The teen behind Carmel Honey Company creates a buzz at local restaurants
By Tara Fatemi Walker
Carmel Honey Company beekeeper, founder and owner Jake Reisdorf is only 14 years old. Even more impressive is the fact he started this business—which he runs with assistance from parents Becky and Jeff and occasional help from his younger sister, Brooke—at age 11.
The then-fifth grader did a class project about honeybees, and hasn’t looked back since. Carmel Honey Company sells honey and honeycomb products and provides “hive placement,” which entails placing beehives on domestic and commercial properties.
As the business grew, Reisdorf learned more about bees, including about colony collapse disorder (CCD). He created the “Jake Gives Back” program, where he shares bee knowledge with kids and adults through classroom visits and corporate and nonprofit events. Reisdorf also donates a percentage of sales to honey and bee research.
Restaurants from across the country purchase honey from Reisdorf, including several Santa Cruz and Monterey county chefs. Many local restaurants even have his beehives on-site.
Pebble Beach’s Poppy Hills Golf Course has two beehives next to the driving range. “Jake and his crew harvest the honey here on the property,” says Johnny De Vivo, executive chef of Porter’s in the Forest restaurant at Poppy Hills. “They supply us with the comb in season and with the honey year around.”
Porter’s menu features honey in dishes including “Jake’s Honey Semifreddo” with apple, mint, brown butter crumble and pok pok (a Thai drinking vinegar). In the spring, they showcase his honeycomb as an accent on a housemade charcuterie board.
Carmel Honey Company placed hives on the roof of The Big Fish Grill on the Monterey Wharf in April. Owner Kevin Phillips’ other restaurants—The Whaling Station, Abalonetti Bar & Grill and The Beach House—share use of the hives. When The Beach House announced a March dinner with a presentation by Reisdorf to celebrate the upcoming hives, tickets sold out in 10 days. While diners enjoyed Chef Matt Farmer’s four-course dinner with wine pairings (each course featuring honey), Residorf spoke on topics like how important pollinators are to our existence and how honey is made. “Talking to people and enlightening them about bees and pollination is my one of my favorite things about having this business,” Reisdorf says. The event was such a success that a second dinner is planned for Sept. 21.
Ron Mendoza, former pastry chef at Aubergine in Carmel, now owns and runs Monterey’s Revival Ice Cream. He began featuring Reisdorf’s honey in his creations at Aubergine, and carried the practice over to Revival, which hosted an event with Reisdorf in February. “Jake and I spoke about bee production, and how we utilize that product in our ice creams and topping,” says Mendoza, who made a special Honey Power sundae in which every component featured honey: honey-soaked olive oil cake, beeswax ice cream, whipped honey cream, pine-infused honey, and honey meringue.
Karl Staub, executive chef at Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos, is another fan of Carmel Honey Company. “I first met Jake and his mother last summer and was impressed not only with the quality of his product but also his wisdom beyond age and presentation,” says Staub. “I wish I had his business sense and self-confidence at his age.”
While running his business, Reisdorf has made honor roll every trimester at Carmel Middle School and has been nominated for individual awards by his teachers. He also nabbed two business honors last year: CSU Monterey Bay Startup Challenge’s grand prize and national Score Foundation’s Outstanding Young Entrepreneur.
“Jake is super responsible,” says his mother, Becky. “He takes great pride in knowing what needs to be done for school, meeting deadlines and making it all happen.”
The bee business is an invaluable education in its own right, she adds: “We also believe what he learns at a honey bee conference out of state or a business meeting with a corporate client or a speaking engagement with kids … are all valuable and educational experiences for him.”
For more information, visit carmelhoneycompany.com.