Santa Barbara, Smoked

By Mike Miller Photos courtesy Santa Barbara Smokehouse

Thanks to top-shelf techniques and an eye toward sustainability, this local smoked salmon company is renowned from coast to coast.

If you are a smoked salmon lover, chances are you have already experienced the world-famous Santa Barbara Smokehouse products. If you have not, the city of Santa Barbara is home to one of the best manufacturing facilities in the world, so do yourself the favor and go find what is widely known as the world’s finest smoked salmon.

Top-shelf ingredients and locally-sourced wood — it’s what sets Santa Barbara Smokehouse salmon apart from the pack.

The Santa Barbara Smokehouse is a family-owned business, which was started by CEO Tim Brown, who came to California from the north of England back in 1999. Brown took over a small smoked salmon business in Carpinteria, and, through his passion and creative spirit, he was able to turn that business around in a matter of months.

In 2005, he relocated to Santa Barbara and launched what is now The Santa Barbara Smokehouse. Along with his son, Sam Brown, who serves as the company’s director of compliance and development, the pair have built a state-of-the-art facility that has been nicknamed “The Modern Masterpiece.”

“My father started in the smoked salmon business when he was just 15 years old,” said Sam. “He and his brother built their first business from the ground up and learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way, which has helped us build something very special.”

According to Sam, his father’s determination and passion for perfection is what sets The Santa Barbara Smokehouse apart from the competition. “My father is the driving force behind our business. He is literally a genius with recipes, and as a result, we are always evolving. He uses different kinds of wood and salts to develop new flavors. He relentlessly pursues perfection, and he has passed that passion along to me and the other employees who work for our company.”

The folks at The Santa Barbara Smokehouse aren’t just passionate about their recipes; sustainability and food safety are also tops on their list of priorities. When it comes to sustainability, the company uses a mix between farmed and wild salmon, something that is of the utmost importance to Sam. “There is a public perception about farmed salmon … Salmon farms have improved significantly over the last eight years or so. They are held to the highest standards, and we only buy salmon from the best farms. The reality is, if we don’t have farms, there would be no more wild salmon, because the demand is so high. There are more and more top-notch salmon farms out there because that is what consumers are demanding,” he said.

Father-son team Tim and Sam Smith.

Ensuring that wild salmon thrive for future generations to enjoy is not the only sustainable effort The Santa Barbara Smokehouse team focuses on. The local company enforces a policy that they will never cut down a living tree for their wood supply. The smoking process is done primarily using fallen oak trees that are cut into logs in the Santa Ynez Valley. The other main source of wood for The Santa Barbara Smokehouse is broken whiskey casks.

“We’ve used the same wood suppliers for years and are committed to never cutting down a living tree to make our product,” Sam said. “Sustainability is one of our core values as a company and something we take very seriously.”

Something else The Santa Barbara Smokehouse is serious about is food safety. While their facility has a rustic look on the outside, inside they have built a state-of-the-art production facility, which allows them to make such an amazing — and safe — product. “Just like with our smoked salmon, we strive for perfection when it comes to food safety. We adhere to the highest standards and always want to out-perform new standards that come out,” said Sam Brown.

The company employs just under 100 staff members, and their smoked salmon can be found all over the country. While the majority of their business is producing in bulk and then selling to seafood distributors, The Santa Barbara Smokehouse’s product can also be found all along Highway 101 and the Central Coast, including: Whole Foods Market, Costco, Lucky’s (Montecito), Jack’s Bistro and Famous Bagels, Urth Caffé, Santa Monica Seafood, Del Mar Racetrack, Beverly Hills Bagel, Craig’s (West Hollywood), Santa Barbara Fish Market and Lazy Acres Market (Santa Barbara).

“Our smoked salmon is literally all over the country, which is a tribute to its quality, and we are very proud of what we have created. We aim to continue producing great smoked salmon and evolving as a company. It goes back to my father’s passion to always produce the best tasting smoked salmon in the world,” concluded Sam.

Some of The Santa Barbara Smokehouse’s most popular products include:

Cambridge House Royal – Robust Smoke Flavor Using the finest quality fresh Atlantic salmon, this classic variety is hand-cured with sea salt and fresh herbs, and smoked in small batches in oak and apple wood from Santa Ynez. According to The Santa Barbara Smokehouse website, “This local area is home to some of the world’s finest vineyards and for that reason we also select and burn aged oak chardonnay barrels which completes this very unique recipe.” The result is a paper-thin smoked salmon with a rich buttery texture and robust smoke flavor.

Cambridge House Balmoral – Medium Smoke Flavor Starting again with top-quality fresh Atlantic salmon, sea salt and fresh herbs, this variety is smoked using aged oak whisky barrels. Along with a rich, buttery texture, this salmon comes with a medium sweet smoke flavor, which The Santa Barbara Smokehouse says is “reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands cure.”

Cambridge House Mild – Light Smoke Flavor As with the first two, fresh Atlantic salmon provides the base for this remarkable smoked salmon. Fallen oak logs from the Santa Ynez Valley give it that smoky goodness. “With its delicate, very light smoke flavor, this salmon is the quintessential ‘London Cure,’” according to The Santa Barbara Smokehouse folks.

For more information on The Santa Barbara Smokehouse and its delicious offerings, visit