ost chefs dream of owning and operating their own restaurant. And if a chef has been doing that successfully for a while, there comes a time when it seems like a good idea to open up another place.
Sometimes it’s because of customer demand, or sometimes it’s because the chef becomes bored with the particular type of cuisine he or she has been serving and wants to branch out. In the case of Stephen Williams, chef and owner of Covington’s Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar, and his wife Jessica, it was a desire to feed themselves that prompted the idea for the soon-to-open Son & Soil.
The Williamses were actually hoping someone else would come along and open the type of quick, convenient-yet-healthy restaurant needed to fill the gap they’re anticipating Son & Soil will plug on Covington’s Main Street.
“I’ve been down here for 10 years now, and we’ve always wanted something besides bar food,” Stephen says. “I mean, bar food is delicious, but chicken wings and french fries everyday gets a little old, and I was actually hoping someone would put in a Smoothie King for years. We just always wanted something simple like that that we could grab, that was not fried, just healthy.”
When the space that formerly held the Cake Rack Bakery on MainStrasse’s Main Street opened up (the Cake Rack recently relocated to Findlay Market), Stephen and Jessica decided to take things into their own hands.
“Somebody got in contact with us saying, ‘Hey, this space is available,’ and I walked down and met them one night, and one thing led to another,” Stephen says. “It was literally a one-day decision.”
Jessica will be running the day-to-day operations at Son & Soil and is planning a simple carry-out menu based on healthy, feel-good food.
“We really like Total Juice (Plus) downtown,” she says. “We’ve always said that something like that would work really well over here — a combination of sandwich wraps, soups, salad options and a focus on juices and smoothies.”
They’ll be working with Sixteen Bricks Artisan Bakehouse; Jessica is hoping they’ll do bagels for sandwiches — maybe a toasted bagel with fresh avocado for breakfast? She’s also looking into making her own granolas. True to Stephen’s cooking style, ingredients will be sourced from local farmers. And all packaging and serve ware will be biodegradable.
Stephen is also working with the FDA to be able to sell housemade, shelf-stable packaged foods at Son & Soil. Until that comes through, the shop will be able to sell refrigerated items such as Bouquet’s popular mustard. Additional plans for the future include bottling freshly made juices and possibly providing boxed lunches next spring or summer.
Jessica is more than ready to helm Son & Soil. For almost five years she’s done everything from serving wine at Bouquet to acting as staff therapist, principal and janitor, she says.
“I think I’m looking forward to having something just a little more laid-back,” she says. “It’ll be an extension of Bouquet — I mean, we’re taking one of the employees from here and she’s going to work there as well — so I think it’s going to be like the little brother.”
Just as the case was with Bouquet, Stephen and his buddy, contractor Tony Doolin, are doing all the construction on the tiny Son & Soil. Stephen’s construction knowledge came during a stint with Doolin’s remodeling business during college. Due to Son & Soil’s small size, Stephen will use the kitchen at Bouquet as its commissary.
“I’m having to think more vertically [at Son & Soil] because the space is so tight,” he says. “It’s all of 500 square feet. Maybe a little bit bigger, but it’s small. That’s why we’re planning on probably 90 percent of our food being to go.”
As for the name of the restaurant, that came partially from the couple’s infant son, Findlay, and from Stephen’s love of the simplicity of the soil.
“We were chatting with two good friends, and one of them said he loved the name Sun & Soil, and I also loved it, but changed it for Findlay,” Stephen says.
The couple is also really excited to be adding something new to their beloved MainStrasse Main Street.
“We think it will be a fun addition to the street,” Jessica says. “There’s a lot coming up, and I think it’ll add a nice little flair, something that’s not being done right now.”
SON & SOIL is scheduled to open in late August at 627 Main St., Covington. For more info, visit Bouquet’s Facebook page.