Though Saint & Co. opened its doors in Durham, it has roots all over the South. Co-owners Jonathan St. Hilaire and KT Ward met while consulting for a hotel group in Florida. Jonathan, Saint & Co’s developer of all things sweet and delicious, grew up in Maine, but went to school at Guilford College in Greensboro. He attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and then moved to Atlanta where he was a pastry chef for over a decade before opening his first bakery in Atlanta and then Traverse City, Michigan before finding his way back to North Carolina. KT, the General Manager of Saint & Co, grew up in Pensacola and went to Baylor to study biology. He took pre-med courses as an undergraduate, but fell in love with the hospitality industry while working as a bartender during those same years.
The bakery counter at Saint & Co. is a feast for the eyes — gorgeous pastries arranged on platters beneath little glass domes, each one more beautiful than the next. The correct term for the particular type of pastry Jonathan is most passionate about making is viennoiseries. In French, it means “from Vienna.” Essentially, it’s a baked good that bridges the gap between boulangerie (bread from yeast-leavened dough, which Saint & Co also makes and sells) and patisserie (sweet pastries). St. Hilaire has trained with some of the best in the viennoiseries business, including Francois Payard, Bouley Bakery, and Pierre Herme, a French pastry chef and chocolatier once called the “Picasso of pastry” by Vogue.
But there’s a lot more to Saint & Co than those amazing pastries. They also have locally roasted coffee (by Cafe Feminino), fresh green salads and sandwiches, bread by the loaf, Neapolitan style pizza (made in-house, of course), and a beer and wine menu. According to KT, the concept for this sweet-smelling space is one that offers diners high quality food and a pleasant dine-in experience without the server. That makes it a perfect space for all kinds of people: students lingering over coffee, business people grabbing a quick lunch on the go, or couples and families enjoying a relaxed dinner.
KT and Jonathan chose Ninth Street for a couple of reasons. First, they love the diversity of the area and the friendliness of their neighbors and customers. “For an urban area,” KT says, “people are very willing to talk.” Opening the restaurant on Ninth Street has been an incredibly positive experience for Saint & Co and they are impressed with the burgeoning art and food scene throughout Durham. Also, it’s great to be in a location where it’s easy to access the clean, organic, and locally sourced ingredients that are essential to Saint & Co.’s philosophy. To that end, they are happy to be sourcing 100% organic, non-GMO, freshly ground flour from Lindley Mills. Other North Carolina vendors include Asheville-based Carolina Ground, Bull City Greens, and Siano Mozzarella, based in Charlotte. This spring and summer, they look forward to building more relationships with farmers at local markets.
Here’s a little more about the dynamic duo behind this great new space:
Tools of the trade you can’t live without?
Jonathan: A dough sheeter, lattes, and chocolate croissants (for snacking!).
What are you reading?
Jonathan: Sweet Devotion: A Contemporary Approach to Artisanal Viennoiserie (or any cookbook by Spanish pastry chef Daniel Alvarez).
KT: The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz, a book about strategies for scaling your business.
When you’re not in the bakery, you’re probably:
Jonathan: … fly fishing.
KT: … at the gym.