When the Salty Donut popped up in Miami in December 2015, it was an immediate sensation.
As if enchanted by a spell, everyone in the Magic City craved a doughnut and often waited in lines that stretched for blocks to score one of the decadent pastries.
Owners Amanda Pizarro and Andy Rodriguez, who partnered with executive pastry chef Max Santiago, found gold in their dough, tapping into the hearts of Miamians with creative flavors like maple bacon and mimosa.
Though the partners opened their first brick-and-mortar shop in Wynwood just a few months ago and the operation seems as successful as ever, Santiago has left the Salty Donut.
"It was time to part ways. It was very sudden when I finally did," Santiago says. He explains he left the Salty Donut last week but held off on announcing it until Pizarro and Rodriguez returned from a trip. "I waited until they told the staff on Thursday. Officially, I haven't been there the entire week."
Though Santiago wouldn't say exactly why the partnership was over, the Salty Donut's owners have a reputation for running a secretive shop. For a 2016 feature about the South Florida doughnut scene, a New Times reporter was required to sign a nondisclosure agreement before being allowed access to the Salty Donut for the story.
"I wish them well. I just didn't think it was the right partnership," Santiago says.
Santiago made sure to leave things in place. "They've built a great name for themselves, and they have the basic recipes. The team is ready. They've been working without me this past week, and the lines are just as long."
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The talented pastry chef found his calling at the Wynwood phenomenon. "I've been a pastry chef for a really long time. I've learned a lot, and I've learned what not to do. I found a special calling in doughnuts."
Although no location or date is set, Santiago plans to open his own pastry shop. "I want to do something completely on my own. I've got a lot of options right now," he says.
"I've seen a taste of what is possible. I'm hungry and I want more. I'm going to grow and shine bigger and better."