This week we have Bobby and Yrmis from Mission: Heirloom, which is a new paleo kitchen and soon-to-be café in Berkeley. I first met them at my book launch party last year and learned that we share a lot in common in terms of our perspective on food and our beliefs about where food production should be headed. Then I recently had the pleasure of having lunch at the kitchen and was just blown away not only by the quality of the food and the experience of eating with them, but by what they’re doing in the kitchen itself and what their plans are going forward, and I thought that a lot of people would be interested in hearing about this because I know a lot of listeners in my community are passionate about this as I am. And there are even quite a few people who are thinking about ways to get involved in this movement and how they can contribute, and the model that they’re creating is, I think, going to be replicable and is really inspiring and exciting, so I wanted to have them on to tell us a little bit more about it.
In this episode, we cover:
3:45 The Mission: Heirloom model
7:28 Creating a healthy cooking environment
17:33 Creative culinary ideas
Full Text Transcript:
Jordan Reasoner: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Revolution Health Radio Show. This show is brought to you by ChrisKresser.com, and I’m your substitute host today, Jordan Reasoner from SCDlifestyle.com, and with me is integrative medical practitioner and New York Times bestselling author, Chris Kresser. Chris, welcome.
Chris Kresser: Good to be here, Jordan. How are you?
Jordan Reasoner: I’m doing well. I’m going to try to fill Steve’s shoes today. We have a pretty fun guest coming on the show today.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I’m excited about that. We have Bobby and Yrmis from Mission: Heirloom, which is a new paleo kitchen and soon-to-be café in Berkeley. I first met them at my book launch party last year and learned that we share a lot in common in terms of our perspective on food and our beliefs about where food production should be headed. Then I recently had the pleasure of having lunch at the kitchen and was just blown away not only by the quality of the food and the experience of eating with them, but by what they’re doing in the kitchen itself and what their plans are going forward, and I thought that a lot of people would be interested in hearing about this because I know a lot of listeners in my community are passionate about this as I am. And there are even quite a few people who are thinking about ways to get involved in this movement and how they can contribute, and the model that they’re creating is, I think, going to be replicable and is really inspiring and exciting, so I wanted to have them on to tell us a little bit more about it. So, Bobby and Yrmis, welcome!
Yrmis Barroeta: Hi, Chris! Hi, Jordan! Thank you for having us!
Bobby Chang: Great to be on! Thanks, guys!
Chris Kresser: Why don’t we just start by you guys telling us a little bit about your background, how you came to this, and what you’re up to at Mission: Heirloom?
Yrmis Barroeta: Well, our background is that we are designers, but above that, we are frustrated consumers and frustrated parents. We still looked healthy, we were active, but there were chronic issues that weren’t allowing us to perform our best and at our maximum potential. When our daughter was 10 years old, she got all the blood tests with early stages of Hashimoto’s. So as frustrated parents, of course, you have to do everything that you can to arrest that process and figure out your health, and that’s how we came out to say, you know what? Pretty much, this is more important than anything. If we can contribute in helping to feed humanity in the right way, the rest pretty much takes care of itself, and that’s how we’re here today.
Chris Kresser: Great. Tell us a little bit more about the model, what your plans are in the short term. You have a kitchen, food delivery and pickup service, and then a café that’s opening in this fall. Tell us a little bit more about that.
The Mission: Heirloom model
Yrmis Barroeta: The model that we’re trying to prove is a commercial kitchen that’s going to produce all the food, and it’s going to supply three to six cafés. So we bring the food from the kitchen to the café, heat and plate at the café, and the cafés will have a small market front where people can actually buy those components of the food broken down so that they can take home the time-consuming elements of cooking. Our idea is to inspire people to cook more but also make it easier for them, and the idea is also to give people tools to stay compliant in their therapeutic diet protocols. Once we prove this model – of course, the kitchen plugs into all the local farmers, local flavors, local community – we’re going to launch a direct public offering website where regular people – no need to be a credit investor – can invest from $25 and up and get some return on investment, probably 4% to 6%, and fund the next organisms, which are going to be also a kitchen with a series of cafés. Let’s say, we succeed here and then LA actually organized themselves and there’s enough people that funded and we go to LA and set up the kitchen and set up the cafés after that. It’s almost like voting power that we want to activate with the people.
Chris Kresser: That’s the really cool thing about direct public offerings. I don’t know if listeners are familiar with that as a model, but it really kind of turns the traditional model on its head, which is top-down venture capital type of financing or even big angel investment making all the decisions, and the thing that I love about the direct offering is it’s way more community based, and as you said, individuals in these local communities can decide by investing in the business if that’s important to them and they want it to come and have a presence in their community. I think it’s so congruent with the rise in grassroots food production that we’re seeing with farmers’ markets and biodynamic farming and even backyard food production and methods of distributing that production, and I’m super excited about that, and I’m really glad you guys have adopted that as a model.
Yrmis Barroeta: Nice. It’s mainly looking for two goals. The first one is avoid the big conglomerate consume bias. We lost trust on a regular basis when we go to supermarkets or farmers’ markets and we finally find a product that has no preservatives and that has the right formula in their ingredients, and as soon as they get to a certain size, they get absorbed by a bigger conglomerate and then the formula changes and we start getting sick again, until we actually spot it and discover that this product got bought and now the bottom line of the company is money because of the investors. So we, one, want to avoid that, and second, as regular people, we were looking in a way to invest in our food supply chain. There’s really no way to do this directly, and we want to bring that option to people so that we can own our food supply chain as well.
Creating a Healthy Cooking Environment
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Something else that I was really impressed with when I visited you guys is how you’ve actually set up the kitchen. You were gracious enough to give us a tour, Yrmis, and it was pretty amazing to see how you set things up, so can you tell us a little bit about the equipment you’re using, the water filtration, the air filtration, and talk a little bit about the importance of creating a healthy environment in the kitchen when you’re making food?
Yrmis Barroeta: Yes, what we’re trying to do is elevate the quality of food from many different levels. Paleo is an amazing stepping stone. It’s the first step for people to start their journey. But we need to start looking above and beyond just paleo. It doesn’t matter if we source the most amazing organic, biodynamic ingredients if in the prepping, cooking, serving, storing, and cleaning we’re going to compromise those ingredients and actually add toxicity to it. So we came with fresh eyes and zero experience in commercial kitchen background and found a lot of different things. We found a lot of bleach. Bleach is ubiquitous in commercial kitchens and so is ammonia, which are very powerful chemicals. So what we did is say, well, let’s look after toxicity that’s caused by chemicals and heavy metals and approach that. We, for example, looked into the containers that are used through kitchens, usually plastic and bad plastic with BPA and other polymers that I simply just don’t trust, new polymers, and there’s an incredible amount of new materials that we will know in 10 years actually how toxic they are going to be. So we’re eliminating that and going back to basics, a lot of steel. You’ll find our blenders and jars are steel, our containers, our cutting boards, for example.
So what do we look at? We look at, from the moment that you go into the door, the air. We have a negative ion air purifier to take care of the mold, take care of gluten cross-contamination because it’s an airborne protein that’s very sticky. We are in an amazing building that has 16 commercial kitchens, and even though we love our neighbors, there are only two or three other kitchens that actually don’t manipulate gluten, but the rest do, so we want to minimize every cross-contamination. We separated our airways from the rest of the building, so we make sure there’s no gluten coming into our pipes.
Then we are filtering the water with a zero-waste reverse osmosis tank that instead of having plastic carbon pellets for filtering uses carbon made out of organic coconut shells. We had to re-pipe our kitchen with copper pipes because it’s the only way that we don’t put heavy metals in our water and don’t change the molecular structure of the water.
All of this is in depth. I don’t know how much you really want to go into because I can talk to you for, like, an hour and I know we don’t have an hour!
Chris Kresser: Yeah! This is really interesting. I don’t think a lot of people are thinking about it on this level. Certainly the most important change most people can make is just eating healthy food, and the changes that we’re talking about now are kind of the next level. The first thing we need to do on a population-wide basis is just get people eating real food, so obviously they’re not going to be as concerned with these kinds of things, but I think when we start talking about food production and particularly paleo food production, food production for people who have sensitivities to gluten and other things, then this becomes a lot more important. I know as a clinician who is always recommending a paleo type of diet to my patients and often variations on the paleo diet, like an autoimmune paleo protocol or a low-FODMAP diet, things like that, this level of care is really welcome. And I know from talking to you both that part of your interest is serving practitioners like me and our patients so that if I prescribe a diet like an autoimmune paleo protocol which can be a pretty big change for somebody that’s coming from a Standard American Diet, that they might be able to go to you and order all of their food and be confident that they’re getting exactly what I want them to be getting as a clinician.
Bobby Chang: Yeah, and that’s an interesting conversation that we can start to have once all of this is built out, right? As you know, the food is a major component, and then everything like environmental factors and stress and all the things that you’re talking about all are contributing factors. So we have to take a look at the food and make sure that’s all done well and then look at all the things that contribute to how that food gets onto your plate and make sure all those things are taken care of. Ultimately we’re not just here to build restaurants and kitchens; we’re actually here to change how this all works and to inspire people to actually take this new model and start to look at how they can improve whatever business that they’re in and see if they can actually start to change it and start to eliminate all those environmental and external factors.
Ultimately we’re here to build something that’s an example, and that’s one of the things that we’re willing to do, is actually share all the information that we have and actually create conversations if people are doing things better, to maybe learn from them as well and to really just open all the knowledge and create a brain trust for all this stuff to be shared so that we can keep advancing this as opposed to digressing to the distributors and to all the people who are in industry making a buck and trying to do things based on financial motives or initiatives. Really it’s like, OK, let’s start the conversation and start to progress this because we don’t know everything, but we know we want to make everything better, so how do we just keep the conversation going? And the next conversation is with a lot of healthcare practitioners. What are the needs from there, and what are they seeing? You guys are in the clinics and doing different things with your patients, and how can this platform assist with easing the load that you guys have and also the load that the patients have?
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I think that’s a really exciting iteration or next step in this process, I mean, down the line imagining that there’s a Mission: Heirloom-style kitchen in all the major cities so that functional medicine clinicians in those places can make dietary recommendations and then send someone to a place like that where they can get some or even all of their food prepared. Now, of course, we’re always encouraging people to prepare their own food and learn to do that as part of the process, but sometimes they need a little bit of help getting started, especially if they’re really sick, they have low energy, or maybe they’re just barely keeping it together sticking with their job during their health crisis and they have really little energy to do the food preparation. I know, Bobby, there was a statistic you threw out. I can’t remember the exact number, but it was a really high number of hours per week that the average person spends on shopping for and preparing food if they’re cooking all their meals in the home.
Bobby Chang: We calculated roughly around 30 hours a week if you’re going to make meals from scratch. That includes going to the grocery store, and you can’t just go to one and buy everything, right? The things that you want are already in a couple different places. And when you take a look at that and also the time to prep it and to cook it and then to make it actually taste good, right?
Chris Kresser: Right.
Bobby Chang: Yeah, that’s another component. If you figure 30 hours and you pay yourself a minimum wage for that, that’s $300 that you can really save. And if you look at some of our meal plans, it’s actually lower than that to begin with for the whole week. When you go outside of the food and you just look at your time and how valuable that is, all of a sudden you look at that factor and you look at the equation and you start to realize that what we’re providing is not only saving time, but also the quality and also the frustration and everything else. And really like you say, it’s like, OK, let’s get you the first couple steps and then once you start to understand that eating this way isn’t a limitation – and that’s one thing that we focus on, is all the things that you can have – once you start to change that in your mind and say, well, if I have to eat this way, what are all the possibilities? And us hiring a chef that’s coming from the culinary world who has done a bunch of things in molecular and high-end, now you start to roll that into the whole equation and make really good quality food that tastes amazing and you start to inspire people to go into their own kitchen by having the sauces or broths already made that are super time consuming, and they can take a few things, plate it and have friends over, and they look like a rock star! There are all these components to it that start to really ease the load for the consumers.
Creative culinary ideas
Chris Kresser: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the actual foods that you guys are serving. We had our first order last week, which was lovely. The yuca crackers were a big hit with Sylvie. She loves yuca, and she doesn’t really get to eat crackers very often unless we make some nut flour crackers or something like that for her occasionally, and I have to say it was pretty nice to have the yuca crackers just available in a bag that we could reach into. Maybe you could take us through some of your favorite items that you’ve prepared so far and maybe a few off of this week’s menu just to give people an idea of what you’re doing, and talk a little bit about what are the guidelines that you’re thinking about when you cook. Is it 100% paleo, or is it beyond paleo in the sense that it’s also autoimmune compliant? What’s your strategy, in general?
Yrmis Barroeta: Chris, we were wondering why if everybody has a different biochemistry and physiology, when you go to a restaurant, the restaurants make a blanket statement with their menu, and it’s pretty much this is what people should eat. That’s the proposal of each restaurant. And yet you’re hearing every single restaurant saying how they’re bombarded by allergies. So we reverse engineered that and we said, well, why don’t we start with the allergies in mind, and why don’t we design a menu that’s building blocks? So we start with the most stringent of the protocols there are, and we say, OK, let’s do phase one GAPS that’s pretty much bone broth and you’re meant to just be healing your gut by drinking bone broth. So we dove in and we analyzed all the potential risks with bone broth at a molecular level of what happens with the protein and the fats and are creating bone broth in a way that preserves the protein molecule so it doesn’t explode and free the glutamic acid. I mean, this is a long conversation. And we never add vinegar. I’ll just leave you with that, and maybe we can talk about it another time.
Chris Kresser: No, I think this is really interesting because I’ve talked about this a little bit, as you may know. There are a lot of patients in my practice and just readers and listeners of the blog who have been excited to try GAPS and then they cook up the broth and they find out that it makes them feel like crap, and it usually takes a while to figure out that it’s the broth because people aren’t suspecting that it could be the broth. It’s healthy, after all. So talk a little bit about that and what you’re doing and what you’ve learned even in your own experience with that.
Yrmis Barroeta: Yes. It’s not the broth! It’s the vinegar or any acidity that you add to the protein molecules that unbinds the protein and releases the glutamic acid, which is one amino acid that’s inside the protein, which is extremely useful for us. I’m not saying by any means that it’s damaging. It is damaging, though, when we mistreat that protein and make the glutamic acid break from it and become an unstable molecule and bind with salt, potassium or magnesium, creating a component similar to MSG. MSG in excess creates havoc in our health. That’s what people are actually reacting to.
We actually find that a lot of kids with autism, when you give them the proteins cooked in the right way it’s very healing for them and reduces their autism symptoms. There is actually an incredible PhD biochemist working specifically on this, Katherine Reid. I know she’s launching a book in the fall. I can’t wait for the book. She has a TED Talk, and it’s on UnblindMyMind.org. I absolutely recommend it for anybody that wants to dive in deeper in this subject. She has been instrumental to help us figure out, and eventually what we want is actually to get a spectrometer and measure the amount of free glutamic acid, which again is now called glutamate, in the food because it’s not that it’s bad for us; it’s the excess.
Let’s say, a tomato. A lot of people say, yeah, tomatoes and mushrooms are super high in glutamic acid. We’re talking about 0.1%, which is nothing, and we need it for joints, we need it for GABA production, which are two huge things, but for example, grains when we do vinegars – and that’s why we’re a vinegar-free kitchen – when you do vinegar, which is one of the highest foods that has glutamic acid, and it gets processed, you’re talking about 30% or 40% of free glutamate in your food. That compares to the 0.1%. It’s a major excess, and different people have different thresholds so we can handle it. We’re our own guinea pigs, and we’ve been experimenting with our daughter, and actually her anxiety levels have been dropping considerably since we’ve changed the attention to the amount of free glutamate in our food that occurs on the top of our stoves when we’re cooking at home. And actually her acid reflux has come down, too, where she was saying before from zero to 10 she was at 8 on a regular basis; now she says, well, right now I’m 2 to 3. It’s been a 3-year war with this acid reflux that she has, and it’s been the attention to glutamate that has actually helped us tackle it.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s amazing. As I’ve discussed before, glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and so some people, particularly with people on the autism spectrum or who have cognitive or behavioral issues like ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc., are especially susceptible to the effects of free glutamate, so I was really intrigued to hear that you’re doing that. Again, we’re talking about the finer points here, but these can be significant, and as your experience indicated with your daughter, these are real effects in real people.
So we got off on a little sidetrack there, which is great. I love sidetracks. But maybe you could pick a few other menu items that you like or that are coming up to share with us.
Yrmis Barroeta: Sure. We are trying to use head to tail not only for waste, but because we are looking to provide people with meals with balanced amino acids. We are looking into the methionine and glycine. Methionine is in the muscle meats. I, for sure, don’t need to explain it to you! You’re, like, my dream to talk to because you know more than me and I can actually learn from you, which is the most exciting part! But as you know, the glycine is in parts that are not so popular, which are the bones, the organs, and I think they’re not popular just because we lack that talent or knowledge of how to cook them and they’re a little bit intimidating, but then when you have our chef putting together, right now this week on the menu we have lamb tongue.
Chris Kresser: Yum.
Yrmis Barroeta: And a lot of our clients absolutely avoided it, but other people called and they said, wow! I actually get to try this because I’ve always been very scared! And that’s the idea, to provide people a culinary adventure where they start learning about amino acids and how to get them in a fun way, so I’m very excited about that. We have a lot of meatballs. The reason why we have a lot of meatballs is because, again, we do head to tail and we’re formulating them in a way that you get a little bit of heart in there – and not only love; I’m talking about the actual heart of the animals because it’s pure mitochondria, which is a bomb of nutrition. I truly believe in the effects of epigenetics. I’ve been following closely. And food, I think, is that finger that turns on and off the switch of the genes, and mitochondria is a fantastic way to turn our epigenetics into a very positive outcome. So we’re doing things like that in the menu. Our flavors are sometimes challenging for people who are used to eating only processed food, but we also find that if people give it a 3- to 5-day chance, their taste buds change radically. I don’t know if it’s a detoxing process. They just acquire the flavors, and then they are wondering why they didn’t like it before.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I’ve seen that in my work with patients as well. Real food tastes good! Once you cleanse your palate and you can start to detect the flavors in real food, it’s really actually difficult to go back to eating fake, processed food. It’s interesting to see that with kids and particularly with my daughter Sylvie who from the start has been eating a paleo-type, very nutrient-dense diet. When she’s exposed to really processed and refined foods, which we certainly don’t expose to her but just out in the world occasionally if we’re not paying attention and we’re at someone’s house and she’s playing with another kid and they hand her something, it’s interesting to watch the reaction. I think there’s a certain built-in kind of curiosity in kids, and also just a craving of sugar is inherent with our genetic code because we’re programmed to seek it out because it’s high in energy, and in an environment where food is scarce that would be a survival mechanism, but there have been a few times where she’s tasted something and almost spit it out, a really processed and refined food, and she’s just like, this tastes like crap! I don’t want to eat this at all! It’s just a question of where you’re coming from and what you’ve been exposed to and what you’re accustomed to eating, so it’s great to see that you’re having that experience.
We have to wrap things up, so why don’t you tell listeners, Bay Area listeners, which there are quite a few of on the show, how they can learn more about you and get started and try some of your great food out? And then tell us a little bit more, too, about the restaurant, the café in North Berkeley and when you think that might be opening and what that’s going to look like.
Yrmis Barroeta: Sure. Our website is MissionHeirloom.com – Heirloom like heirloom tomatoes, and Mission because we’re in this mission of finding things worth passing forward, so it’s very easy, MissionHeirloom.com. Our kitchen is right now fully operating, our first central or commissary kitchen. Therefore, we have a temporary website and online market where people can actually pre-order food and take it home. Actually you’ve tried it.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Yrmis Barroeta: You guys placed an order, so that’s awesome. And you get the food in jars, take it home, and have the convenience of just having dinner and lunch easily and ready. We are getting ready this week – which is great news, and you guys are the first ones to know – to launch with Good Eggs.
Chris Kresser: Oh, great!
Yrmis Barroeta: Yes. We are going to expand drastically the delivery area thanks to them, and we are also launching a new line of products where you can get, for example, just the meats already cooked so you can put on your flavors and take it to the next level. They’re really more like what we call the counter basics line, and that is coming up. If you do want to come and pick it up at our kitchen, you can still use our Square Market and place your order, come over. We’re super, super happy to open the doors of our kitchen and give you a tour, show you everything. We’re here striving to do a company that is fully transparent so that people can fully trust, something that we lost and I can’t wait to regain in food operations again. That’s that in terms of the food to go. Then we’re in the middle of construction. It’s a flying target. We’re hoping September. We have an event coming up with you at the end of September that we’re really looking forward to. Yeah, that’s the fall, early fall.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. It’s so exciting to see what you guys are doing. I’m so grateful that you’re offering this to the community, and it’s really inspiring to see the passion and the care that you’re putting into it, and I’m confident that this is going to be something that is going to inspire others and people perhaps that are listening to this to get started in their own communities. I think we need a lot more of this. I think the future of health and self-care is going to be really reliant on community-driven movements like this, so congratulations again. And if you’re in the Bay Area, keep an eye out on my email newsletter. I’ll be announcing the September date. I’m going to give a talk at Mission: Heirloom, kind of a launch event. What’s the capacity for that?
Bobby Chang: We have plenty of room in the back, like, 2000 square feet of garden and greenhouse space and another 1500 in the front, so we can pack it in pretty good. And if it’s standing room, we have just above it the parking lot. People can be observing from up top!
Chris Kresser: Well, the book launch party sold out, so make sure to act fast when you get that notification, and I’ll look forward to seeing you there. Do not miss it. Mission: Heirloom is amazing. The quality of food is really off the charts. We loved everything that we got during our first order, and we’re definitely going to be ordering again. So go check out their website if you’re in the Bay Area and do yourself a favor and check out their food. It’s amazing.
Yrmis Barroeta: Thank you!
Chris Kresser: Well, thanks again for coming on, and I’m sure I’ll be talking to you soon, Yrmis and Bobby. And the rest of you, thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you next week.
Yrmis Barroeta: Thank you, Chris; thank you, Jordan; and see you soon!
Bobby Chang: Take care, guys.