Mani Niall, Michael Jackson’s personal chef from pre-Thriller days, staged a unique twist for the grand opening of his new Sweet Bar Bakery in downtown Oakland. A flash mob performed the Thriller dance outside the front of the bakery during a Jan. 13 grand opening party, in which customers enjoyed complimentary coffee, cookies and birthday cake.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2012, Sweet Bar Bakery has renovated the corner of the Packard Lofts building, breathing new life into the historic MacFarlane’s Candy and Ice Cream showroom at 24th and Broadway in Oakland. Niall said he held a soft opening for his new bakery on Nov. 30, 2012, and wanted to have a grand opening that would generate even more buzz.

Sweet Bar Bakery specializes in fresh baked artisan pastries and organic espresso, coffee and tea, lunch on grilled panini flatbreads, soup and salad, cupcakes and much more. There is a front patio, indoor seating, and stools at the bar.

Rich, delicious baking traditions are combined with organic, fair trade and local.  Sweet Bar Bakery pays the same attention to ingredients that most restaurants do: Bay Area chocolate, organic dairy, fruit from local farmers, organic and heirloom flour.  There are options for vegan baked goods and gluten free muffins, cookies and cakes.

INFO cards on each of baked good conveys the essential information — name of each delectable item, type of flour or grain, how it is sweetened, and whether or not there are dairy or eggs and what type of oil, shortening or butter.  If you need more information, feel free to ask.

Previously, Mani Niall, (dubbed “Baker to the Stars” by Eating Well magazine in 1992), owned and operated a very successful bakery with a 20-year run. As the founder of Mani’s Bakery in Los Angeles in 1989, Niall created and refined a unique style of baking.

He learned his craft alongside Chef Akasha Richmond (of Los Angeles’ celebrated Akasha restaurant), at the Golden Temple, a classic old school vegetarian restaurant. They revamped the restaurant, making a name for themselves as innovative chefs and attracting an eclectic Hollywood clientele. Michael Jackson, a restaurant regular while he was recording Thriller in a nearby studio, whisked Niall off to become his first private chef.

After several years as a private chef and caterer, Niall noticed a lack of great baked goods within the natural and organic foods sphere. Most places were devoted to one culinary idea, such as whole grain, low fat or vegan. Niall decided he would open a great bakery with an all-inclusive menu celebrating good food; no matter what your dietary choices you would find something in the bakery case.  

With this credo, he opened Mani’s Bakery, an organic, artisan venture located on Fairfax in Los Angeles. The bakery has been profiled in Food & Wine, Details, LA Times, the Hollywood Reporter, People, Vogue, Pastry Arts, Shape, Elle, Longevity and Vegetarian Times. 

Since then he has written three cookbooks, which reveal the world of baking with natural and organic ingredients - Sweet & Natural Baking (the Mani’s Bakery cookbook), Covered in Honey (exploring the world of varietal honeys) and Sweet! (discovering how to bake with sugars from around the globe). His fourth cookbook, Good Morning Baking, is on the way in spring 2013.