Bone appetit: Chef opens new broth manufacturing plant in Bellingham

By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal

It’s hard for restaurants to come by good broth to put in their dishes. But a new Bellingham company is looking to change that.

Gabriel Claycamp knows the struggle. He’s been a chef for more than 15 years, and he started Cauldron Broths in Bellingham in October, making thick, flavorful bones broths to sell wholesale to shops and restaurants and online.

Six pounds of bones goes into every gallon of broth — making it so thick, the broth is solid when it cools down.

The chicken bones come from Draper Valley Farms in Mount Vernon and the beef bones are from Bartels Farms in Eugene, Oregon. Their spices come from Spice Hut in Bellingham, and all the vegetables used in the broths will be “ugly” — they have some cosmetic blemish or deformity which makes them unsaleable on grocery store shelves.

“It’s pretty exciting to be able to work with those, because obviously broth doesn’t care,” he said. “But America’s food waste problem is so huge, to be able to make a dent in it is pretty groovy.”

Claycamp’s broths are certified organic. That means a lot of extra hoops to jump through, but Claycamp said it’s worth it.

“One of the big drives for this company is to be completely transparent, in all of our ingredient sources and all of our production processes,” he said. “And certified organic insists that that’s how you do it.”

Finding good broth is a big problem for restaurants, Claycamp said.

“All of the chefs know how to make broth and want to make broth; it’s not hard,” he said.

And yet, almost nobody makes their own, because it’s impractical. For one thing, a stock pot would constantly be taking up one of the stove top burners, which are in short supply. Then there’s the cost of labor.

“You know when you’re paying a chef 15 bucks an hour to watch a pot that cooks 16-17 hours, to get five gallons of something that you’re going to use in one batch of soup, it makes it expensive,” he said.

So most restaurants use a premade base. Claycamp doesn’t know another company that will be providing this quality of broth as a liquid product.

“We’ll be basically the only one,” he said.

In addition to restaurants, Claycamp is also hoping to markets consumers to drink directly.

Bone broths are a recent trend, fueled in part by the popularity of diets like the paleo diet. The current craze – drinking plain bone broth – started around three years ago at a New York restaurant run by chef Marco Canora.

“He started selling [broth] by the cup to yoga moms and paleo people and stuff like that,” Claycamp said. “And now he’s got a line around the block, day in and day out. Eight bucks a cup.”

Since then, broth bars have been springing up all over the country.

Claycamp considered opening a broth bar of his own, but between that and the wholesale business, he wouldn’t have the manpower.

“Eventually we might want to start a broth bar,” he said. “But we’d much prefer to find an entrepreneur who wants to start a broth bar or cart, and we’d support them.”

Claycamp said hospitals are also interested in purchasing the broth, so patients who can’t manage solid food can still get their nutrition.

Cauldron Broths has a dedicated line of broths out for people with gut ailments like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Broth is a popular treatment for those because it contains all the proteins the body needs, but none of the extra additives that can exacerbate symptoms.

“All of these different ailments recommend bone broth to heal,” he said. “But you have to make it a special way and you have to do it yourself at home because there’s nowhere you can buy it.”

One of his business partners is a nutritionist, and helped guide him through the creation of what Claycamp says is the only commercial broth available to treat these kind of ailments.

“There’s almost a frightening amount of interest,” he said. “We still only have two pots.”

This is far from Claycamp’s first popular food endeavor.

He went to the Culinary Institute of America in New York state, and after graduating worked at restaurants in New York City. He then moved west, and became somewhat infamous on the Seattle foodie scene for his cooking school and underground restaurants.

He and his wife ran the cooking school out of their home.

“It was awesome,” he said, “we had incredible fun.”

From 2001-2009 they taught around 9000 students. But after the recession hit, cooking classes became a luxury and they weren’t able to keep the school open.

From the cooking school spawned The Swinery, a whole-animal butcher shop, which still exists today in West Seattle.

He also started Jack Mountain Meats, a wholesale meat processing plant in Burlington.

Through all of his endeavors, high-quality meat products that use the entire animal has always been one of his goals.

“As a chef, it has become basically my life’s culinary mission to be able to create products that come from underutilized portions of animals or produce,” he said.

Bones represent about 30 percent of animal, he said. Usually, that means farmers are taking a loss on almost a third of the animal the they raise.

“If they can make a profit on that 30 percent, they would be able to raise less, burden the environment less, and be able to have a higher standard of living,” he said.

These days, chefs only use the center cuts of meat. That means more animals raised, and more of the animal gets wasted. Claycamp’s goal is to reverse that trend.

“I think that we should use each animal to its fullest and chefs have a responsibility to be culinarily creative to make delicious food and kind of slow down our whole consumer culture,” he said.


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