Eat & Drink

Salt to Taste

At Frasca Food and Wine, sipping sport drinks is part of the kitchen’s quality-control regimen. 

June 2014

—Photo Illustration by Sean Parsons

Bobby Stuckey wasn’t used to hearing regular complaints. As a co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine, Stuckey received far more raves than rants from diners at his nationally acclaimed Boulder restaurant. That is, until every July, when customers would start to gripe that their food was too salty. It was happening often enough that the master sommelier used his own highly trained palate (he won a James Beard award for outstanding wine service in 2013) to conduct a taste test and confirm the verdict.

Stuckey’s training as an endurance athlete led him to the source of the over-seasoning syndrome. A pro cyclist turned marathoner, Stuckey knows firsthand how sweating profusely flushes salts out of the body. “When you’re dehydrated, you crave salt,” Stuckey says. “You season to taste. That’s how you cook.” But with Boulder’s summer temperatures approaching 100 degrees, Frasca’s chefs were running dry and their abilities to taste food accurately were suffering. In all fairness, this happens at many restaurants during the warmer months. In fact, cooks on a line can lose 10 pounds of water weight in a single summer, says Stuckey. The upshot? Frasca’s chefs were dousing food with salt because their own bodies needed it. 

So Stuckey began offering his line chefs the same solution he relies on to keep himself hydrated through the summer months: Boulder-based Skratch Labs’ Exercise Hydration Mix. Water wasn’t the ticket (it replenishes fluids but not salts) and neither was soda (blasts of sugar throw palates off by making those peaks of sweetness seem like the norm). Even Gatorade was too sugary. But as a not-too-sweet electrolyte drink, Skratch’s formula seemed like a perfect choice. Once Stuckey started stocking bottles of it throughout the kitchen, Frasca’s over-seasoning gripes ceased. 

“Restaurants everywhere have this problem in the summer, but so few people are even awake at the wheel to notice it,” says Stuckey, who admits that his sport-drink remedy is unconventional. “In the old days, the classic chef was an overweight cigarette smoker.” But at Frasca, the advantages of Colorado’s fitness culture extend into the kitchen. Says Stuckey, “Whether you’re riding a bike or tasting wine, you have to be in tune with what your body is feeling.”