Picture this: it’s March 2020, the baking aisle in the grocery store is bare. No flour or yeast in sight. Suddenly everyone is attempting to make sourdough because eating fresh bread undeniably makes us happy. Many of us eventually give up on making bread, proving to be too difficult a task to master.
When we were in lockdown 2.0 and completely breadless, a hero emerged! Byron Hallett, the executive chef at Willibald Farm Distillery, Brewery, & Restaurant and he is delivering fresh homemade sourdough loaves (and happiness) to the KW area with his new project Salted and Sour.
Being that Willibald is located in Ayr, about a half-hour drive south of Waterloo into the countryside, the owners made the choice to close up shop until the lockdown lifted.
“I had been off work for about a week or so, and it was the longest I’d ever gone without having something to do … and I didn’t like that very much,” Hallett recalled.
Hallett was becoming restless and wanted something to occupy his time that would also help pay the bills.
“Bread was the first thing I thought of [selling] because I make it at home all the time and in the restaurant as well. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it,” Hallett said.
Ordering from Salted and Sour is easy: “I do one kind of sourdough bread, just a straight up sourdough. It’s a package deal with some homemade butter, which is topped with sea salt for $15 delivery in KW region,” Hallett said.
Hallett has a meticulous process with consistent results. It takes three days from start to finish for a loaf to get to your porch. He also offers three starter feedings per day. What the heck is a sourdough starter you ask? A starter is a living yeast culture (yes, it’s alive, like a pet).
“Whether I’m baking that day or not, keeping the starter healthy and fed is the first step to great sourdough,” Hallett said.
For those who don’t know, making sourdough bread requires a sourdough starter, which is basically fermented dough/live bacteria that aids the bread in rising and gives it its signature sour flavour. You have to continuously “feed” your (pet) starter with equal parts water and flour to keep it alive. Wild stuff!
As for what inspired the branding of Salted and Sour, Hallett explained: “I wanted to combine two things that I really like, heavy metal music and cooking. But I couldn’t go too obscure, because I also have to sell this. There’s not a lot of metalheads around that are super into artisanal bread.”
Hallett even started making t-shirts, with the help of Jon Johnson, a local graphic designer, screen printer, and founder of Bearface Design (BRFC).
“I wanted [the shirts] to look like a band logo in a way. The more indistinguishable your logo is, the better it is, in terms of a death metal band. If you can’t read it — awesome,” Hallett said.
If you squint closely at the loaf on the shirt, you can even make out some creepy skulls hidden within.
The waitlist for Salted and Sour is currently two weeks and Hallett has been delivering every day for just under two weeks.
“The response has been very surprising, in a positive way,” Hallett said.
“There are people that are preordering loaves two weeks in advance, I don’t think I would even do that! That’s crazy to me. They want it so bad that they’re willing to wait for a couple of weeks for [my] bread, that’s pretty cool.”
Hallett’s fiance Shannon Maxwell takes care of responding to all of the messages and orders on social media for him, which he’s incredibly grateful for. “She is a huge help and just horribly underpaid for her services,” he said.
“I just add a lot of rock n’ roll emojis to the messages to seem on-brand,” Maxwell said.
Hallett recommended that when you receive your loaf you should smear the butter included in the delivery on the bread and eat it right away. He’s selling butter with his loaves because it’s his favourite thing to eat.
“Just good bread with butter and salt. For me, it is just the most satisfying thing.”
Hallett offered some advice to those trying to make sourdough on their own.
“Don’t get discouraged. It takes a while to get it right,” he said.
Elise writes for the Community Edition and works full time at Bath and Body Works (Conestoga mall location), where she can be seen recommending good smells to those in need with a few dance breaks in between. In her spare time, she loves to snuggle her cat Toast and watch Disney movies. She also makes polymer clay and resin jewelry as her side hustle, Sweet Reverie.