Jeremy Kessler was on a routine stop at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto when Anton Kozlick, original owner of Kozlick’s mustard, was closing his shop for the very last time. Kessler grew up eating Kozlick’s mustard like everyone else in Toronto―and he couldn’t let a good thing go. So he bought the business, including a book of 25 mustard recipes from Anton Kozlik, and hired his first unofficial employee: his nine year-old son, Noah.
Twenty years later, Noah Kessler heads the production facility and is responsible for sourcing the ingredients and updating the practices that have made Kozlik’s the forerunner of artisanal mustard. Noah shares some of his thoughts on his family’s business and his love of mustard.
We are proud to serve Kozlick’s at Kōjin.
What’s your history with mustard? Did you have it with family dinners growing up?
Growing up, for dinner, my mom was into the healthier side of things and my father was into the indulgent side of things. He’s South African, so a typical meal for him would include like eight different barbecued meats. We’d have lamb chops and boar and South African sausage and then steak and potatoes. There was always a huge variety of different meats on the table.
So, yes, we grew with a lot of meat and potatoes and definitely a lot of mustard, too.
Now, you make how many different kinds of mustard?
[Laughs] Thirty four.
What are some of the must-haves for any pantry?
Everybody needs a good sweet mustard. I really like to use the sweet ones in a glaze or mix it with butter over vegetables. Next, you need a good spicy mustard. My favourite that we make is the Horseradish Mustard. I use it with all kinds of beef and heavy starches. And then, it’s important to have a grainy Dijon mustard. It’s an all-purpose mustard. If a recipe calls for mustard, you’re safe with a grainy Dijon.
Do you think there’s one you would eat every day?
Probably, the Triple Crunch Mustard. It’s our grain mustard so I like to mix it in with my aiolis, tuna salad, egg salad, potato salad dressing, you name it. We joke that it’s the “poor man’s caviar.” It’s great on little canapes. Take, goat cheese and tomato―top it with a little Triple Crunch Mustard, and it’s perfect. I think it’s also my wife’s favourite as well. That probably has something to do with the reason why it’s always in our fridge.
What makes all these flavors distinctly Kozlik’s?
It’s our ingredients for sure. Canada grows 90 per cent of the world’s mustard, and I think we use a very unique blend of the mustard seeds. There’s a variety of seeds and there are about 15 or 16 different powders that are then milled. We find that most mustard manufacturers will use the yellow seed, some vinegar, some turmeric, and some salt. We probably use the widest variety of all the different milled seeds out there.
We wouldn’t have guessed Canada produces 90 percent of the world’s mustard.
We joke at our store that it’s very Canadian to do something well and not tell anyone about it. I do think that it’s changing now and Canadians are really starting to take pride in the good things that they do.
The first thing we do when people come by the shop is let them know we have an all-you-can-eat mustard policy. We also say: “no junk, no gunk.” You can pronounce everything on our labels. My father and I were dying laughing once when we were making a maple mustard and we were sent a sample of maple flavouring and we couldn’t even pronounce what was in there. We think it’s important to keep a product honest. We have a lot of great farmers and there are a lot of great products coming out of Canada, so why not use them?
It’s great you’re able feature farmers from Canada.
People are changing their eating habits and they really care about where it all comes from and how it’s made.
Over the years, it’s always been good to have my father’s influence because he kept us honest. Sometimes, we used to argue when I was younger coming out of economics class and looking at the marketplace that I would say how are we going to survive with a one year best before date? French’s has three years. You should add a three year best before date. But that didn’t matter to him, and it doesn’t matter to the people buying the mustard.