I met with salad dressing maker Shane Stay, of Collinsville, recently. He’s a Collinsville High School grad with a master’s in communications from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He also has roots in California. In 2008, he launched Leaf Dressing, a healthy sesame vinaigrette.
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, he started experimenting with the recipe at home.
“It started as a hobby; I was building it one step at a time on my kitchen table — friends were urging me to bottle it,” he said.
Leaf Dressing ended up winning several awards on the West Coast, where he had co-owned a restaurant in Petaluma, Calif.
“I was juggling the restaurant and the dressing, two business at once. Then the dressing took precedence, and I decided to dedicate myself to it full time.”
In 2013, he came out with a second, spicier, version of Leaf Dressing. Both are available online, as well as in some St. Louis and Illinois stores, including Happy Hop Homebrew in downtown Belleville.
Shane, who didn’t want to give his age, and whose legal name is Shane Hanson, is also a former professional soccer player. He wrote a book in 2014, “Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet” ($10), which he often pairs with his dressing ($6) to sell together for $11 during demonstrations or at food festivals, with some of the profits going to a charity.
Leaf Dressing is bottled in Collinsville, with storage and distribution in Chesterfield, Mo. It won a double gold metal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in 2014.
“That was validation,” said Shane of his hard work.
And if you think the supermarket shelves are packed with enough salad dressing, Shane would point out that not only are smaller businesses often eager to try something new, but his dressing has a lot going for it — besides dressing a salad.
“What I found out was that people were using the dressing not just as that, but as a marinade, too,” he said.
Leaf also has less ingredients than the majority of other dressings, with no high fructose corn syrup or sodium benzoate, common in many store-bought products.
“That’s the heart of it, that it’s close to homemade,” he said.
Shane said one of his favorite ways to use the dressing is to combine it with kale, slices of avocado and onion and tortilla chips. Among customers, he’s heard of a variety of ways to use Leaf Dressing, including adding it to eggs to make an omelet with spinach, mushrooms, pepper, bell peppers and white onion. It also makes a great marinade for chicken and salmon, he said.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.