Executive Chefs and co-owners of Black Salt Culinary, Fabrice Deletrain and Benjamin Voisin, were about to serve a wedding night dinner for eight at a private home in Cape Coral when news of the terrorist attack in Paris reached the party. The groom immediately got up from the table, went over to the two chefs and asked if they were OK. Later, at the beginning of his speech, he addressed the tragic events in Paris and acknowledged Deletrain and Voisin, who are natives of France.
Said Black Salt Culinary co-owner, Timothy Hoffman, “To this day, every time I tell someone that story, I am moved to tears. It was such a poignant gesture for these people to have taken time away from an event that should have been all about them, to express compassion for Fabrice and Benjamin.”
That night had been the newly formed catering company’s first event. From then on Deletrain and Voisin along with Black Salt’s other owners, Timothy and Meredith Hoffman, Valeria Zanella Voisin and Kathy Stephan have focused not only on providing their clients with an elegant and unique culinary experience, they encourage clients and guests to interact with Black Salt’s staff.
Before establishing the catering company, the Hoffmans and Voisins, having moved to Florida from the Caribbean, opened Fathoms, a popular fine dining waterfront restaurant and bar in Cape Coral (formerly The Joint), and The French Press, a bakery and coffee shop that specializes in gourmet coffee, breakfast and lunch, as well as homemade gelato and other sumptuous desserts.
When Voisin met Deletrain (former executive chef of The Joint) for the first time, “There was a lot of brainstorming. We realized we were on the same page.” Fathoms ended up with two French executive chefs. Eventually, the two, along with Stephan and the Hoffmans launched upscale Black Salt Culinary.
“In the not so distant past, caterers stayed out of sight,” said Stephan. “They would come out of the kitchen, place the meal on the table, go back in the kitchen and close the door.”
“Our company represents a new age in catering. We love it when our clients and their guests engage us, watch the chefs prepare the meal and ask questions. Fabrice and Benjamin have had interesting, colorful careers. They enjoy sharing their stories.
“Our clients become our friends. We’re in constant contact.” There are meetings to plan the menu and discuss food and wine preferences. Black Salt works with their hosts in choosing perfect wines to complement each course. Does the client prefer to use their own china and flatware? How many guests will be attending the event? Should some of the repast be prepared using the client’s appliances, or would they rather the food arrive ready to be served? “We try to make it easy.” said Hoffman. “I don’t want the mashed potatoes but I want the pumpkin pie!”
Stephan added, “That’s why we chose the name, Black Salt Culinary. It’s not only a catering company. The word ‘culinary’ brings it home as to exactly what we do.” She summed up Black Salt’s relationship with their clients, “At the end of an evening’s event, after everything is cleaned and put away, our departure is accompanied not by a handshake, but by a hug and a kiss.”
Whether it is a private dinner for eight, birthday celebration, office party or a wedding for 200 guests, the owners are always present. They participate in food preparation, serve the food, fill drink glasses and make certain that everything goes smoothly throughout the event. “There are occasions when a client may want the meal delivered with no further services requested. Recently, we dropped off dinner for a family in Tarpon Point who were hosting a number of relatives. We placed the food on the counter. They thanked us and we went on our way,” said Hoffman.
Rubbing three fingers together as if he were feeling the texture of fine silk, Voisin described the origin of Black Salt Culinary’s name, “Hawaiian black lava salt…it comes from the volcanoes. It’s very fine and smooth.”
Voisin received a degree in hospitality in France. His culinary career began in Spain as the chef de partie at the Hyatt Regency La Manga Club. He spent years in the Caribbean as executive chef of Montpelier Plantation and Beach Club, a member of the prestigious Relais Chateaux group of luxury hotels. It was there he met the Hoffmans, who have considerable project management and hospitality expertise.
Deletrain grew up around food preparation. “My grandpa and my dad were chefs.” he explained. After graduating from culinary school in France, he developed his skills at esteemed Le Bistro de l’Étoile and Les Bouquinistes in Paris. Expressing his love of creative design, he mused, “I’ve always like to draw.” His, and Voisin’s artistic flair is revealed in the resplendent masterpieces prepared for Black Salt’s clients.
Rare and refined as the black salt it’s named for, Black Salt Culinary is not a “deviled eggs and potato salad catering company. We provide high end services to our clients.” said Hoffman. “People ask me all the time why we chose Cape Coral. There’s an old mindset around here regarding food services like ours, ‘You can’t do that in Cape Coral!’ We’re convinced the Cape is ready for what we what we have to offer. Cape Coral needs us and Cape Coral wants us.”