6/29/2012 03:27:00 PM

Boys and Their Toys: Jared Van Camp and the Flour Mill at Nellcôte

Nellcôte is a rock star of a restaurant. Seriously - it's inspired by the Rolling Stone’s chateau in France and decorated with crystal chandeliers. And just as Keith Richards would have seem lost without his guitar, Nellcôte would just be another star-studded, marble-accented Randolph Street restaurant without the flour mill hidden in the basement.

The reasoning behind the mill was simple, says executive chef Jared Van Camp: “Everyone is farm-to-table - it has become such a fad and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. It's something we feel strongly about, and were annoyed by some people just saying it. You shouldn’t have to call it out - it should be engrained in what you do. Why don’t we take it a step further? What are the holes in our local food scene? We have wheat growing in every direction from Chicago for hundreds of miles, but [despite] all the places that go to great lengths to produce local food, you can't find locally refined wheat flour.”

The process of getting a flour mill into the basement was less simple. Van Camp took inspiration from the Community Grains Project, a group of restaurants buying from a single commercial mill producing whole-grain flour. When it was time to purchase their mill, he enlisted the only company manufacturing them in the U.S. Meadows Mills in North Carolina has been building mills for more than a hundred years. The model designed for Nellcôte incorporates a stone mill in addition to a sifter with eight screens to break down the grains and them sift them to 00 fine whole wheat flour.

The resulting flour is pungent and incredibly fine. It's used in their housemade pastas, breads and, of course, pizzas. “For me, it's like the difference between buying ground black pepper at the grocery store verses whole black pepper corns," Van Camp says, explaining, "Obviously when you take whole black peppercorns and grind it and use it right away, it has so much more flavor than pre-ground black pepper. That pre-ground black pepper has essential oils that get release when its ground. It’s the same thing with flour, especially in the bran. There are lipids in that bran that gets released when you grind it. When you takes the products with the flour in it, they have a much more intense smell and greater flavor.”

Their pizza is Neapolitan, but in true rocker form, it breaks the rules. In order for a pizza to be officially considered Neapolitan, it must utilize ingredients from Italy, including the flour. “When you eat pizza in Naples, part of the beauty of it is everything is local.” Van Camp says. “Why would you do that in America, if you have to ship it from all over? Why don’t you try and find ways to make it more local?” And true to his word, many of the toppings piled on to his chewy crust are locally sourced.

Because every toy needs to be honored with a name, we asked Van Camp to give his gadget one. He took a day to contemplate the task, possibly to get more in tune with the mill’s personality and unique quirks, until finally letting us know, “The mill had been officially named Imogene" - his grandmother’s name.

In his never-ending quest for hyper-local ingredients Van Camp is contemplating a way to grow tomatoes year-round for the pizzas. Before that happens, he will be working with the Element Collective team to open a chicken shop this fall. Eater broke the news of Leghorn this morning, announcing the small fried-chicken shop will serve locally sourced chicken, butchered in-house.

Watch Van Camp and Imogene the flour mill in action from start to finish as he prepares a few pizzas.

1 comment :

  1. Wow that's a very useful tool! And great work by Nellcôte.