Nan came to milling by way of baking, via a long stint as a wine rep. She was always an enthusiastic home baker and worked for a time at a small café in Sherman Oaks called Sweet Butter Kitchen. Her cookies were a huge hit, which she attributed to the fact that she sought ingredients that spoke for themselves.
“When I first started baking, I looked at the flour just like everyone else does,” she says. “It was a blank slate with no essential flavor.”
Eventually, she started experimenting with different kinds of flours—first rye, then maybe a little spelt. Barley. Around that same time, she was smitten with a particular segment of a PBS television show called Adventures with Ruth hosted by Ruth Reichl. Nan particularly liked a part with French baker Richard Bertinet, who owns a bakery in England. She watched it several times to retain one of the baking techniques that Richard demonstrates.
One day she sat down to watch the segment again and rewound a little further than usual. She landed right at an ancient flour mill in Bath, England, and although she’d seen the segment before, this time it was different. She listened to the miller as if for the first time and, as he talked about blending wheat varieties, something clicked. She had never heard anyone talk about flour with the same care as, say, heritage vegetables. She also saw for the first time that wheat for flour could be treated the same as grapes for wine, each type having unique flavor and handling capabilities.