Did you ever notice that each menu at the Salt & Iron in downtown Edmonds is “signed?” Look at the bottom right corner next time you’re there. You’ll see the names “chefs Kevin Favro, Skyeler Milgate, and Schubert Ho.”
I like it when people sign their work. Generally, it means they’re proud of it. Usually if they’re proud of it, they have a right to be. It’s a good sign.
Chef de cuisine at Salt and Iron Kevin Favro has been in food service 30-plus years, his first gig was in high school, washing dishes at a pizza parlor in Issaquah.
The restaurant subculture appealed to him. It was a diverse cross-section of young and old, of different ethnicities and cultures, all working toward a common goal. “This diverse group of people coming together every day, getting their butts kicked, and then coming back the next day to do it again. I liked that,” Favro said.
Over the next several years, Favro worked at several restaurants before landing at Grazie Ristorante in Factoria. Favro credits Chef Sean Goff for really honing his line cooking and management style. There, Favro dialed in his knife skills, developed his timing with other stations, and learn to stay organized. Goff created a fun, competitive work environment. “We worked hard, we worked fast, and we had fun. Ninety percent of how I manage comes from things I learned from Sean,” said Favro.
As chef de cuisine, he looks for people who want to be part of a team – people that enjoy the challenge of working together for a common goal.
“If you don’t have that mindset, you’re not going to last long. It’s the same with any successful business – highly-motivated/self-motivated people make it here,” he said.
Around 2006, Favro met and worked with Shubert Ho at Piatti in University Village. “Shu was working as a sous chef and just getting his catering business off the ground,” said Favro. As time passed, Ho moved on, and Favro became engaged to be married. His fiancée Amanda joked to him – “know any good caterers?”
Favro did. He called Ho, who just happened to be in the process of getting Salt & Iron up and running. As they discussed Kevin and Amanda’s wedding, Ho asked a few more questions. Before he left that day, Favro had a job offer. Today Favro is Chef de Cuisine.
The kitchen is his.
It’s a bit of a tight fit. Every nook and cranny is put to some productive use. In tight quarters like this, it’s good to have even-keeled coworkers, and the crew seems to be up to it.
In the background, high-energy rock plays at a moderate decibel level. Today, Favro is rocking to a local band – KMFDM — but listens to metal, punk and classic rock. Nonfiction science-related books seem to interest him most. Skiing is a favorite pastime. He also fabricates chain mail jewelry for friends and family.
As we talk, Favro quickly and deftly strains a couple of pounds of walnuts that had been simmering in oil. The walnuts are toasted now and the oil, with its residual walnut flavor, will make a good addition to the vinaigrette.
Watch this time lapse of Favro dismantling a couple of salmon — it’s like watching an artist at work.
Managing this “controlled chaos,” as Favro puts it, presents a few challenges. You never know what’s going to happen next. People’s food choices vary from week to week. “On Tuesday, everyone was eating seafood — my sauté guy was slammed. Then on Wednesday, it was beef, and my grill guy was swamped. One day, we’ll sell six or seven hundred oysters, the next day, just a couple hundred.”
In addition to using space intelligently, Favro relies upon frequent deliveries. The Corfini Gourmet guy shows up and he and Favro exchange pleasantries as 70 pounds of beef and 40 pounds of chicken change hands. It’s a small order.
Favro quickly stacks the meat in a neat pile and closes the cold storage door. “ I think the next person I hire will have to be good at Tetris. They’ll have to beat me at Tetris to get the job,” Favro jokes. At least I think he was joking. Keeping storage well organized counts for a lot when you’re moving as many plates each day as Salt & Iron does.
Experience has taught Favro what makes a good menu special. Seasonality is the primary consideration. Food purveyors often provide hot sheets or are promoting a new product which can also play a role. When currents are in season, they will find a way to use them. When Columbia River Sturgeon is available, Favro knows he can sell it. Rabbit, on the other hand, doesn’t meet with much interest. It’s probably the Thumper factor — too cute to eat.
“We try to be seasonal when we can, but it’s hard to be too committed to what’s in season in Washington. In the winter, things like tomatoes, citrus and obviously things like pineapples — hard to find locally,” he joked.
We wish him many years of continued success.
~ ~ ~ ~
Congratulations are in order for Niko and Paula Raptis and their crew at The Loft Café and Courtyard (515 Main St., Edmonds) as they prepare to celebrate their 10th Anniversary. The festivities get started at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 8. They’ll be rolling out some special menu items and cocktails — you are advised to “dress to impress” — it should be a swanky celebration. DJ Yanni will be spinning the discs. Wear danceable shoes.
~ ~ ~ ~
One of my go-to places in Lynnwood is the Indigo Kitchen and Alehouse at 2102 164th St. S.W., Suite F. We dropped in for a late lunch on Sunday. Since we had a dog in tow we were pleasantly surprised to discover that one of their patios is dog friendly.
It’s clear from the menu that someone enjoys Cajun-style cooking. It’s a menu peppered with tantalizing things like gumbo, grits, shrimp picayune and Cajun hash — they’ve even got bread pudding.
Since pressure is coming from all around me to reconsider my beef habit, I elected to try Indigo’s veggie black bean and chipotle burger. It was dressed with pico de gallo, avocado and spicy aioli. I did not regret my decision. Mine came out with a mountain of sweet potato fries. I tried to feel righteous as I consumed about 80 percent of my daily allotment of calories in a single sitting.
By ordering the veggie burger, I had to forego my favorite item — the steak salad. Not to be neglected, this entrée includes an ample amount of skirt steak laid on a bed of romaine with great gobs of crumbled blue cheese.
Be aware that Indigo has one of the best happy hour menus around. If you don’t mind eating in the bar area, you can graze over a number of delectable items. For me, the steak bites are hard to resist. They do a good job of not overcooking the calamari, which I also appreciate. With an early happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m., and a late happy hour beginning at 10 p.m., you may never have to order off the regular menu ~ ~
Another favorite haunt up in Lynnwood is Yeh Yeh’s Vietnamese Sandwiches. Yeh Yeh’s is probably one of Lynnwood’s best-kept secrets. It’s tricky to find – kitty corner from Harris Ford and tucked behind the Star Market at 19915 64th Ave. W. Don’t be in a hurry when you get there, but for arguably the best Banh Mi in the entire Puget Sound, Yeh Yeh’s is the place.
~ ~ ~ ~
While we’re on the subject of Lynnwood eateries, I have a soft spot for another indie sandwich shop. Have you ever tried Tub’s Gourmet Subs at 4400 168th St. SW, Ste. 201? In some ways, it’s just another sandwich shop — but I’ve never had a sub there that wasn’t great. They toast the bread to perfection. Again, don’t expect your sandwich to appear instantly, but you should be pleased once you get a chance to sink you teeth into one of the creations.
~ ~ ~ ~
Good news for Mountlake Terrace! Hemlock State Brewing is in the process of opening a brewery at 23601 56th Ave. W. in Arbor Village. The good folks at Hemlock have been searching for a larger space. They’ve outgrown the garage they’ve been brewing out of in Shoreline for the past three years. Demand has been high so expansion is happening – they’re posting their progress on their blog. You can follow along at www.hemlockstate.com/blog/.
~ ~ ~ ~
Finally, I decided to look into the rumor that busy restauranteurs Shubert Ho and Andrew Leckie had acquired a food truck.
Turns out the rumor is true. Ho explained that permits and outfitting won’t happen right away, but the plan is to attach the truck to the Bar Dojo team. The same nouveau Asian cuisine you’ve come to know and devour will be going mobile sometime soon. Look for fish tacos and rice bowls to be among the offerings.
~ ~ ~ ~
James Spangler is guest writing the Edmonds Restaurant News column while Kathy Passage takes a break.