Sometimes Life’s challenges create bends in the road which turn out to lead into the most promising directions. The other day at the Puyallup Sportsman Show, I ran into Misty Loreen from Federal Way, her husband of 16 years, Nathan, and a beautiful story about how something that almost kills you can be on the base of a wonderfully creative journey helping out others.
But let’s start at the beginning. Misty Loreen, a video game animator and college teacher, was always into food. As a kid, she loved to cook, and to this day she celebrates “the weird dishes” her family creates for Thanksgiving – weird as in “not traditional style”. But food let her down, and in her twenties, she found herself with terrible food allergies that took the joy out of more than just eating. She underwent countless tests of cutting out specific food items and finally figured that one of the sources that triggered her worst allergy attacks were commercially mass-produced spices. “They contained traces of wheat or flour, as some of the companies might just have used the same devices for packaging spices and flour”, she guesses.
In the end, about ten years ago, Misty started drying her own herbs and creating her own seasonings from scratch. “I love flavors and using my own creations. It makes such a big difference in the flavor, I wouldn’t even want to go back.” When she started producing garlic salt with herbs Italian style, her friends and family started asking for their own batches. The demand became so high that Misty was giving away more than she made for herself. Which is when Nathan suggested she try how it would work out if she went commercial with her garlic salt. “So, I made 15 little bottles and offered them on Facebook. Within minutes the entire production was sold, and there was still a list of requests for more,” she remembers.
That is when the “Geek Girl” started founding her business with gourmet garlic salts. As the business became less of an idea and more of a physical thing, she was backed by the unwavering support of her husband, Nathan, who pushed her through her doubts and second-guesses along the way: “I believe in this and I believe in you”. So together they carefully tasted through different kinds of salt to source the one they liked best.
Misty started to dry vegetables and herbs on a bigger level. On the business side, they acquired a Washington food processor license and all the licenses you need for a food business like theirs. She figured out how to cold-smoke salt and created a range of four gourmet garlic salts. Partnering with The Sunshine Farm (sunshinefarm.org/) for garlic supplies and Found Barn Farm (www.foundbarnfarm.com/) for peppers supplies, both near Spokane, made their products available there as well. Their first year in business ended in numerous invitations to all kinds of markets and in a BBQ competition which was won by one chef using her product range.
Anybody who wants to try Misty and Nathan Loreen’s mouth-watering seasonings can also check their website www.geekgirlgoodsllc.com/. Misty’s all-time favorite is still her first garlic salt, the one with the herbs, “because it is incredibly versatile, and you can cook with it or just sprinkle it over a salad. Nathan’s favorite is the spicy, as “it adds just the right amount of kick to any dish”.
“What is really important to me though,” says Misty Loreen, “are my customers. I can customize my garlic salts if somebody tells me that they are allergic against an ingredient. I know what it means to have allergies, and I’ll treat theirs as if they were mine. It simply takes a little extra love.”
Currently, Misty and Nathan are looking into expanding their business with a new product line – flavored sugar-free sweetener blends. Again, tasting different varieties and checking their characteristics when cooking, baking, or drinking the sugar … Whatever the outcome of the range will be, I’m sure it will be made with lots of love and passion. And that you will be able to taste.