Along with olive oil and pepper, salt is one staple you’re guaranteed to find in even the most basic kitchen. While the quality varies – from Saxa table salt to up-market kosher salt flakes – we’ve noticed one brand in particular popping up in both home and professional kitchens in recent years. Chefs at some of the best restaurants in Sydney – and across Australia – started sprinkling Olsson’s gourmet sea salt flakes onto their dishes seven years ago, but the brand has been manufacturing salt for decades – both for human and animal consumption.
Norman Olsson and his two sons, Charles and Malcolm, founded the company in 1949, making pressed mineral salt blocks in a Parramatta shed for local cattle. (Salt is fed to cattle to help them get necessary minerals.)
Olsson’s began providing surplus salt to food manufacturers in the 1970s, and the family has been seasoning Australia’s food ever since. In 2012, it started selling salt flakes under the Olsson’s name.
“Providing salt for cattle is still the emotional favourite of some of the men of my family,” co-director Alexandra Olsson tells Broadsheet. “But recently we’ve gone in the direction of making specialised salt for food service.”
Olsson and her sister Genevieve are the third generation of the family involved in the business, with their father Charles still managing director. In the last seven decades the company has expanded from western Sydney, and now has saltworks across South Australia and Queensland.
“When we launched the flakes in 2012, I went out to all my favourite restaurants [to pitch it to them],” Olsson says. “I just went to the people and places that I thought were awesome.”
One of those restaurants was Quay, and executive chef Peter Gilmore was among the first to give Olsson’s salt a go.
“He’s such a champion for Australian products. He’s been using our sea salt flakes since the day we released them,” she says. “It’s pretty awesome, that one of the titans in the industry is such a fan.”
There’s a clarity and freshness to the salt that makes it attractive to Gilmore and other chefs and restaurateurs like him.
Olsson’s sea salt is all-natural, produced by evaporating seawater in large ponds – a process can take between eight and 18 months to yield salt crystals. The crystals are then processed further to create the flakes that are used in professional kitchens and sold at specialty grocery stores.
The salt is packed with flavour and salinity from waters near the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Australian Bight. It packs a punch, but enhances the flavour of dishes rather than changing it completely.
“I would never tell a chef how to cook or how to season,” Olsson says, “but the flakes allow you to be more cautious when adding salt to your food.”
Aside from gourmet sea salt flakes, Olsson’s also makes flavoured sea salt in truffle, lemon, rosemary, chilli and smoked red gum varieties. It’s sold commercially in reusable ceramic and glass jars, with refills available in cartons.
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This article first appeared on Broadsheet on October 3, 2019. Some details may have changed since publication.