With the Grain

Emmer & Rye's Kevin Fink on the grain revolution that's already begun.

May 9, 2016 ● 2 min read

Within ten years, the way you look at grains will be fundamentally different.

The best comparison is coffee. Ten years ago, remember all the Folger’s commercials, all the instant coffee? All the ground beans that were out there, the coffee — that's just what it was. You would buy ground coffee, and then in the morning you would scoop that in. Now we know that, of course, we were doing terrible things to our coffee because all the oils had dried up or gone rancid, and we were drinking coffee that wasn't as good.

Those same essential oils and amino acids are alive in wheat as well — in emmer, in millet, in any grain like that. And so within five days, 90 percent of the essential oils, amino acids, and nutritional value of the whole wheat go rancid or are essentially eradicated through exposure to oxygen. Which means, for the majority of us, we've been eating a shadow of what we should be giving to our body. In what other model do we ever look at it and say, yeah, it's okay for me to miss out on 90 percent of the flavor, or 90 percent of the nutrition of something? We wouldn't stand for it. Day-to-day in wheat, we do.

What's so interesting about wheat in particular is it's one of the few things where it's nutritional value directly correlates to its flavor. When it is the most vibrant and the most nutritional for you, it also has the best flavor. Most of the time, in holistic food, it's like we're at the opposite end of it — where if something tastes really good, it's bad for you, and if something tastes bad, it's probably because it's really good for you.

It gets back to, again, where and how our food system was built. And our food system was built during mass production, on getting these things out to people before we had an understanding of, really, the nutrition that came from the ground, and the soil, and how we made those sort of things. 
This movement is only going to continue to infiltrate more and deeper into our society, because the more we learn about it, the more we understand that our model is fleeting — because we're not only depleting from the ground, but what we're doing is we're giving to most people just poor quality items.

I got into this industry to innovate food systems between farms and restaurants and to showcase that it can be done and produce really great food. I don't want to be a single restaurant doing that: I want to be part of a movement.

As told to Roxanne Webber | Kevin Fink is the chef of Emmer & Rye in Austin, Texas.