Managing Growth at Flour Bakery + Cafe
As the co-owner of Flour and Myers+Chang in Boston, Joanne Chang acknowledges that her main responsibilities are to help their team in their jobs in making Flour/M+C strong and to anticipate the future and prepare for growth. “In other words, I focus on ensuring that we are making awesome food, offering warm welcoming service, running a healthy business and making Flour/M+C a great place for both staff and guests,” says Chang, winner of the 2016 James Beard Outstanding Baker award.
“I would like to think that one of my greatest skills is determining what flavors and tastes people will crave at Flour,” she says. “I'm constantly tasting and testing and making sure that everything we make is something that you want to eat again and again. I also think of myself as a strong and thorough teacher, whether in pastry or management. My pastry chefs and cooks come to Flour to learn, and I'm dedicated to ensuring that they learn the best way to make a cake, shape a croissant, roll out a tart shell, give feedback, run a tight kitchen, or lead with confidence and conviction.”
Flour Bakery + Café recently added another location to its list of Boston-area bakeries. Chang announced plans for the store in mid-2016 along with two others, this new location being the third of three to open. It is located behind the Prudential Center in Boston.
"I love being near a hub," Chang says. "In this instance, Berklee and the Pru are our neighbors, and the residential neighborhoods tucked in between will give us that friendly home-away-from-home feel we love at Flour."
Flour is known for its famous sticky buns, in addition to its other delicious pastries and savory sandwiches. The new location continues those traditions, while offering a vibrant yet cozy dining environment.
“I get the majority of my job satisfaction in working with my managers to guide them to be better leaders. It is my responsibility to give them the tools they need to be great at their jobs and learning and growing constantly,” Chang says.
Impressively, as an honors graduate of Harvard College with a degree in applied mathematics and economics, Chang left behind a lucrative high-paying career as a management consultant to become a culinary professional. Her beginnings in the restaurant world were humble. She started as garde-manger cook at Boston's renowned Biba restaurant. Her first baking job was as a pastry cook at Bentonwood Bakery in Newton, Massachusetts. She had been a line cook at Biba in Boston for a year and was eager to try her hand in pastry. “Once I stepped into the pastry kitchen I knew I would always be in pastry. I fell in love with the pace, the precision, the obsessiveness and, of course, the pastries.” From Bentonwood, she moved to Rialto in Cambridge where she was the pastry chef for two years.
Chang moved to New York City in 1997 to work in the cake department of the critically acclaimed Payard Patisserie and Bistro where she helped Francois Payard open the original Payard Patisserie on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Returning to Boston a year later with dreams of opening up her own pastry shop, she brought her French and American training to Mistral where she was the pastry chef until summer 2000.
In 2000, she opened Flour, a bakery and café, in Boston's South End. Flour features breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads. In 2007 she opened a second branch of Flour in the Fort Point Channel area, in 2010 a third branch in Cambridge near MIT and Central Square, and in 2013 a fourth branch in the Back Bay.
She also opened a Chinese restaurant called Myers + Chang with her husband Christopher Myers in the South End neighborhood in the fall of 2007. An avid runner, she competed in every Boston Marathon from 1991 to 2006. She is the author two cookbooks: Flour, Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery+Cafe and Flour Too, Indispensible Recipes for the Cafe's Most Loved Sweets and Savories.
Her energetic commitment to excellence extends beyond the kitchen. She writes pastry articles and reviews cookbooks for Fine Cooking magazine. She teaches classes and advises pastry cooks both within the bakery and at area cooking schools. “I would like to find a bit more balance in my life. I love work and I know I need to balance it out with vacations and downtime. Spending time with my husband is above all my most favorite thing to do ever, so this should be a very attainable goal!”
“I'm always asking for feedback. It's a signature style for me to ask constantly from all of my staff how they think we are doing and how am I doing. They help me grow!” Chang says with an enthusiastic smile. “I also read voraciously. I love cookbooks, management articles, and the business section of the newspaper. My staff often comes to me with ideas, magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, restaurants, cafes, bakeries. Everywhere I go I'm looking to see what other people are doing and what sounds/looks/tastes amazing.”
Keeping the customer in mind, Chang innovates through the use of ingredients that today’s consumer want. Allergy issues are a big deal today, and Flour’s owner is always keeping her customers’ needs in mind, using feedback through social media to keep the conversation going. “Allergy issues are big. We have made sure to mark our menu items Vegan, Nut Free, Gluten Free, Low Sugar, etc., to respond to guests who have various allergies. We are not a gluten or nut free facility but we do take care not to cross contaminate with baking parchment and utensils as much as we can.”