Tasya Kelen’s commitment to good food is in her blood. Her grandfather, Isadore, believed that food was the best medicine and championed natural and organic in the 50s – long before it was trendy. Isadore’s legacy combined with Kelen’s passion for simple, yet premium-quality ingredients led to the birth of Isadore Nut Company. The artisan, Minneapolis-based nut company hand-roasts each small batch with fresh, sustainable, and often local ingredients. Yum.
Read more about Isadore Nut Company’s story in our exclusive Modern Midwest Q&A.
Modern Midwest: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background?
Taysa Kelen: My culinary training began in my mother’s kitchen – constantly stirring the alfredo sauce for fettuccie at around seven or eight years old. I have taken some cooking classes around the world – China, Vietnam, St. Paul, MN to name a few. Really, that’s the extent of my professional training. Everything else has come from a passion for amazing ingredients prepared simply and deliciously with an emphasis on local, organic and sustainable. I love to cook for my family and friends and thus Isadore Nut Company was born.
MM: Tell us about your company.
TK: Isadore Nut Co is named after my father’s father, Isadore, who sought out organic food in the 50s. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s towards the late 50s and went searching for alternative medical options. He found acupuncture, hands on healing and embraced juice fasts. He extended his life by about 20 years. He passed on the importance of clean eating and a healthy diet to my father and my father to me. Neither of them were eating or making fettuccine alfredo (neither were cooks, and would have eschewed all the butter, eggs and Parm), but they were very conscientious about the importance of ingredients and the type of food they were eating. I like to think what I have created is at the crossroads between sinfully delicious and healthy. We only use a small amount of local maple syrup to sweeten – so this is anything but a candied nut, but the sweetness is just enough to enhance all the other incredients and make this protein rich snack taste like a sinful treat.
MM: When/why was it born?
TK: INC is three years this month. After making a variety of spiced nut mixes for family and friends, I thought, “Why not offer it to the community and sell at the local farmer’s market?” Before I got accepted at the farmer’s market, I was invited to participate in a one day holiday shopping boutique in a church basement. It was, and still is, the holiday boutique on steroids. I packaged the nuts in reusable mason jars, tied with a ribbon and they were snapped up with customers ordering more for holiday gifts. I was featured in the Star Tribune and on Fox News Christmas Day, and that launched me. The other thing of note is that same fall that I decided to start a nut company, I was pursuing a 240 hour yoga teacher certification. I actually had to put the nut biz on hold after the new year so I could effectively finish my yoga training.
MM: What’s your creative process like?
TK: I think about what’s important to me – high quality, delicious ingredients that are also beneficial. The turmeric in the Cinnamon Spice and Cayenne Kick is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The cayenne is a metabolism booster, and cinnamon is not only a warming spice, but a blood sugar stabilizer and sugar craving suppressant. I also apply Ayurvedic principles in the ingredients I use.
MM: What makes the Midwest, specifically Minnesota, special?
TK: The scenery. I feel blessed (not when it’s -5) to live in a state that has so much amazing natural beauty. Of course we’re the land of 10,000 lakes, but what means they are shielded from most civilization in the protected Boundary Waters and Canoe Area and within walking distance of my house. I can bike around them with my girls and take walks with friends as quality time and exercise. Also, Autumn is truly the most beautiful time of year – I know eastern states can boast their leaves are the most spectacular, but I think we can give them some pretty decent competition. And lets not forget about the food.
MM: What’s one thing a non-Minnesota native should know about the city?
TK: We have incredible theatre and inventive and amazing chefs. It’s a toss up as whether to see nationally recognized actors perform the classics or a new commission, or dine at a new rustic Italian joint that makes oxtail and calamari in squid ink not only intriguing, but delicious. We have an area called Eat Street where you can find some of the best Asian food in the country. After traveling in Vietnam on my honeymoon, I can confidently [say] there is only one restaurant in this entire city that makes authentic Vietnamese street food.
MM: Where do you get your inspiration?
TK: I’m inspired by my family. I want them to eat well, but enjoy treats that won’t make them sick. I’m inspired by the collection of home cooks and professional cooks who champion eating the freshest food, preparing it beautifully and minimally and serving to those we love because we want them to be cared for. Not just to buy the cheapest ingredients, use a lot of sugar [and] salt and offer huge portions. I try my best to follow Michael Pollen, who wrote: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
MM: What’s something new – or challenging – that you’re working on?
TK: To be more patient with my children and husband.
MM: Any fun facts about the brand or making process that you’d like to share?
TK: There are may fun facts to share: in the beginning before I was working in a commercial kitchen and was selling the product to retail stores, my oldest daughter, Eloise, was in charge of zesting the lemons. My maple syrup supplier is from just across the border in Wisconsin and we share a booth at the farmer’s market in the summer. Only recently have I increased my team of helpers – a Missy, a Carol, a Betty and a Mary. I can’t get over how traditional their names are. And they are my dream team! They are as passionate as I am about the product because they believe in the notion of offering real food and beautiful packaging. Everyone feels a little guilt when a nut falls on the floor. Carol volunteers at the Humane Society and takes care of baby squirrels. Now she’s taking the nuts that hit the floor to the baby squirrels. It seems fitting. Finally, there’s a lot of care that goes into our process, right down to the mantra I sing when I take the nuts out of the oven, stir them and put them back in.
Shop a variety of Isadore Nut Company’s artisan nuts at Modern Midwest’s first-ever “Modern Market” in Minneapolis’ North Loop. In addition to Isadore Nut Company, a carefully curated selection of local makers will showcase their goods at Modern Market – all of which embody the Midwest’s distinct take on modern living. Enjoy local food and drink, live music and art while supporting the Minneapolis maker community!
Thursday, December 3, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Fast Horse, 240 9th Ave N, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
GET IN ON THE ACTION!
$10 in advance / $20 day of