Reinventing Sweet Snacks
Seattle’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe happens to be one of those warm cozy environments where customers just want to come inside and stay awhile. The menu is dotted with numerous wonders of bakery and pastry deliciousness, from the morning glory muffin filled with pineapple, carrots, apples, coconut, walnuts and raisins, to the orange hazelnut pinwheel featuring croissant dough rolled with roasted hazelnuts and topped with fresh orange glaze. The warmth and good food that are the soul of Macrina Bakery owe their origins to owner-chef Leslie Mackie, one of the most esteemed figures on the national artisan baking scene.
Nearly three years ago, Mi Kim joined Macrina where she is now head pastry chef. Her immediate contributions are making a name for Kim on the national scene. “I love making upside down cakes, the caramel top is so delicious,” she exclaims. “And I’ll never stop loving croissant dough. We roll and turn our dough by hand, and there is something really satisfying about getting flour all over and smelling the dough and feeling it as we work with it.”
A new favorite ingredient of Kim’s is feuilletine, which are tiny wafer crumbs. “I am a huge texture person and feuilletine is amazing. You can coat it in chocolate to use it as a crunchy layer or add it to truffles to add a surprising crunch!” Kim strives to innovate through the use of ingredients by trying to do new things with what the bakery has on hand – continuously thinking of a different angle or flavor combination that is familiar yet different.
At Macrina, the single biggest food trend impacting the bakery business involves the very ingredients they use on a daily basis, and how customers are more aware nowadays and want to know what they are consuming, how it was grown and how it was handled. “We want the best for our customers,” Kim points out, “which is why Macrina is in the process of becoming GMO free.”
An Impressive History
One of three Macrina locations today, the Belltown Café is the original Macrina Bakery and Café. This spot opened with six employees, a French Bongard oven as the centerpiece, a stack of convection ovens, one mixer and an espresso machine, an antique display case and a lot of ambition. Right off the bat the bakery offered a full line of artisan breads, ranging from full-flavored, naturally leavened sourdoughs to American favorites like Rustic Potato loaf. The pastry section was limited to a few muffins, coffee cakes and tarts. The cozy bakery was soon bursting at the seams, and so Macrina took over an adjoining retail space in 1994, which became the café. Today, the product line of breads, pastries, cakes and savory selections is extensive.
The idea for Macrina Bakery & Cafe existed long before it first opened. The seed was planted while Leslie Mackie was in cooking school and continued to take root throughout her early restaurant career and during her travels. In the search for a name for this new bakery, she wanted something not connected to any country or culture, yet reflecting her philosophy. First liking the sound of the name Macrina, the 4th century Greek mystic and visionary, Mackie later discovered through research that Macrina started one of the first communities that held property in common and emphasized a simple, self-sufficient life. Caring as much as the owner does about the connection between bread and the communion of sharing that happens at meals, there is a natural bond with the philosophy of Macrina’s community.
Much has been written about the mystique of bread and how a simple and elementary food has such magnetism— the soul and passion of the baker transcends into the loaf that is shared with the community.
Based on the model of the traditional old-world village bakery; the bread has unique characteristics because of the use of available regional ingredients. The rustic European breads and baked goods from Macrina use as many indigenous products as possible as well as organic grains and natural ingredients. The philosophy of the bakery is to enhance both the natural products and the flavor of the various grains. The baked goods are created from Northwest apples, potatoes, cranberries and hazelnuts, as well as wheat, rye, barley and buckwheat flour. Macrina Casera, the house bread, was developed to be eaten at any meal, complementing all foods. The bakers at Macrina love bread and that shows in the quality. This is bread that celebrates the tradition of breaking bread with family and friends.
Expanding Array of Pastries
On the pastry side, Kim manages all three stores’ retail pastry departments. Each store has its own retail pastry team that is responsible for baking the majority of the pastries you see in the case each day. Kim helps out in production when needed, work with the assistant managers of each store to ensure customers are getting consistent products that are up to Macrina’s standards. Kim also works on new product development and other managerial tasks such as the schedule, planning and meetings. Creativity is her passion. Kim says she loves to take on special requests, and "the willingness to please is what drives my success."
Kim grew up in her parents’ restaurant helping out on weekends. When it came time for her to choose a career, she knew it was going to involve food. She decided to go to pastry school to learn the intricacies of baking and pastry. Her mentor and coach Tina Powers recommended her to Mackie during an event where they met, which landed Kim an internship at Macrina. She was hired on, got promoted to assistant manager at the McGraw location, started helping out with wedding cakes and eventually took over, moved around as an assistant manager to the other locations. Eventually, the need arose from someone to focus on retail pastry and they created the pastry chef position.
Macrina works as a team, and the staff is inspiring. Traveling is also inspiring for Kim. “I’ve always thought it to be so interesting how certain foods are so popular in one area and not elsewhere,” she says. “I love the joy that baked goods bring. Sweets trigger a sense of celebration to me and that is why I love baking. I get to create something delicious for someone to enjoy.”