Restaurateur embraces change and making memories

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  • Kristin Voisin at Toast in the Stumptown Market Place in Whitefish. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    Detail of a fresh espresso and some of the locally sourced pastries at Toast.

  • Kristin Voisin at Toast in the Stumptown Market Place in Whitefish. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    Detail of a fresh espresso and some of the locally sourced pastries at Toast.

When Kristin Voisin talks about evolving, both as a restaurateur and as a person, it seems clear that embracing change is for her a fundamental value.

The text of the menu for her latest Whitefish-based restaurant, Toast, features an observation from Voisin. She advises, in part: “Always hold onto the truth, don’t let others sway your heart. Don’t compromise yourself for the sake of temporal groovyness.”

Of course, change itself and holding the line on personal compromise can be deeply challenging.

Voisin acknowledged Monday that closing groovy Truby’s in August 2017 was difficult.

She had re-opened Truby’s to much fanfare in 2015 on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. At the time, one news outlet described the eatery as a “beloved restaurant.”

Truby’s first opened in 1996. It carried the middle name of her now ex-husband, Michael Truby Voisin.

Before its return to downtown in 2015, the restaurant, renowned for wood-fired pizza, had closed in 2006 and departed downtown. It operated for a time out of a pizza trailer and then as a restaurant at the Meadow Lake Golf Course in Columbia Falls.

Voisin said she decided to close Truby’s again in 2017 for a variety of reasons. For one thing, she said, running the 6,000-square-foot restaurant and wrangling a staff of more than 40 had wrung the joy from the job.

“I just sort of lost my passion for it,” she said. “I’m passionate about creating an atmosphere for people to enjoy. And about making good memories.”

On June 13, she opened Toast on Spokane Avenue in the Stumptown Marketplace, a quirky Whitefish venue with vendors offering a range of options for food and drink. There are also booths for a jeweler and a fine art photographer.

Toast operates there in just 300 square feet of cooking and counter space. And that suits Voisin just fine.

“I’m so happy here,” she said. “My heart is singing again.”

Born in Bend, Oregon, Voisin moved to Whitefish at age 6 with her family. Her mother, Susie Moore, and brother, Jeff Raper, are Realtors in Whitefish. Another brother, Ron, died in Whitefish in 1992. He was 31.

At age 10, Voisin worked at the Orpheum Theatre in Whitefish, where her duties included selling popcorn.

“We owned a motel at the time and I didn’t want to clean rooms, so I went out looking for a job,” she said.

At 12, she landed a job at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

Voisin attended college and then served in the U.S. Navy from 1988 to 1992. She spent time in Iceland and also at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

“I loved it,” she said.

After discharge, she returned to Whitefish.

Voisin is the mother of four children: Maggie, Tucker, Kelsey and Michael.

Maggie, a professional freestyle skier, has competed in two Olympics; her twin, Tucker, also is passionate about skiing; Kelsey is a pastry chef in Portland, Oregon; Michael is a student at Montana State University.

Voisin said visiting Kelsey in Portland and a restaurant there provided the inspiration for Toast.

The menu at Toast includes unique ingredients for a variety of open-faced sandwiches built atop artisan breads. For example, “The Empire Builder” offers an “over-medium egg, stone-ground mustard, green scallions, tomato and white cheddar on a grilled brioche Pullman.”

In addition, there are Belgian waffles, a soup of the day and two salad choices. Fans of Truby’s might be heartened to learn that Toast’s menu includes stone-baked pizzas, including the “Al ‘Pie’ Cino.”

“I think our pizzas are just as good, if not better, than Truby’s’,” Voisin said.

Beverages include, among others: coffee, espresso, cappuccino, teas, a milkshake featuring salted caramel ice cream and Italian sodas.

“People haven’t really found us over here yet,” Voisin said, noting that the Stumptown Marketplace “has great potential.”

Toast also offers catering, she said, with an emphasis on “small” and “simple” and “elegant.” One client who had visitors in town hired Toast to prepare and serve breakfasts and dinners, which freed the hosts and visitors to spend their days at Glacier National Park and elsewhere in the region, Voisin said.

What does she envision for her next evolution as a restaurateur?

Voisin said she did her best when her children were growing up to foster meaningful conversation around the dinner table.

She said she would like to structure a restaurant that would routinely devote a portion of its proceeds to feeding hungry children in the Flathead Valley.

Each month, the restaurant would invite 10 of these children for a family-style meal. They would help with cooking and preparation, Voisin said, and there would be a focus during the meal on providing the children a safe place to talk about their lives, their hopes and dreams, their highs and lows.

And beyond that aspiration?

Voisin said she dreams of someday being active in an orphanage in Mexico.

For the time being, Voisin is focused on growing the clientele for Toast and its small-scale catering.

“We’re getting really good reviews,” she said. “Customer service comes first. I’ve learned that you can’t make everyone happy.

“This isn’t Truby’s. This is Toast.”

For more information, go to: www.toastwhitefish.com

Duncan Adams may be reached at 758-4407 or dadams@dailyinterlake.com.

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