Mandy Simpson and her husband Daren Sumrow own the artisanal cutting board store NOLA Boards (4304 Magazine St., 504-516-2601; www.nolaboards.com). Together, the couple makes and sells kitchen cutting boards using local and exotic woods treated with mineral oil and beeswax. Simpson spoke with Gambit about the benefits of using wooden cutting boards and how to take care of them.
How did you start making cutting boards?
Simpson: My husband Daren owns New Orleans Woodworking, and they do a lot of restaurant and residential projects. At the time, one of our friends came and asked him to build a cutting board as a wedding present. He built that and I put it on social media. ... Everything just kind of blew up from there. In fall of 2014, we started doing more and we got a great response.
Everything now is so disposable. We throw everything away — from plastic cups to cutting boards. We just wanted to make something that was good quality and that was going to last a long time and we knew that families would pass them around and use them for entertaining. We like to call them functional art — making something that's good quality and beautiful but something that you can actually use at the same time.
What's the difference between using wooden and plastic boards?
S: There's always the debate about using wooden versus plastic cutting boards, and it comes and goes and people go through phases. I think it looks better, honestly. I love the different colors of the wood. We have a board called the Atchafalaya board, and that's made out of local sinker cypress, so the colors in the board come out really pretty — swampy green and brown.
It's also better for your knives. The end-grain boards are better for not dulling your knives. It's about the way the wood grain is facing, so it's just a little bit softer on your knives. It won't dull them so much when you're chopping something repeatedly.
We're in this society where everything is plastic, plastic, plastic, and I just like working with things that are going to last longer than myself — that are going to be around for a long time. I like the idea of cutting boards that you're really making your memories on, like when you're cooking for your family. We have three teenagers in the house, so it feels like we're always making food. We want people to make memories on them, maybe even pass them on to family members. Wooden cutting boards can last years, even decades.
What's the best way to care for wooden cutting boards?
S: We coat all of our cutting boards with a locally made mineral oil and beeswax conditioner. It's made by Fleur de Bees on the West Bank. She raises all of her own bees and makes this special for us. If you're an avid cook, you're going to want to take care of your board, and we encourage people to do that. It will make it last longer and help the quality. It will help make it look better too. You can use a (mineral oil) conditioner like that three or four times a year. You also could buy mineral oil and beeswax at stores, and there are basic cutting board conditioners (for sale) out there.
It's not as hard as people think. For everyday use, as long as you don't put it in the dishwasher, you'll be fine. If you put it in the dishwasher, it will start to break apart. But it can handle your sink water for quite a long time. (Wood) is very sustainable. Just hand wash it, oil it and wax it every couple of months and you'll be good.