Great Shakes

A Bloomfield Hills native and his business partners spice up the market with their creative gourmet salt blends
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As far as Bloomfield Hills native Christopher McVety was concerned, salt was just that processed, iodized stuff in the familiar dark-blue box that pictures a little girl holding an umbrella.

But that was before he enrolled in a cooking class in his adopted city of Chicago and became fascinated with the history of natural salt, with its differences in texture and color  — depending on its origin.

McVety wasn’t involved with food, at that point, except for his appreciation of dining and good restaurants. A 2000 University of Michigan Law School graduate with a demanding day job as a partner at the law firm Reed Smith, McVety is, by night, a self-described foodie.

He says it struck him in his visits to restaurants in Chicago and also Traverse City, where he frequently visited his family’s lake house, that though chefs were meticulous with dish ingredients, the eateries put ordinary table salt in the shakers on the table — quite a gaffe, in his opinion.

He began a blog about salt — The Saltscribe — covering just about everything anyone would want to know about natural salt, and then went further.

Teaming with his brother, Tyler, who created and oversees the Web site and now is chief operations officer, and Eric Nittolo, the executive chef at the Boathouse in Traverse City, they came up with a plan to produce gourmet salt blends using an array of natural salts, herbs, spices, and other sustainable, organic ingredients.

And so Beyond the Shaker was born. Nittolo, who has a background in analytical biochemistry, devises flavor profiles and hand-blends the salt mixtures in 5-pound batches in such flavors as citrus basil, hickory maple, garlic shallot, and Windy-City celery — a blend Nittolo created to mimic the taste of the Chicago hot dog. They’re sold in 1-1/2- to 2-ounce portions and packaged in jars handmade in Italy.

In July, the company began selling gourmet salt mixtures, pure salt, and salt accessories online. They’re also branching out to wholesale and retail outlets.

Underscoring the family involvement, the brothers point out that their first two wholesale customers were snared by their parents, Diane and Jerry McVety, who carry samples of the gourmet salt with them wherever they go. Information: beyondtheshaker.com.

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