Image: Erik Skaar

THE STORY OF Secret Stash Sea Salts (secretsalts.com) starts with a failed restaurant.

When Qube opened downtown in 2006, with decor inspired by Sour Apple Pucker and a menu concept only Derek Zoolander could explain with a straight face, we weren’t ready. But like so many overambitious projects, Qube’s departure left us with a few gems who have stuck around: Lisa Nakamura, now owner of Allium on Orcas Island; Joseph Conrad, now the chef at Ventana and Twist restaurants; and Janna Wemmer, then a server, now a restaurant consultant and media relations pro.

In the Qube days, “we envisioned making the flavored salts that Joe used to enhance his dishes available to the home cook,” says Wemmer. So when they found themselves unemployed, Joe and Janna pooled their savings and started an artisanal salt company that stirs mostly local ingredients into hand-harvested Portuguese sea salt. The shake-ons (in flavors like smoked chipotle, chorizo, and Niçoise olive) supply big flavor without any artificial additives, and help home chefs cut down on the cooking steps and calories that come with piling on a lot of extra ingredients.

Wemmer says more people are experimenting with different types of salt as they educate themselves on some of the downsides of the classic table brands. “The reason that fine, uniform granules pour so freely is because they have anticaking agents added,” says Wemmer. “The Morton’s umbrella girl isn’t quite as cute anymore, is she?” And while sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt, you can get a lot more flavor using just a small amount.

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