flavors more three dimensional. I was also making a lot of really deep broths by infusing them with a lot of smoked, roasted and charred vegetables and leaves, branches and seaweeds. I also really really like to just sprinkle it on salad…so delicious.
TCM: What do you call your diet? You’ve been involved in so many vegan and raw projects. What’s your stance on food and diet?
GA: Seriously, whole foods with a really good balance of cooked and raw. Mostly grains with fresh vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, fermented foods, seaweed. Really good fats, especially avocado. Kale everyday. Single-source water in glass bottles. Salt is good for you! Spring Dragon tea. Miso broth all winter long. Classic boring hippie food like brown rice, tofu and steamed broccoli with liquid aminos is still really delicious sometimes! Learn how to make like ten really good soups and it will save your life. Spend the money on good extra-virgin olive oil. A tiny splash of San-J tamari in everything. And…for breakfast I eat a complicated regimen of tinctures and powders with lemon and green tea, which would be like an entire interview all in itself.
TCM: You’ve launched and developed menus for more cool wellness restaurants in LA than anyone I know! Can you list them all?
GA: Sage was the first restaurant I created, the one in Echo Park. I also opened Mesa Verde in Santa Barbara and Plant Food and Wine with my great pal Scott Winegard. Cortez in Echo Park, which was really ahead of its time and one of the best restaurants on the east side, Of Aire in Silverlake. I write the menus for the bowls at Backyard Bowls. I also did some stints at Elf, and like ten years ago, I worked in the torture chamber that is Flore Vegan with another great pal, Stephen McCarty!
TCM: What have been some of your most significant learnings about how people eat after all your experiences?
GA: You can convince any person to eat the healthiest foods on earth if you hide all the good stuff in sauces and purees that look like things they are used to… and then cover the entire dish with foraged flowers!
TCM: The menu item you’ve found that no one can resist:
GA: We are in Los Angeles, so of course I have to say tacos! I’ve made like 20 different kinds of vegan tacos over the years that people will swear have meat and cheese in them. Taco hacks: 1) Make your own tortillas from organic masa, it’s actually super easy. 2) Ferment your own hot sauce, it’s actually super easy too. 3) Make your own pickles, also fun and easy.
TCM: The food trend that’s surprised you:
GA: People eating dessert for breakfast! Hahaha.
TCM: The food trend that’ll never go out of style:
GA: The avocado roll is a timeless perfect food. Carb, healthy fat, seaweed, fermented sauce. Such a perfect food – just don’t put the ginger on top of it when you eat it!
TCM: What are you looking forward to seeing in food and wellness next?
GA: I really really want to see a revolution in water! I’m very interested in the work of Viktor Schauberger and vortexing water. In nature, water wants to vortex and spiral. Water running through pipes at 90 degree angles actually weakens and injures the water. You have to think of water as a sentient being. Water that comes through pipes and runs through a reverse-osmosis filter is nearly dead water and all its minerals are removed by the time you drink it. Over the next few years I’d like never to see water in plastic bottles ever again.
TCM: Favorite dish in LA lately?
GA: Whatever is on the counter at Cookbook Market in Echo Park! It changes daily.
TCM: Tell us where Dark Horse is sold.
GA: Erewhon, Honey Hi, Within Apothecary. It’s just starting to ship out to all our favorite small markets and bodegas in the next couple months. And it’s always available on the website.