They met at Black Star Farms; young and full of passion.
The duo fell quickly in love, together reinventing the business department at Black Star and curating their own big dreams along the way.
While getting to know each other, the pair realized their dreams fit together perfectly—it was almost comical. Years before they even met, when Jonathan Dayton was in design school and Stephanie Wiitala was in culinary school, the duo had the same company name; S2S. Jonathan, a designer who liked short, bold names had created a logo for the name while in design school while Stephanie, who wanted to open a restaurant of her own, scribbled the name on napkins in the kitchen. For both of them, S2S stood for Sunrise to Sunset (it wasn’t until they met that they came up with the name Sugar to Salt.)
On a Wednesday morning this June, I sat across from Stephanie and Jonathan in the home of their new restaurant, S2S, now Sugar to Salt. The couple talked animatedly about their journey to opening this establishment, which symbolizes their love for food, their relationship and their community. It was just a few days out from the restaurant opening and their excitement was clear as they explained their desire to create a unique breakfast experience and beamed about the love behind the entire journey.
As parents, Jonathan and Stephanie chose to go into the breakfast business to ensure they can always be home to tuck their kids into bed. They’ve always enjoyed breakfast service; the intimacy of the meal.
“Breakfast sets the tone for your whole day, so why not start out with something great,” Stephanie says. “I have this mantra I’ve been saying forever: We all have to eat to live, you cannot function as a human being without food and beverage, your body needs that, so you might as well make it something good. And if you do that, now you’ve set the tone for the rest of your day, the rest of your week by taking good care of yourself. We want to help you do that by putting good things in front of you that make you feel great.”
Duck for breakfast? Jonathan and Stephanie think so. The menu will be seasonally driven and as local as possible. The duo is putting a twist on what you would traditionally see on the breakfast table, in an exciting way both visually and for your taste buds.
“The menu itself is always going to be expanding and changing with the season,” Jonathan says. “There are never going to be any western omelets on the menu; we’re trying to stay away from Eggs Benedict and traditional breakfast expectations, although I will have hollandaise. I’m pretty fancy in my plate-ups, I like to take a little time. We have edible flowers and herbs, and plates are going to be garnished really nicely. Right now, the menu is heavy on asparagus, the early fruits; I just got some fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market.”
“The majority of the ingredients are the same players you would find at any other breakfast place but Jonathan is taking them into a whole new realm,” Stephanie adds. “Not snobby and not unapproachable, just beautiful and tasty and completely unexpected. We’re just trying to do something different, we’re trying to offer something people haven’t had before.”
Not too comfortable to fall asleep mid-meal but exactly enough to relax and enjoy a good breakfast and conversation in a welcoming atmosphere amid the smell of freshly brewed coffee. “When you walk in the door, you have a couple different ways to entertain all people,” Stephanie says. “You have the bar where if you just want to come in and get a cup of coffee and read the newspaper and maybe have a pastry, there you go. On the left-hand side, there are couches and seats for people if you’re coming in with a computer and want to sit down and turn it into a little mobile office. We’ll have self-serve coffee and you can grab a granola bar or a pastry and enjoy that over there. Then there’s the dining room. If you want to come in with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or you want to come in with your parents one morning, you can sit down and enjoy a really nice meal. We’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but we’re trying to give people options for whatever they’re feeling that day.”
Importance of Community
To Jonathan and Stephanie this entire operation is about community. Many of their employees are friends they have worked with previously and the whole idea behind their menu is to cook with local ingredients, supporting their neighbors.
“I heard recently, ‘Community over Competition’ and I’ve always agreed with the fact that if you work together as a community, competition shouldn’t exist because there’s enough business for everyone,” Stephanie says. “Everyone has their specialty.”
The Heart Behind It All
After 30 years in the restaurant business, Jonathan is just as in love with the industry as he was when he started.
“You know, that I’m with you [Jonathan says to Stephanie], that I’m here [pointing to the restaurant] and that I’ve chosen this career, I want all three things; it’s not just a job, it’s not just a relationship that I’m kinda stuck in,” Jonathan says. “I’m exactly where I want to be in all aspects of my life and that’s pretty cool. There are long days sometimes, and honestly, this is a horrible business to be in unless you want to be. And I do, I still get excited to get on the line and cook food and plate it up with local ingredients and please people. I’m still the little boy who’s in the class and wants a smiley face on my paper. I want to go up to someone and say, “How was your meal today?” and for them to just be truly grateful like ‘Wow, that was fantastic.’ I’m creating artwork that’s eaten, and I never get to see it again. It’s this split-second, instant gratification and then the moment is gone. That’s what still drives me.”