Nourishing the Soul: A Conversation with Annie Balto, Founder of Nour

Annie is wearing The Uncut Straight (Light)

Tell us more about who you are and what you do!
Hi! My name is Annie Balto, I am the founder of Nour. I’ve been in the kitchen from a young age, mostly because when I was young my parents were busy running their deli. I’m also Jewish – so food has always been a huge part of my life through culture and ritual. I like to joke that people always assume when your parents own a restaurant it means you lived this luxurious life where your parents acted as your own private chef and cook for you all the time, but if you actually know chefs or restaurant owners, you know they are exhausted once they get my instincts in the kitchen and love for cooking truly comes from a place of necessity and fending for myself as a young girl. 

Annie is wearing The Uncut Straight (Light)

What led you to start Nour?
Think of Nour as the salad dressing your personal chef would use. I started Nour out of my love for rituals and dinner parties as I believe the kitchen is the creative portal to the soul. While living in The Middle East for a year, every week we would celebrate Shabbat, which meant that every Friday I was invited into strangers homes, sitting at a new table, gathering around new people, often times hearing and speaking multiple languages, tasting dishes from cultures all over the world Jewish, Arab, Moroccan, Yemenite, Ethiopian, Iranian, Muslim, Christian, etc. This is what really changed me as a human, and completely transformed my love for community, food, and ritual, everything Nour is built on. 

At the end of the day, it comes down to this - everyone has to eat, but when we create something enjoyable, we create space to ask more than just what do I need to survive, but what makes me feel good and what makes me feel nourished. Nour was created from the inspiration & space to spark inquisitive thinking and partaking in nourishing rituals. Nour is short for nourishment, and I hope everyone who tries it and shares it continues to ask themselves what makes me feel good and what makes me feel nourished!

Annie is wearing The Uncut Straight (Light)
What is a brand in the food industry you admire and why?
Oof this is a hard question. It’s hard to answer just one because I am notorious for deep diving into brands that catch my eye or taste buds. There are so many aspects of a brand I resonate with between design, sourcing of ingredients and materials, and of course the actual taste. For a few years now I have said that if there is a brand I would invest in, it would be Cocojune. I love everything they’re doing between their flavor profiles to their actual packaging and closed loop values. They make the best coconut yogurt, (hello vanilla chamomile) and now labneh which I am also obsessed with. I think they have the coolest flavors, their packaging is made of paper, and word on the street that they're working to make it fully compostable.  Any food brand that is not only creating new flavor profiles, but also considering their connection to the food system and lifespan on their packaging gets brownie points from me.

What Fall food trends do you anticipate seeing?
Oof another tough question, mostly because I don't particularly resonate with the food trends. If you actually looked through my kitchen you would see that I’m a pretty ritualistic eater. I have my go-to’s and hyper fixation meals that usually last a few moon cycles, and then I move on in the next rotation. Right now I’m seeing corn everywhere…both on my FYP and IRL which being a girl from Minnesota I secretly love because it makes me feel like the Midwest is in SoCal? I’m seeing sweet corn burnt basque cheesecake, and I just had a corn latte at this cafe in Koreatown called About Time. Liu’s Cafe, a Chinese cafe & bakery in Mid City, just had their soft opening, and I have my eye on this corn cheese and bacon croquette. I love seeing an Iowa crop have its moment to shine, maybe I need to experiment with a corn salad dressing..

Annie is wearing The Uncut Straight (Light)
What advice would you give to someone starting their own brand?
How much time does everyone have? I think the list goes on in my brain, but to keep it short – read The Creative Act By Rick Ruban. I love the POV he shares about just starting somewhere. So many people wait to birth something into the world until it’s “perfect” because they are more concerned about people’s perception of their thing rather than their own validation of their own product. At the end of the day, I think we need self validation before we can even begin to receive others, and Rick says that to look for validation in others is probably the most harmful thing you can do to your own creative process. If you create from a place of authenticity and confidence, the only validation you need is from yourself and a place of internal knowing. You need to learn to trust yourself first - that’s when you actually give people the opportunity to trust you.

Also, don’t be afraid of rejection either - you’ll hear 1,000 no’s before you hear a yes. There’s always going to be a reason to not do something. Kind of cheesy, but I always come back to a Mary Oliver quote ”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” and that helps guide me make decisions and iterations to the brand and business. 

What's coming down the pipeline for Nour?
So many things! As I think about all of the ways I want to help nourish more people, I see a Nour collab with a restaurant here in Los Angeles, of course if it's the right fit. I’ve got my eye on a few places where I can imagine innovative and fun menu items, anything from Canyon Coffee to Sweetgreen. If any of you reading this have ideas, feel free to slide into my DM’s or email me (especially if you want to invest)
Annie is wearing The Uncut Straight (Light)

How do you like to style your Just Black Denim jeans?
For me, comfort is everything! I start to become a different human being if I’m a little uncomfortable, hangry, too cold, etc, just ask any of my ex’s lol. So for me, layers! My calendar is all over the place these days, I prefer to be able to wear something from day to night if I have to, so having a comfortable and quality denim that I can dress up or dress down while feeling comfortable in my body is so foundational. 

Follow Annie on Instagram @anniebalto

Follow NOUR on Instagram @eatnour

Photography by Natalie Lance

November 21, 2023