By Jan Mercker

As a British mom of American kids, Wendy Salt remembers sitting at chilly high school football games, dreaming of a hearty, warming soup instead of traditional concession stand fare.

When the pandemic dealt a blow to her event planning business, Salt tapped into what she saw as a niche in the local market for cozy but nutritious comfort food. Salt and her son Charlie launched the Salt Pot Kitchen in January with a mission to bring high-quality authentic British food to Loudoun and Northern Virginia.

“I felt there was this hole in the market for this homemade, good quality but pretty basic food,” Salt said. “We really wanted it to be British-based.”

In the past year, the Salts have built a regional following for their savory meat pies, sausage rolls and hearty soups. The kitchen appeals to British expats from around the region craving a taste of home and local fans seeking to explore new flavors of comfort food.

For the mother and son team, it’s all about keeping it simple with authentic and comforting flavors and high-quality ingredients.

“We know it’s what we like. It’s what I fed my kids and what I kind of grew up on—we were hoping that other people would like it as well,” Salt said.

The Salts rent kitchen space at the Chefscape food incubator in Leesburg and have also started hosting pop-up markets at Chefscape. The Salts hosted their inaugural Guy Fawkes Day event last week with traditional bangers and mash, featuring sausage sourced from Purcellville-based Lothar’s Butchery.

Charlie Salt works in over a pot in one of the kitchens at ChefScape at his family’s restaurant Salt Pot Kitchen. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]

Fans can find the Salt Pot Kitchen at the Gilberts Corner Farmers Market on Saturdays and Sundays and at the EatLoco Farmers Market at One Loudoun on Saturdays. The Salts also do pop-ups at area wineries and breweries.

Salt hails from Surrey in southern England but traveled the world as the daughter of a British diplomat. She’s a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who worked in kitchens in Europe before moving to the DC area with her husband in the ’90s and raising their three children in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. 

In DC, Salt shifted gears and moved into international event planning, working for top DC-based firms before launching her own company, Salt Events. But when the pandemic rocked the event planning world, she decided it was time to act on a dream she’d been toying with for years. When Charlie Salt graduated from Loudoun Valley High School, he decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps and pursue a career as a professional chef, working at an area winery and at Salamander Resort but had also been itching to pursue his own business.

“We just suddenly said, ‘Hey why don’t we do this?’ We decided to join forces,” Salt said.

Mother and son share the cooking load. Charlie’s specialties include the kitchen’s popular beef and mushroom pies, cottage pies with beef and mashed potatoes and fan favorite sausage rolls, minced pork in a flaky pastry crust. 

“As basic as it is, it’s always so popular,” Salt said.

The kitchen also serves up Wiltshire Plaits, made of pork, apple and cheddar in a savory pastry crust; Cornish-style pasties, hand-held meat and potato pies; chicken and leek pies and a revolving menu of soups like roasted cauliflower, beef stew and creamy potato with cheddar and bacon. 

For Salt, it’s all about keeping it simple with authentic and comforting flavors and high-quality ingredients.

“We know it’s what we like. It’s what I fed my kids and what I kind of grew up on—we were hoping that other people would like it as well,” Salt said.

Salt lives near Lovettsville and sources the kitchen’s meats from area farms, including pork from Long Stone Farm and beef from Milcreek Farm, and has worked with Lothar’s to create authentic British bangers.

“It’s something that we really want to focus on,” Salt said. “We want to use good, quality ingredients. It just makes such a difference.”

The kitchen has been a hit with the region’s British expat community, especially as the pandemic limits travel opportunities, and locals looking for something different.

“There are a lot of British people in this area—although I had no idea quite how many,” Salt said. “Everyone has been so supportive—and not just British people. … A lot of people have traveled to England and they have good memories,” she said. “Everyone that comes up to us has got a little story.”

As the kitchen rounds out its first year in business, the Salts decided to celebrate with a Guy Fawkes event at Chefscape last week. The annual British observance celebrates the failure of an attempted assassination of King James I in 1605 and is marked in the UK with bonfires and fireworks every Nov. 5.

“It brings back huge memories for me from my childhood and my husband as well,” Salt said. “It’s kind of like the Fourth of July.”

Salt is planning additional pop-ups timed with British celebrations and is currently working on a holiday menu including traditional mince pies. 

Like many expats, Salt has been unable to return to the UK since the start of the pandemic and loves the idea of bringing those familiar flavors home.

“We want to focus on those things that are really British,” she said. “And bring the smells and the memories and the tastes of childhood”

For more information on the Salt Pot Kitchen, including a menu and pop-up locations, go to thesaltpot.com.