Collab Lab: The Salty Donut – Salt & Straw
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South Florida-based The Salty Donut (with shops now in Texas) crafts the type of mouth-watering donuts worth dreaming about. Pushing the boundaries on flavors with a rotating seasonal menu, the team at The Salty Donut makes works of art out of fried dough. We pay homage to our favorite, Guava + Cheese, with cream cheese ice cream, glazed brioche donut chunks, rich Florida guava curd, and puffed pastry streusel in our The Salty Donut Guava + Cheese available in our Miami-based scoop shops.

The Salty Donut

We chatted with Andy Rodriguez, Co-Founder and CEO at The Salty Donut, about all things fried dough. 

S&S: What inspired the creation of The Salty Donut? In other words, why donuts?

AR: Amanda and I started Salty because traveling the country for food (which btw is what we love the most in this life), we felt NO ONE was doing a STELLAR job in the category. No one was doing beautiful, creative, delicious and seasonally rotating donuts paired with a world-class coffee program, ran by a hospitality-forward and polished team, married to a really great brand, and doing it out of thoughtfully designed and gorgeous spaces that centered communities. It didn’t exist! Amanda and I couldn’t stop talking about how so many places in the country missed the mark and that if we were to do it, we’d do it like XYZ. Those conversations soon became an obsession and it was all we could talk about!!! ~6 years later, here we are - HA! 

Why donuts? Simple! They can be had at any time, for any reason and can be so much more than a sweet. Donuts can be a breakfast food, a post lunch snack, a cheat meal, a late night dessert.... they can be sweet, savory, sweet & savory - they’re such a great foundation to do fun, exciting and delicious culinary exploration!

 

S&S: What do you love about this job & company?

AR: I love SO many things about Salty and about my job! If I had to pick just one, I’d say I love that I get to make people smile for a living. When you strip out the strategic sessions and the stressful days and the board meetings and all of it - my job is to put as big of a smile as possible on people’s faces and help them create memories with our product and our stores! 

 

S&S: You pride yourselves on the 24hr brioche recipe for your yeast-raised donuts, and we have to say, we’re obsessed. Why brioche? Can you explain what brioche dough does compared to regular dough? 

AR: Ha! You and me both! Going brioche was a no-brainer for us. Amanda and I felt that so many ‘typical’ yeast donuts were so flavorless and texturally unappealing. We wanted something that could stand on its own with a super simple glaze - something rich, egg-forward, buttery, soft but with a good bite (not just a poof of air)... it had to be brioche! 

Simply put, brioche differs from ‘regular’ yeast doughs in that it is richer by introducing butter, eggs and milk! That extra fat content results in unbelievable flavor and richness that ‘regular’ doughs just can’t have!

 

S&S: How do you go about developing new flavors?

AR: It’s become quite a process! We’ll spare you the boring details, haha! Basically it can start from anything - a dessert someone on the team had growing up, something we ate on a trip that blew us away, something that’s a reinventing riff on a holiday classic, something based on seasonal or local produce/culture - inspiration can come from literally ANYWHERE! We keep a rotating list of ALL flavors we have ever made as well as a calendar of new flavor releases! We make sure new flavors aren’t repeats of prior flavors (though we do bring some super popular donuts back every now and again!), then these are prototyped by our corporate pastry chef and tested by myself, Amanda and a ton of other folks on different occasions! From other pastry chefs to our accounting team, everyone’s tested snd gave feedback on new flavors! Once we have a prototype of a new flavor,  we will give feedback and keep going through iterations until we love the way it looks, tastes and we feel good it’ll be a hit with the particular community in which the donut is launching! From there, we perform a pricing study on the flavor to make sure it meets our margin guidelines (and if it doesn’t, we’ll play with it to make sure it does) and once the donut is green-lighted, it’s off to the marketing team for pics, vids, BTS and other content and ultimately scheduling it into our social calendar!

 

S&S: Besides donuts, what is your go-to treat?

AR: This is in NO WAY intended to toot any horns...... ice cream. All day, every day, ICE CREAM. It should also come as no surprise that as ice cream fanatics, before ever meeting anyone on the team, Amanda and I really felt S&S had the best ice cream EVER! 

My most memorable ice cream experience ever was actually in a restaurant! A super talented pastry chef made a Buffalo milk ice cream swirled with black apple caramel, drizzled with really great olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon salt. I will NEVER forget that ice cream flavor!!!!