Thursday, July 09, 2015

Kalamazoo connections create Principle Food & Drink

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
July 9, 2015

A team with lots of Kalamazoo connections is betting the success of Salt of the Earth can be repeated by following their principles. That's the theory behind Principle Food & Beverage. 

Matt Pietsch, left, and Jeff  Bailey (Photo by Susan Andress)

They’ve been plotting it for years, eyes on Kalamazoo. 

"The day after Salt of the Earth opened, I was thinking about where we would go next, what happens next," Matthew Pietsch says. "It’s how my brain works."

When Salt of the Earth, a rustic eatery and bakery at 114 East Main Street of small town Fennville opened in 2009, Pietsch was the new executive chef. It happened this way. Walking down Main Street, he slipped his resume into the mail slot of what appeared to be the door of an empty building. But one can dream, and dream he did.

On the other side of the mail slot, a building owner looked over the resume. Pietsch had impressive culinary experience. A graduate of the Grand Rapids Community College culinary arts program, he apprenticed with the U.S. National Pastry Team in 2004 and later worked as an executive pastry chef. In Dearborn, he ran the Opus One kitchen and managed their corporate food service for Ford Advertising. He worked alongside Michael Symon, the well-known chef from the television shows The Chew and Iron Chef, at Symon’s upscale steakhouse, Roast, in Detroit. 

Pietsch soon became one of the owners of Salt of the Earth. The eatery quickly gained attention, drawing in hungry guests from all over West Michigan and beyond. 

Always fresh, minimally handled but expertly prepared, the Salt menu drew in guests with an appreciation for a quality dining experience. Ingredients are, whenever possible, locally sourced and sustainably produced, if not indeed just harvested from the garden outside the back door of the restaurant. 

It wasn’t so much that the owners chose Kalamazoo for a second eatery, Pietsch says. "Kalamazoo chose us. We all have close connections to Kalamazoo, and we were really excited when this space opened up."

The owners, now a group including, along with Pietsch, Robert Nicol, Mark Schrock, and Casey Longton, welcomed new shareholders Nancy and Doug Knobloch, former owners of Garden Gate Cafe, a sandwich and cupcake shop that had occupied 230 South Kalamazoo Mall since 2012. The Knoblochs closed the Garden Gate Cafe in January. Their son is Casey Langton, general manager at Salt of the Earth and one of the owners. 

"It’s exciting to come back to my roots," Longton says. He stops for a moment in what is an almost finished kitchen at the new space. The sign on the doors of 230 South Kalamazoo Mall now reads: Principle Food & Drink. Coming soon.

The long, narrow room smells of freshly cut wood, varnish, paint. Where there was a glass case of cupcakes now stands a ....


Read about this sign at Second Wave (Photo by Susan Andress)

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