A little more than a decade after opening an ice cream cart in Portland, Oregon, Kim and Tyler Malek have built a small frozen treat empire that stretches from coast to coast.
Kim and Tyler Malek are cousins and co-founders of Salt & Straw.
“We had this dream of creating space for people to get together,” Tyler Malek said. “They get to meet their friends and neighbors, learn about the food around them, and we curate it that way — providing an experience for people.”
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The pair felt that ice cream in particular was the perfect vehicle to bring people from all walks of life together.
“We realized really quickly that an ice cream shop is this really cool community gathering place where you can come as you are, regardless of how you look, what your political viewpoints are, what your food preferences are — there’s always something to (make you) feel welcomed at an ice cream shop,” Tyler Malek said.
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Beyond just bringing people together, The Maleks also hope to get those people talking and considering the world around them.
“A really great example is like two years ago. We worked with nonprofits up and down the west coast to talk about food waste,” Tyler Malek said. “And we had flavors that were made with foods that were about to get thrown away — like 3-day-old bread or grains from a brewery that were gonna get tossed. All these things, we were able to play with — fun, interesting ingredients that cause people to kind of stop and ask, “How did you do that? Why did you do that?’ And it provokes this conversation in a really safe space around (a) really, really interesting and delicious flavor.”
Salt & Straw recently opened its Central Florida location at Disney Springs. Tyler Malek said it is essential to find the Florida flavors to incorporate into Salt & Straw’s ice cream.
“We have to find those fun stories also in Florida, and we have to infuse those into our flavors,” he said. “So finding farmers that are doing guava. We’re always working with local coffee roasters — like really kind of figuring out how do we take our foundation, our philosophy of using flavor and making flavor and actually allow that region to inform us and guide us.”
Salt & Straw has worked with Disney in the past, at the company’s park in California. Tyler Malek said he excited to join Disney Springs, as it has become a foodie destination.
“Disney Springs is — it’s wild,” Tyler Malek said. “(Disney has) made this, like, concerted effort to lean into becoming a food experience. And you can even see how many new restaurants are opening in Disney Springs. It’s really bonkers.”
In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Tyler Malek talks about developing Salt & Straw’s unique and funky flavors, including a new fried chicken ice cream. He also talks about how his company came to partner with Disney and an ice cream subscription service.
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Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.