A Conversation with Single Thread

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In 2016, Kyle and Katina Connaughton opened SingleThread – their farm, inn and restaurant in Sonoma County. This year, they won the Miele One To Watch Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We spoke to them in an exclusive interview.  


“We are showcasing the best of our community in Sonoma County on a particular day in this particular place through our work on SingleThread farms as well as the restaurant.”


On the creation of SingleThread


Katina: “We have always envisioned the experience in its totality. We knew that we wanted the restaurant, guestrooms as well as an agricultural component. However, it was a long process to get there. We have been together since we were teenagers, but we wanted to evolve individually and collectively before we took the next step. We waited for our daughters to grow up and for us to gain more knowledge and experience, for example through living abroad.”


Kyle: “We waited to be able to do it on our own terms. There wasn’t just a day when we thought ‘now we are ready’, but the process took many years of planning and finding a team as well as two years of construction. By the time we actually opened our doors, we had been working on SingleThread for almost five years. And then one day, all of a sudden, your doors are open.”


Katina: “And I remember thinking: I am not ready yet!”


On Californian and international influences on their work


Kyle: “The biggest outside influence is our time in Japan. We incorporated a lot of the Japanese culture and philosophy. However, we are not a Japanese restaurant. We took our experiences there and applied them to our local community. Especially through the farm, we are deeply connected to the seasons and heritage of Sonoma County.”


Katina: “I think it is the spirit of Sonoma County – the makers, the artisans – with Japanese sensibilities.”


Kyle: “The omotenashi hospitality is for, us besides some of having one of the best cuisines in the world, an essential Japanese feature. It is a very warm and genuine hospitality that goes beyond good service. It is more than technically good service, but rather the feeling of coming home.”

On the use of technology at SingleThread


Kyle: “We feel that most people today need time and a space where they can disconnect from their busy lives, phones and technology in order to reconnect with their loved ones. Of course, technology empowers a lot of what we do, particularly as we are located in Northern California, close to Silicon Valley. However, we always hide technology from our guests, so that all processes for them happen seamlessly.”


That starts even before guests arrive. We dialogue with them about the reason they are coming or dietary needs, so we can tailor the experience and the menu to them individually and the dynamic of their group. In the dining room, we use directional speakers over each table, we worked with a lighting designer to create seven different stages over the course of the evening. The music follows that pattern as well. They are all things that the guest doesn’t necessarily notice, but they do enhance the experience.”


Katina (laughing): “And don’t forget our amazing Japanese toilets!”

On working together


Katina: “I think it comes to us very naturally, it’s a great collaboration. Our skillsets complement each other so well and we have the pleasure and privilege being in constant dialogue concerning the farm, the restaurant, and the hotel.”


Kyle: “It is back and forth between two 50/50 sides that we need to complete the experience for our guests. Once the crops are growing the farm pushes us into the direction of which ingredients we will be able to use. It is our job to present what they have been working on for months or a year in the best possible way in the short time of an evening.”


Katina: “I can’t do what I do without Kyle and I don’t think he could do what he does without me, so we have immense respect and appreciation for one another.”


On becoming “immer besser”, always better


Kyle: “A philosophy that we share with our team at SingleThread is the idea of the Japanese “kaizen”, constant improvement. We reflect daily about how we can strengthen the impact we have on our guests, our community and ultimately the world through what we do. That is why we are even more proud to be this year’s Miele One To Watch restaurant as the award as well as the company are so much about working on yourself and becoming better every day.”


Interview: Franziska Winterling
Photos: © Cristopher Santos

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