If you think salt is just for popcorn and margarita glasses, then you haven’t met Carlo Overhulser. To Carlo, salt is anything but ordinary—it’s a life-sustaining mineral and the main ingredient in each flavorful blend he crafts for Chef Tim Wood’s culinary program. Carlo harvests sea salt from the waters of Big Sur and infuses it with everything from California sage to red wine from the Santa Lucia foothills. The results are pure magic.
What’s the secret to sea salt “harvesting”?
You look for a clear pool among the rocks. A quick taste tells you if it’s saltwater. If the pool looks like it will hold water over time, come back after a few weeks of sun. Is the water green? If so, algae have taken hold. That’s good. Come back a few weeks later. Is the water red? If so, brine shrimp eggs have hatched and are feeding on the algae. The water is darker and absorbs more sunlight now. This accelerates the evaporation process until the pH level gets high enough for salt crystals to form.
How does plain salt turn into one of your special blends?
I add only organic ingredients. For example, for Chef Wood’s garlic salt, I grind the salt and then bathe it in a brine mixed with organic garlic powder. I cover and let the salt sit for days, stirring occasionally until it’s dehydrated again. Meanwhile, I’ve been dehydrating minced garlic, which I then blend in with the garlic salt.
How did you and Chef Wood meet?
I met Tim at the Santa Lucia Wine Gala in 2017. I noticed he had vials of salt he was handing out, so I gave him some of my “Fleur de Sur.” (That’s fleur de sel, or salt flakes, blended with flowers from a meadow in Big Sur.) He loved the hyper-local aspect of it.
What inspires your craft?
I get inspiration from the landscape—places I’ve hiked, colors I’ve seen on the trails, and plants that grow there. My favorite part of the job is that it allows me to constantly explore, to be absorbed into the wilderness, and to share the experience of Big Sur with everyone and not leave a trace.