Small Businesses | Taylor with By the Brook Tempeh

 

In this episode, we speak with small business owner, Taylor, with by the Brook Tempeh. His company makes hand-crafted, ethically sourced, live culture protein.

Tempeh is an extremely versatile protein source that lends itself to those who are looking to get creative in the kitchen.

Cultures for Health has everything you need to get start making your own tempeh at home! Use the code CFHPODCAST to get 25% off.

Make sure to go visit Taylor on Instagram for some amazing recipe inspiration! His handle is: bythebrook_tempeh.

Cara:

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Cultures for Health Podcast. It's your host, Cara, and I'm Super excited to introduce Taylor with by the Burke tempeh. They make handcrafted, ethically sourced live culture tempeh, extremely versatile protein source that lends itself to those who are looking to get creative in the kitchen. Coulter, for help, has everything you need to get started making your own tempeh at home. Use the code CFH podcast to get 25% off, and if you want to learn a little more, stay tuned. 


So, Taylor, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into fermentation and specifically Tempeh. 


Taylor:

Sure. Hey, friends, I'm Taylor Westbrook. Thank you for having me on the show. Looking forward to talking more about Tempe, but I'm a small batch, non soy Tempe producer, as mentioned in Sacks, Baha, North Carolina, which is within the Triangle to nearby as Chapel Hill and Durham, Raleigh. Been focusing on tempeh for about four years, two years professionally, and before that I was a chef by trade. So my world has been food for about a decade now, and this month marks the two year anniversary on April 21. So tempeh has been my main focus and continues to be. And the big hope for by the Brook is hopefully to incorporate more cultures. But Tempe has been our gateway. 


Cara

When you cooked professionally, did you use fermentation or tempeh specifically in your cooking? What kind of brought you on your fermentation journey and brought you to Tempe specifically because tempeh isn't the most common ferment that we see out there? 


Taylor:

Sure. Yeah. It definitely started right after College. I decided to not go into the hotel industry that I was planning on doing and jumped right into kitchens instead. Shortly after my first job in the kitchen, I realized that I could start doing more nature based cooking. So I started researching for different retreat centers and found myself in Northern California for the summer and fall. And there is really where I was exposed to some lacto fermenting, like sourdough bread. Kiefer Kombucha didn't find tempeh quite yet, but that was like the early beginnings of just understanding what fermentation was and the powers behind it. And then a few years later, I had the privilege to work at another retreat center, which afforded me the money to go down to standard Cats'residency program. And that was around 2017. And it was there that I came in touch with tempeh through making some small batches at Sanders house. And that was kind of a radical space within what I've already known of what fermentation could be. And it was really hands on. I like the creative process of it. The flavor was amazing. So that really stuck through those five days at Sanders. And I took that with me to New Hampshire, where I was working for about three years and started making Tempe and small batches in my house. Playing around with different legumes mainly was using soy but started branching out after a year or so, really practicing what I learned at the residency program. And from there, I took that knowledge and moved down to North Carolina about three and a half years ago and really wanted to figure out how I could branch out of the kitchen and kind of the commercial cooking spaces and really Hone on a creative craft. And to me, Fermentation was kind of always that channel that I looked to as potentially being the next thing. Tempeh just really made sense from an economical standpoint. It seems to be a product that holds a lot of value in terms of how it's a protein source. It's pretty easy to make it's affordable, so it really made sense for me to invest more time and money into that. So while I was basically where I now, those three years was a real incubation phase of figuring out how to launch the business, and that took about a year to really figure out. And then these past two years have just been evolving what the brand is and kind of what my identity is as a tempeh maker. Still haven't really figured it out quite yet, but I've put a lot of time and energy into non Tory Tempe. 


Cara:

Well, I know your products have made quite a splash in the Triangle area. I lived there for three plus years, and I definitely started seeing your product everywhere right as I moved away. So I was kind of sad that I never grabbed a block of Tempe before I left. But next time I visit, I definitely will because it sounds great and your packaging is beautiful and your product looks beautiful, so I'm definitely excited to try that out the next time that I get the opportunity. Also amazing that you spent time with sand or cats. We had him on our podcast several episodes ago, and it was a really great opportunity to talk and learn from him. He's a great resource, and the work that he does and the things that he teaches are great. So that's really incredible that you got to spend that program with him. So talking a little bit more about tempeh, you mentioned that you don't do soy based. Tempeh is typically soy based. What made you try other protein sources, other legumes, other lentils, things like that?

I think I saw one with Pinto beans on your Instagram recently. What made you branch out of soybeans and stay away from soybeans? Why did you make that choice? 


Taylor:

Yeah. So one big reason is there's a lot of soy tempeh already in the stores. It's pretty affordable. That market seems pretty, like, spot on. So to compete with that felt a little stupid. And the other part would be, like the creative components of just bringing in other lagoons, impulses and seeds. And each medium kind of has its own relationship to cooking time, its texture, its flavor profile. So as I started practicing with new beans that just opened up kind of a can of worms, of how to best Cook it, how to best prepare it for its fermentation. And that felt very intriguing to not really over complicate things, but really just invite more of an organic, fun, creative space with tempeh itself. I'm a huge fan of soy tempeh, especially unpasteurized. It's meaty, delicious. It can get really crispy. It just made sense for where I'm at in the triangle to explore something new. There was a woman before me doing soy tempeh, so I knew it had been done. And just based off of some of that information, I felt that it would be wise to jump into nonsui tempeh. And I feel pretty good about that choice and have toyed with the idea of just bringing in, like a traditional blend using soy. So that could be something that comes into play later this year or next year. It is a question that comes up a lot, and I think there's a lot of true fans of soy Tempe, but for just getting started, it made sense to jump into non soy and particularly wanted to use ancient Mills product. So a lot of my blends kind of diverge with what they had on hand and what I thought paired well. And then there are quite a bit of small non soy producers in the state. So I look to a couple of companies for some consultation and reference of why did they choose a particular bean and kind of weeded through a lot of beans before I found the ones that really worked for me. And that really is changing, too. I feel like once I feel stable with a blend or a product line, it does seem like with today's climate of just how expensive certain beans are becoming, I have started to revisit why I'm using certain beans. And I do see by the Brook changing a little bit this summer due to the supply chain of certain beans. So right now there's kind of an organic flow to what I'm using and why I'm using it. And yes, still trying to figure it out in the moment as I explore certain ingredients, but have really fallen in love with things like Pinto beans and Sea Island red peas from Anson Mills. And we have a Nazi bean Tempe that's really great. Could be changing soon. Yeah. And trying to do something different that some of the other makers aren't doing. So that not casting a shadow over their hard work. I really tried to put a lot of time into creating blends that feel unique for me and for the area. That sounds really good. 


Cara:

You sold me. I'm ready. Let me get some jumping. That's really cool that you're using seasonality availability, all of that to kind of cater towards your fermentation. I think that's a big part of why we ferment is for the things that are available to us to preserve them, make them better for us, make them more digestible. And it sounds like you've really spent a lot of time on that journey and figuring that out for yourself. Can you maybe tell us a little bit more about that journey and kind of your process for how you decide which beans to use? I'm thinking about our customers out there who get a tempeh packet or a soy free tempeh packet, and the Tempe will be like using soybeans. But the soy free tempeh packets, like you can use any kind of beans. Is there kind of guidelines that you use or things that you look for when you're making your tempeh texture properties, the way they Cook, the way they ferment certain seeds maybe aren't good, certain seeds are good. How have you kind of done that process for yourself? And what is the advice to people who are making soy free template for the first time and don't know where to start, what beans, what seeds, et cetera, to use? 


Taylor:

Yeah, it's a really big question and one that I think comes up quite a bit, and I feel like I have some answers, but I'm still wedding through that myself. Currently, I look a lot about time. How long does it take to boil? How easy is it to dry? How fix the hall? One of the things once you get outside of soy Tempe is figuring out, like, do you want to keep the hall on the beans? Do you want to remove the hall? And that in itself is a really big question. And a lot of that depends on equipment, your time and your expertise. And what I would say if you're starting out, definitely choosing something like a split pee or tronadal, something that already has the hall removed is a great place to start and build a relationship outside of soy Tempe. So I would advise first timers to start with something without a hall. And as I'm jumping into figuring out what being works best for me, I have found that it's like an ever going question. And currently, being in my second year, a lot of the suppliers I worked with leading up until now, I've been kind of frustrated with and trying to figure out what beans works best and where to get them is somewhat of a daunting task. But I'm starting to figure out that I need to restart that. It's a huge question that I'm asking. Sorry. In the radical change with my product line, so I'm trying to figure out what's best to say. But to restart that, yeah. So a big thing is looking for texture. So my product line definitely each bean I feel like holds its own texture, and I try and not double down on two ingredients that are too soft or too large. So, like, my Zucchi bean tends to have a softer nature to it. It fries up really easily, but I would say it's on the softer side if you think of like a semi soft cheese, for instance. My Pinto bean has a denser texture, which I really like for things like grilling and frying. So I tend to tell my customers that's a denser more similar to soy in the way of its density. Chickpeas tend to have, like, a larger texture to them. They crisp up quite a bit. So I try and find a nice balance with how each bean can kind of be cooked a little differently can be explained differently. And trying to create a blend that also has some uniqueness. So seeds tend to give, like, a nice crunch to it. They can sometimes caramelize more when they're pan fried. Sea island red peas, for instance, I think, brings a really nice earthiness. My lentils and my pea blend tend to bring a really nice earthiness and kind of meatier texture that I really like. So as I have explored more beans, I've started to get a better understanding, too, of the textures that kind of blend really well with my menus, particularly for the retail stores, and finding the consistency that works well. And that's been the challenge has been surrounding consistency. And being on the East Coast, we don't necessarily have the best access to the best Millers or bean suppliers, most of that's on the West Coast. So as I look for, like, price points and food margin and some of those bigger questions you ask yourself as you start a business, a lot of those original suppliers I'm finding for the long term might not be the best. So I've really gone to the drawing board these past two months in particular, and starting not from scratch, but I have a new game plan, and I'm really trying to find more farm to direct suppliers and Millers that have the equipment to sort beans properly and to also know the source of where those beans came from. And a lot of the companies that you'll find at, like the co op or Whole Foods, they're so big that there's a real loss of communication in the exchange. And I found that's too big of a risk for the product that I'm making. So that's been like a real eye opening kind of radical space that I've been in. And some of that will not necessarily be cost effective, but it's kind of the direction that by the Brook needs to head. And, yeah, where I want to see the product evolve into. And not to say that the beans that I've been using are bad by any means, but it's definitely a complex space and complex ideas surrounding farming and how these beans are stored, how they're processed is a huge factor that I didn't really think about in that first year leading up to it. So that's a world that I'm still trying to learn and make the best decisions for the company and for my customers. So a lot of the beans I'm choosing to are kind of directed towards what's available. And as I find more specific, Millers things aren't always available. So I'm actually toying with the idea of being a little bit more organic in my product lines coming this summer and being a little bit more flexible, which doesn't necessarily give the consistency that a retail store might want. So I'm definitely trying to reimagine what by the Brook can be. And we've really enjoyed working with restaurants and going to the farmers market. So I think those two areas can be really compatible with kind of a fluctuating product line. So I think in the coming months, you're going to see by the Brook dance a little bit more between beans. That's a big question. And I'm thinking about it daily currently. 


Cara:

Yeah. That's definitely one of those things that's part of your meditation. Right. Is figuring out what you're going to use, how you're going to use it, the seasonality, the availability, the storage life of it. All of those things are I think all of us take into consideration when we're doing fermentation. Even if we don't have a Tempe based business, I think we all are looking for good seasonality availability. I think we're all looking for ease. Fermentation can be a complicated process and it can take a fair amount of time. So people want the simplest, easiest solution. So your recommendation to buy beans that are already hold is a great one because I think that can be a source of frustration for some people. But going back into, I guess, how you find your beans, where you source your beans in that struggle that you've had, do you think that you think it's a good idea, bad idea that customers who are looking to go make Tempe, our customers who are buying Tempe package going looking to make Tempe are buying being self the shelf of Whole Foods. Right? That's probably one of the most popular places or their local grocery store that has all of the containers where you can scoop your own grains and weigh your own bags and do all of that stuff. Do you think those are the best places to find ingredients for you, or do you think we should be reaching out to farmers? What is your advice to the person at home trying to make tempeh who is maybe running into the same issues you are with supply chain or demand? Or maybe like the tempeh is constantly moving and maybe it's the source of beans because those beans aren't meant to be used in that way or something. What is the advice and maybe direction that you can give to people looking to make it for themselves? 


Taylor:

Yes, I think using places like your local co op or Whole Foods is a great place to start, and typically there's multiple brands on the shelves to work with. I wouldn't steer people away from those stores. I think that is where you should start, unless if you do have luxury of being like near Rancho Gordo or some of the brands that are on the West Coast than you do have more access to local beans. Unfortunately, not everywhere has those resources or luxuries. So I think just identifying where you live and seeing what's out there is a good place to start to kind of weed through what you would start with first. But I think jumping towards somebody like Whole Foods is a fine place. I think some of my issues are just more at scale. So when you're buying huge volumes of beans, there's a level of consistency that you really need or hopeful for. And I think a lot of the packaging and smaller packaging that you find at those stores are done to an adequate place that I would feel comfortable saying. That is definitely where you should start. Just some of my headaches come at the scale and volume of beans that I'm purchasing. And I would direct people to a Facebook group that's called Tempeh Makers that post a lot of their failures and successes that I think there's a lot of resource groups out there that can really help identify as you explore tempeh at home and you can run into a whole plethora of issues, not really just from the beans themselves. That's a good resource tool. And I think just jumping into those communities can really help. And I know a lot of people are putting up more like demos and classes online that are super detailed instructions of how to do it at home. So yes, I would suggest just really looking like, where do you live and start researching what's available. If you can't get something locally, then definitely go to a store that has non GMO, preferably organic beans and start from there. That's all really good advice. I think that's kind of the most common advice we hear is if you can find it local, find it local, but otherwise, co Ops, Whole Foods, those kinds of places are definitely great places to find some of more maybe eclectic products that we're looking for, like alternative beans and whatnot. So great advice for sure. You mentioned that tempeh group Tempeh Makers, and you said people post about their failures sometimes. Do you have any good stories for us? Do you have any failures that were really a teaching lesson for you or any themes that you've used that are constantly an issue for you, lentils whatever that are constant issue for you that you're kind of just like, hey, you should probably stay away from this. Can you give us any advice, tell us any good stories maybe? Yeah. Starting off with soy tempeh didn't have too much issue with just playing around with soy. It's really as I invited other new beans. And I think one of the tricky parts is basically a lot of the text suggesting how to process soy tempeh. People will mirror that to the next being of choice. And that can work, but you got to really figure out, do you want the haul on or do you want it off? And say, if you want the haul on, then you need to figure out how do you expose the core of that being to take on the mold. So a lot of the text can kind of confuse the person trying to make tempeh. And I suggest a couple of books that would be really good. The book of Tempeh jumps really in from like a soy lens, but there are parts that play around with different legumes and then miso. Tempeh NATO, I feel like, has some good instructions that will kind of give some clarity into the direction you want to go, because as you jump into it, you need to identify your space. And I think space was a hard thing to start out with. Figuring out where do you want to incubate it? Where do you want to create the right environment in your home? And when I first started at a small bedroom that I did everything in that bedroom because I had multiple roommates. So figuring out just kind of what's available to you, figuring out the temperature, which is key, and once you have the temperature down, it's really creating a harmonious environment for the bean to grow its mold. So it needs some breathability, it needs some wiggle room for it to off gas. And I think what I find a lot of people run into trouble with is creating an environment where it suffocates itself. A lot of people have tried like the Crock Pot method or Insta Pot method. So looking towards, like, tempeh makers, you'll definitely find how people are doing it at the home scale, whether it be like a cooler or an old wine fridge that's been converted. So that was like one area that took a little while to figure out what was the equipment that made sense for me at my home and my environment, which when I started was in New Hampshire, so it was quite cold. If you're in Florida, you might make different decisions where you could honestly ferment the Tempe just in your kitchen, at the right elevation, on some shelf, and you might be able to get away just making Tempe with B and temperature. So figuring out your environment is a good place to really start and then having the right fan system and the right drying system and not short selling yourself on that. Having dried beans to handle and to let the mold grow is definitely one of the areas that people get hung up on and having to wet the beans. And that's probably one of the bigger challenges. As I jumped into other legumes, each bean can absorb water differently the way the halls kind of stick to that moisture. And as you decide to scale up, you might be able to make a couple of pounds of tempeh really well, three to £5 or something and then you decide, hey, I want to scale that up and start making ten to 15. And as you incrementally advance into more Tempe, those same scenarios that gave you trouble months ago will start coming back. So figuring out what your space can really hold. And I would direct you to the book of tempeh to figure out some of those cubic feet kind of space relationships. There's a lot of detail in that, but that's a common thing I've seen. And for me, as I started scaling up at each level or stage, I ran into those same issues just at scale. So I advise people really starting small really get that going, understand the relationship of temperature, time, moisture, cooking time. And as those things start making more sense, evolve your batches and evolve your space. So I'd advise people to really just understand their environment and what makes sense for them. And that should go hand in hand with the lagoons that you decide to start with. And I mean, my biggest failures, I guess we're surrounding just like heat and space. And I probably have in my basement like four or five different incubators that are just kind of dead waiting to be used for something else. So there was a big dance early on as I was committed to the idea of trying to make more tempeh and a lot of investment and just figuring out how my Tempe is going to breathe and grow really well. And that's where a lot of my failures were in the early beginnings and kind of like the chicken before the egg. I definitely had this big dream and idea, and there were months in a row where I was running into interesting obstacles. And it takes a lot of time to understand the relationship of each beam and it can get confusing as you branch out of just soy. So sticking with soy or things like split peas, I think are really good place to start and understand the relationship of Tempe making. And once you get down the temperature and space, it really does become quite easy and kind of becomes like sourdough where you're feeding your sourdough every day and it's just a nice nature and organic feeling to it that starts to make sense and the Tempe will start talking to you, you'll understand the symptoms, and that's where the tempeh makers is really nice. You can start seeing the symptoms again and again and kind of weed out, okay, I under mixed it or okay, I should have dried it for ten more minutes, things like that. 


Cara:

Yes, I was going to say it sounds a lot like the sourdough process and what I would call the sourdough struggle for a lot of people out there who are beginner fermenters and start picking up sourdough. How much do I feed it, how often do I feed it? And then the home Baker circle of how do I set up my oven? Do I use pans on the bottom of the oven with wet rags, or do I use Dutch ovens? It sounds like a very similar struggle to that. And I just want to point out one thing to our listeners, too. You said it took you months and months to figure it out. 


Taylor:

And I think that's something that we definitely need to highlight because just like sourdough and I've talked about this with our past sourdough experts is sourdough takes time to understand. Tempeh takes time to understand the ingredients that you're using, the fermentation process, all of that is fermentation, and fermentation is ever changing, ever active, ever different in the environment that you put it in. So taking that time to understand it, learn all the different things is time that's worth it, but it is also time. So your first batch may not be perfect, but maybe it's because you left the whole lot and you didn't get the being exposed as much as you wanted to, or maybe the temperature was a few degrees too chilly or, I don't know, the beans suffocated themselves. There's a million different things. And I think it's really important for our listeners to remember that not every batch is going to turn out perfect exactly the way we want it. I'm sure even today you have patches that don't do exactly what you thought they would, even with your years of experience and your understanding at the level that you have. 


Cara:

So that's really good information for all of us to hear. So I guess you've kind of covered most of your thoughts and your tips and tricks to beginners. But is there anything else that any other piece of advice that you would give our listeners to making their first batch, like maybe best ways to incubate at home or I know you said split peas and soybeans are a great beginner, lagoon to lagoon, to use all of that kind of stuff. Is there anything else that you want to tell them before we keep the ball rolling? 


Taylor:

Yeah, I think talk to your communities of other fermenters, ask a lot of questions, invest in the books that are out there on tempeh. Don't be shy to the other makers out there and apply. If you're advanced or intermediate or beginner, like try and apply what you've already learned in the other realms of fermenting. They really do all go hand in hand in a lot of ways. And I think as you invest yourself into another channel of fermentation, there's a lot to be applied from the other areas that you've honed in on or started to understand. So finding that symbiotic relationship between the ferments, I think, is a nice place to be and feel a little bit more relaxed as you're entering in a new space of fermentation. But definitely ask a lot of questions to the people that are a couple of steps ahead of you is a great place to start. 


Cara:

Cool. Thank you. So taking a little bit of a different turn, we've made our Tempe at home. We've bought it from you. We've maybe bought it from another local supplier. If we don't live in North Carolina, what's the next step? I think one of the most common questions I get about tempeh is how do I eat it? How do I Cook it? How do I consume it? What's the best way? What do you tell people at the farmers market when they walk up to your table and you're like, I make tempeh? And they're like, oh, my gosh, I've never heard of tempeh. Like, what's the stitch? What are you what do you say? 


Taylor:

Yeah. So there's two trains of thought, I think, from the customer. One is what she just said, like, what is Tempe? Never heard of it. What the heck would I do with it? The other is, I hate Tempe. I had it ten years ago and it was gross. Why would I try this again? And I think kind of separating what pasteurized tempeh is and unpasteurised tempeh like, they have two different kind of relationships, and I think there's a lot of information and recipes on pasteurized Tempe out there that often can confuse a lot of the customers. So realizing I'm pasteurized tempeh. So if you can get that from a local maker somewhere, that is going to be a really different product to handle and you don't have to steam it, where pasteurized tempeh has some bitter qualities and is much denser. So you'll find a lot of recipes requiring some form of steaming before you actually do another cooking method to it. So unpasteurized you don't. And my analogy is that it's really a sponge. So if you have the time to throw some flavor at it in the same way that you would with Tofu, they kind of go hand in hand. Tofu is a little bit softer on pasteurized tempeh. You have the texture of the bean, so it's a little heartier, a little denser, but it is light, fluffy and spongy. So if you put a pre marinade on it, it's going to absorb those flavors and kind of get you one step further to have a more complex flavor. But as a standalone, it's quite easy in the way of just pan sauteing. It is the best way to start. I usually say thinner. You slice it crispier, it's going to get I suggest doing thin strips to just get it nice and crispy. Understand the flavor, a little salt and pepper. If you have an Aole or dipping sauce for it, that's a nice way to also start. But really seeing it as a sponge, I think helpful. I think applying two methods to it is really helpful. So Brinding it or marinating it and then applying heat to it, I think is very helpful, but it is really straightforward. Once you get past the idea that this is somehow like some crazy foreign food and I think, really trying to tell my customers that you're like handling beans. I think with lab meats and things like there's a lot of misconceptions out there. I think people are walking to my booth sometimes thinking they're going to get a different texture than just beans. So it's soft in nature. You'll get some creaminess. You don't want to obliterate it with. Like, you don't want to just throw it into a chili. Two minutes into simmering that chili, it's going to dissolve and kind of implode. So realizing that it's a bean, I think, is very helpful to how you want to use it in your cooking. And I find myself using it as, like a garnish on top of a chili or folding crispy tempeh into a salad. Yeah. And frying is always pan frying or shallow frying are going to be the two easiest ways, but you can throw it in your air fryer. I have tons of customers that really enjoy it that way, and I really suggest my customers to love beans if they want to buy my product. I think that's an important part. You really got to love beans or have curiosity or interest in beans. And this will give you a little bit more of a floral, fungal kind of funk to it, which some people are taken back by. But other people fall in love with the idea that tempeh can taste like something. And I think a lot of people that tried tempeh in years past have a lot of experiences with really bland, dense, bitter tempeh. Yeah. So that's my best advice and kind of Tempe cooking in a nutshell. I guess the other part two is there are kind of endless possibilities, I think, with what tempeh can be in food and just really understanding its texture as you Cook it more will, I think, will allow you to explore things like dumpling fillings or mixing it into an omelet. I really do think it's a powerful ingredient for somebody to use in their cooking and can be layered in so many different ways. It's just finding the point in which you will add the tempeh to the dish and not wanting to overcook it or make it too soft. And I think that comes with just a trained Cook or somebody that really enjoys cooking to think about it from this perspective, to really, like, get the most out of the tempeh. But the easiest way is just Pam firing it and throwing it on the sandwich. And most people should be pretty happy with that. 


Cara:

Yeah. I think to your point, too, about you got to like beans. I think that's the perk of going to someone like you or making tempeh on your own is that you can start with beans that you like. Right. Like, not all of us like soybeans. Most people are pretty familiar with chickpeas because chickpeas are pretty popular. So maybe finding a chickpea template, finding something that you're already familiar with since you're introducing yourself to something that's unfamiliar. I think that's great advice. And I think to add on to that as well. If you're not sure, find someone who's already making it. If you're not sure if you like Izuki beans, go to buy the Brooks and buy an Asuki bean block and see if that's something that fits you and fits your needs and fits your taste before you invest the time and the effort and the money into making it yourself. There's always different varieties out there. You just got to find people at your farmers market and places of that local places. So all really great advice. So I want to take a shift. We've been talking about tempeh thus far, but I kind of want to take a shift into Koji because Koji is something also that we don't talk about a lot and something that's I think rising in popularity but still has a general kind of lack of understanding around it. So tell us, what do you like about Koji? What interests you about Koji? I saw several Koji products on your page, like Miso and Koji cured me, which are gaining really, really fast popularity. Can you tell us about your Koji ferments? What made you decide to go for Koji? Can you see that being added to your product line? I know you talked about adding other firmware to your product line. Would that may be an except for you. Why not? All of that kind of good information tell us all the good gas is. 



Taylor:

Yes. So with Koji, it's really been like my favorite little side hobby. It's been something that came to me about five or six years ago. I was fortunate enough to be around a forager for Mentor, North Carolina, when I was doing a residency program for a couple of weeks. And it was there that I was helping them with a little shop pop up. I want to know more. The flavor is crazy. The mommy. So I had a really beginner's mind to it all and started investing some energy and trying to figure out what the heck Koji is, which I think a lot of people do get kind of hung up on. What the heck is Koji? So as I started exploring some cookbooks and particularly Richie's blog before I was on Instagram, that's really, like what led me to more information and went down that rabbit hole, really started to figure out what code is applied to. And then also kind of the new wave, which includes things like chikuteri and these amino paste and things that are offshoots from, say, me. So as I invested more time and some of the leading teachers and thought thinkers of Koji making started to bring that into my kitchen more and really just became like kind of a test, experimental thing and was drawn to the certain staple ingredients like soy sauce and miso. So that was really where I started playing just because I love soy sauce, started understanding more of the cultural kind of connotations to Koji, and really started at those traditional lenses. And as I started messing around in the kitchen, I noticed people are using a lot with food scraps and waste, and that's been a whole new space over the past few years and just really applying what's on hand. Riches Book cog alchemy with Germany really opened up the doors to kind of ratio making of Koji ferments. So that's been really fun. Like, side place to explore these really great new resources that have come to be in the past, like three years that I think are adding layers of context of what this is to Western mind, when really the east has had this beautiful fermentation practice for thousands of years. So a lot of those texts and those traditions are starting to carry on in new ways and new shapes and finding a lot of interest in just staying in tune with that not necessarily making so much Koji. Currently, I kind of have bursts of it or kind of manic projects that happen just due to some curiosity that I see on the Internet or something I've really wanted to try. I've applied a little bit of Tempeh to Koji and have made, like, little mock amino sauces and liquids almost like a soy sauce. So there's been ways where I've tried to apply both together, and it's just been a fun way to keep my pantry alive to create, umami, flavors that I appreciate and love to see grow through aging. Tempe is like a quick ferment where you put in all this energy and you have the short window, and then basically it's eating itself to rot, where Koji has the ability to accelerate these processes to make these really amazing, complex flavors, and also many of them last forever. So there's a lot of curiosity in that. And I really love the relationship of building my pantry and building ferments that are a couple of years old now that I get to see change and develop. So it's a really big, awesome, creative space that if anybody out there is interested, I suggest jumping on Instagram or jumping on Google and finding what makes sense for you to better understand Koji. But something Koji Khan happened, I think last year it happened in February, this year it happened in February. That's a pretty cool, robust resource to get the leading chefs and instructors and thinkers surrounding Koji. And I think you can probably still purchase Kojikon ticket and access last year's and this year's video. That space in particular, I think will blow your mind if you have some curiosity about it in another space. I guess personally, with Koji, lately I've been trying to apply the byproduct or kind of waste methodology. Koji has the ability to take something that feels useless in the kitchen and turn it into something truly amazing. And I think that's the real cutting edge thing that's happening in the culinary world. So I've been trying to apply that a little bit more within my local space and unfortunate enough to have a brewery, a mushroom cultivator, a couple of restaurants, a bakery, all within this little town. So during Koji Khan, I got some waste products and made like, a spent grain from the brewery miso and some, like, second and thirds of the mushrooms that were just going to get thrown away or composted and turned that into a tasty paste. And when I started applying that more to kind of jazz me up and keep me disenvolved with it. But it's definitely an area that I just see sticking with me and kind of having its ebb and flows of how much energy I put into it. But for sure seems like the most amazing and complex and creative space right now in fermentation. And I suggest anybody that really wants to know more to dig into it. I think there's a lot of really beautiful possibilities coming out of Koji compared to some of the other ferments. 


Cara:

Do you see yourself ever making your own Koji? I think that's also part of the rise of Koji right now is that you can make your own culture basically like you have to inoculate from other cultures. But I think, like you were talking about with supply chain and all of that. I think sometimes Koji is one of the harder things for people to find, especially with its kind of new entry into the Western world, especially for talking about the people in America. Do you foresee yourself ever making Koji? Have you struggled to find it? Where do you usually find it? We sell it and we're a good source for it. But do you have any kind of tips, tricks and advice, or don't ever make Koji because it's incredibly difficult. The Art of Fermentation Sandra Cuts this book gives us a really nice outline of the things that we need and the set up we need to be able to make Koji in house. And I've seen people do it different ways. Same thing with Saratos of home sake versus commercialization. What are your thoughts on all of that? 


Taylor:

Yeah, I mean, it's very similar to Tempe in terms of its environment, the heat it needs. I have my own separate little incubator for Koji. I started with Gem Cultures out of Washington. That's a great place to just get basic spores that have a lot of instruction on which store is used for what they have. Tempest or Nazis starter as well. So that's a good place to start. And then there are some other suppliers, one in Japan that a lot of people are using that is basically an encyclopedia of different stores used for specific uses. But to really start, I would say look at Gem Cultures for you guys to find some awesome spores. And it's the same kind of principles as tempeh making. You want to hold a specific temperature. You want to dry your rice in a similar fashion, you kind of want to babysit it in a similar way. It has about like a 42 to 46 48 lifespan that you're trying to harness the mold onto the rice using Pearl things. So hauler rice or barley in the same way that I was suggesting, using like China Doll or Squippies is really where you want to start. Pearl barley tends to be pretty easy to start as well. That's kind of what I end up making typically when I'm at home is barley Koji. So I think that's a good place to start. And Koji Alchemy is a great text for it. Artiffermentation does have some text. Miso tempenatos a great book for it. Yeah. And then like Koji Khan, there's like how to demos. If you go on YouTube now, there's quite a bit of information and videos that are now really showing you the life cycle in each stage. I find the process really rewarding too, and the smells that come out of it are pretty amazing. So I think just jumping into it and having fun with your failures is a great place to start, and I think you'll just enjoy the process of it. There's a really cool craft and ritual to Koji that feels pretty special. In the same way sourdough or Tempe making is. There's a lot of reward at the end when you have this beautiful thing and then you really need to figure out what you want to do with it. There really is two parts to it. You make this beautiful, kind of floral, fungal stinky thing that then you got to do the second thing, which is figure out the project, and that's a really fun, creative space to reach out to the community and figure out what other people are doing or what their first makes were. I suggest Miso is the best place to start versus, say, like soy sauce or Garams. I think Miso is a very practical, super useful place to start. Really high salt percentage, too. So the failure tends to be minimal. Yeah. 


Cara:

So I think a common theme of everything you've been talking about is consult the community, consult the books, talk to the people around you, talk to people who have already made it. Look at Instagram to get ideas. I think one of the big things that I've seen recently is this hashtag coaching builds community. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about that and why you think community is important implementation and what benefits seeking and looking for Facebook pages like tempeh makers, how does that play a role into someone's everyday fermentation process or who they are as a beginner fermentor? What is the importance of that sense of community and how it plays a role in our fermentation world? 




Taylor:

Yeah, I think the tagline Koji builds community is a really big, beautiful, dreamy idea that has a lot of respect for the times right now that we have this luxury of connecting around the world at different places with different people, with expertise, that really creates an amazing incubator of knowledge and thought sharing that 20 years ago, 30 years ago, we didn't necessarily have. And looking to some of those makers, it could be pretty lonely just kind of being in your own space, having to navigate how to make these things with limited tax. And I think there's a lot of amazing companies that are still around from that era. And now we're in this beautiful space where we can share really amazing knowledge and help people feel not so lonely in these spaces. I think that's one key beautiful part that Rich has really invited is how do we build these bridges and how do we create conversations and not make not challenge other people, really create a space that feels safe. And I see Koji in that space as being one of the best in the Fermentation community, of just inviting people from all walks of life, from all different levels of skill level in terms of Fermenting. And there feels to be like a blank canvas too in it where a lot of people are just expressing themselves through their mates and applying years of culinary experience, and they just found out Toji and then applying that essence to it. And I think Toji builds community really invites these creative play spaces that are trying to mirror the power of what Fermentation can do. And Sanders book Fermentation as metaphor. There's a lot of curiosity, I think now as we're kind of evolving in these spaces to see how do we apply these thoughts and techniques to our daily lives and how do they, like, reinforce our health and happiness? And I think Richard's mission is to really invite health and happiness and connection. And I think the best way he's figured that out is through Koji and sharing knowledge without putting a price tag on it and without connecting necessarily money to it or these mentalities that I think most of us had been shaped with from an early age. And I think Fermentation is a lot of bartering and trading and sharing. So that tag to me really just invites the limitless possibility of sharing with implementation. And I'm so excited to be a part of it and have a little voice in it. And I really do suggest people following Rich's work and just going down the Koji rabbit hole. There's just a lot of amazing people in a place that I feel rewarding just to listen and feel inspired by and apply to the things that feel relative to your space and your personal lifestyle. It doesn't have to be you actually building an incubator to make Koji, but it can really just be a metaphor for your life of how you want to walk and act and share in this world. I think it's just a really robust area that is highlighting the potential of where we could be as a society and culture, particularly here in the States. And it gives me hope. Koji gives me a lot of hope. 




Cara:

Yeah. And I think the most important thing that you highlighted there is that you're not alone. You're not alone in your fermentation journey. I think people find fermentation so daunting because they're so new to it. But that was a really good reminder of we do have these communities and we have these resources, and we have these people pioneering and leading the way. And just sitting and listening can sometimes be the best way to pick up that information and get you started on your journey. So going in hand with that, I think finding how that fits into your everyday life and where you fit into the community and where you can fit fermentation into your life, I think is one of the biggest things that our listeners struggle with is because a lot of people think that fermentation is a very time consuming process, not realizing that most of the time that fermentation that you're spending on fermentation is really it just sitting and kind of doing its own thing. So can you maybe talk to us a little bit about how you fit that into your everyday life and how you've found yourself a part of the community, but also just found a way to fit fermentation into your life? I know you said you're a chef and it kind of came naturally to you, and now you have this business. Do you still ferment on the side? You know, you said Koji was a hobby project for you. Do you have other fermentation projects on the side? What is your encouragement to people who feel like they don't have a lot of time, but they love Tempe because it's a great alternative protein source and it's something new, it's something different and something they can make at home. You know, you can't make impossible burgers at home, the meat, you can Cook the burger, but you can't make the meat. Right. So how did you find fermentation fit into your life? How do you fit it into your life now that you own a fermentation business? And how do you become a part of that community that you're looking to become a part of? Yeah, that was a lot of questions. So answer as many as you can. 


Taylor:

I think a good starting point, or if I kind of go back to a lot of the first intrigue of fermentation, or as I saw other people doing it, that brought up, oh, could I do that myself? Figuring out what inspires you, like what flavors and textures and things do you love? And then figuring out if that's actually like a fermented product for me, I tried to simplify and I really, like, invested a lot of time in hot sauce in the early beginnings and really loved hot sauce. And loved peppers. So that was a great vehicle to make me feel comfortable, make me feel a little confident about just trying and starting. And I'm trying to apply that on the daily here. I think it's pretty hard when your whole life is dependent on Tempe now. So I really find right now a lot of man experts. It's spring right now. It's super nice out these past few weeks. A lot of great produce is coming in. I think as you build a relationship to your local commerce and your local farmers market, that's a really great place to invite the new ideas. And if you see a lot of carrots, maybe you do a little research and figure out what the heck would I do with carrots? How could I ferment that? I find myself getting inspired through the seasons more so now, and I find myself doing side ferments and bursts, and I wish that it would be a little bit more streamlined as like a consistent lifestyle. But I try and not get too bent out of shape on that either. I think there's a lot of awesome people out there to feel inspired by, and sometimes you can end up comparing yourself and why don't I have the perfect space or the time? So I've been just trying to be a little bit more gentle with myself within these past two years of starting a business has kind of sidetracked me. And although it is fermenting, and I really appreciate that evolution of understanding surrounding Tempe, I've been really just grateful when it comes into my life. And I tend to find that it's really with the seasons at this point. And Koji Khan was a good example to get dressed up about Koji. So I started doing some Koji, and I find myself kind of just weaving in those seasonality kind of energy bursts, and I would have to think when peppers are in season, I'm going to convince myself to make a lot of hot sauce and be stoked on that. And I think if I start having a family and kids, that's going to rewight a fire of what am I fermenting and why? Maybe I'm making more yogurt at that point or something. Yeah. And then looking to the people around you and how those people influence you, maybe you have a really awesome Baker down the street where you can go in and help volunteer or something and get more curious about. Yeah. And then just like the climate and zone, I do think kind of reinforce what you're going to ferment and why. So I've definitely tried to grab hold of things that kind of just makes sense for where I'm at here. And also what feels just fun to be doing and not so much of a burden. I do feel like that's a characteristic of fermenting, like a symptom. As you get all jazzed up, you get all this information, you're like, putting a lot of time and then you start getting stressed about doing it. So I've tried to kind of tone back the fermenting from a consistent standpoint and just being kind of grateful for when it comes into play and when I feel like I truly have the time and appreciation to do it and putting in that love versus I got to do this because I bought £20 of turn ups and now I have to do it. And I've tried not to set myself up with those challenges just because my time is limited. But now with the world opening up more, there's community gardens getting engaged with that, because obviously people have then a plethora of a certain ingredient and then you got to be like an investigator to figure out what to do with all the radish Greens or what to do with all the Napa. And I think as you invest your time more into farming and vegetable growing, your fermentation will start to skyrocket in certain beautiful ways. Because you have this abundance now, you got to figure out and that becomes very primal to the reasons why fermentation happened in the first place. Yes. So I think that goes hand in hand. Grow your vegetables and fermentation will start making that much more sense to. Yes. And also figuring out the flavors that you love. I like spicy food, so I tend to go in a spicy direction a lot of the times when I forget. Yes, that's my advice. Yes. I think that's a really good point of cater to yourself and your needs. And I feel like that's kind of been a theme about what you've been saying, especially when choosing your teams and all of that is really catered towards your needs. And that's the benefit of making these products for yourself as you can really make it your own and make it to your own flavors. It's all really good stuff. Is there any last tips, tricks or advice that you want to share with everybody? Yeah. One thought that's been coming to mind is as you jump into these things, you're going to have failures. And there's a lot of times where the failures actually are still successes and where you can often use them. Like each ferment has a timeline or a life cycle. If you're getting into lacto fermentation, sometimes you let your vegetables go too long and they become super soft, but that can be blended up and used in a different way. I think building that trust in the process is super useful and not just like pitching things because you think they're rotten or bad, like really being an investigator as you work through these life cycles of these products is very useful and very beautiful to kind of just see the start middle and end. And as you start looking at it from that place, you're definitely going to start understanding more of the relationships to the temperature and to the ratio of, like, salt and I think that's really important to just see the life cycle through and really taste as you go to understand things as well as super keen, I think not beating yourself up too much in the process and being gentle with yourself and just finding that one place to start, that one thing that feels super inspiring, I think, will make it feel a lot less daunting and be a great gateway for you to gradually just start pulling in other things. Just simplifying it, I think, is a great place to start. Yeah. And asking questions and just finding people that feel safe to embark on the fermentation journey is really critical, I think, for the longevity of keeping these practices alive. You really got to be engaged with other people, I think for it to feel rich and for it to kind of carry on and not just get lost, like picking up an instrument thinking you're going to learn guitar, but if you're just playing guitar by yourself, It might just fade away Because you're not with other people practicing this instrument. Fermentation feels very similar to that. You got to be invested with other humans and be OK to mess up and learn from those mistakes. Yeah. And if you don't want to make ferments and go out to restaurants and places that have them and taste them and look at it from that lens, too, or write about the community, there's a lot of different little avenues to still be in this world and you don't necessarily have to be making the ferments, but you can just be inspired by the other people making the ferments too, and get a lot of reward out of that or be a husband or wife to a fermentor and get to be the critic and give them feedback. 


Cara:

The taster. Yeah, definitely. All really good, sound, logical advice. So thank you for taking the time to talk to us on our podcast today. I really appreciate it and I learned a lot, so I'm hoping our listeners learned a lot, too. 


Taylor:

Thank you so much for having me and it's been a real pleasure. Really great to talk fermentation with you and talk tempeh. 


Cara:

Thanks for tuning in to today's episode. Hopefully you learned a little bit about tempeh. Make sure to go visit Taylor on Instagram for some amazing recipe inspiration and a little more knowledge. His handle is by the Brooks underscore tempeh. If you're interested in making your own Tempe at home cultures for health has everything you need to get started. Use the code cfhpodcast to get 25% off subscribe to our podcast to stay in the loop with all things fermented and cultured food. See you next time. Bye you.