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Bakery Nouveau

Exquisite fun, part 1

Hopefully the career path you choose, and following your passion are one and the same. What should go along with that is having fun doing what you do. Sure, doing it well should be taken seriously, but as owner/baker William Leaman says, "it's just food."

Easy for him to say, considering he takes it seriously enough to have been the captain of the 2005 Bread Bakers Guild Team USA which won the Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking). He's serious. But he probably has more fun doing his work than most people you know. And it all started with…his parents, of course. "They only cooked two things together, enchiladas and candy. I remember potato candy and chocolate melted with oats and peanut butter. Candy has always been a thing with me. They couldn't turn their backs or I would have eaten it all. I'm probably one of the few kids whose mother told them to 'get out of my kitchen!'"

Jory Downer (l), team captain William Leaman (r) preparing for Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie 2005, courtesy of npr.org

William grew up in Arkansas and started working early to help his family. His first job was at B&B Barbecue (Betty and Bob's). He worked nights smoking things (some 'critters' you don't want to know about that people brought in) in the ovens out back. After a few years, he wanted to learn more. He interviewed with a friend of his dad's who owned a donut shop. "We went in at 6 p.m. and I smelled the aromas and did a walk through and realized there was air conditioning. I thought 'I'm in!' The owner asked me if I'd start at 10 p.m. that night, and work to 6 a.m. I was in 10 th grade." He stayed a few years, working through high school.

"Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a big college town. A new bakery came in, opened by a German guy, called The Bakerman. The second week it was open, I showed up. He did artisan breads in a huge oven with revolving shelves. He hired me and gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I'd say I wanted to make cakes and ask, 'what's a sponge cake?' He'd bring books in and work with me. He liked talking to customers and was happy to let me work in the back. That's where I like to be; I just want to make perfect food.

"In 1993-'94, the Ozark Brewing Company moved into town near the University. They hired a chef, Parker Lee, who had worked with Chef/Proprietor Patrick O'Connell from Inn at Little Washington, which was where you had to go for fine dining outside of D.C. He had graduated from the CIA at Hyde Park. Attending Hyde Park was unobtainable for me, so working with Parker was the closest I could get. I worked nights and could make what I wanted: Stromboli, bread, desserts. Working with him opened the world for me. I stayed about two years."

William met a couple of businessmen from Tulsa with a coffee bar concept and entered into a partnership with them. He was 22 and interested in learning the business side of things. He created desserts for 4-5 coffee shops. The partners expanded too quickly, and they needed to sell. "I had a best friend, Jane Gibson, who had moved from Fayetteville to Seattle and said I had to come see it. She lived on Alki. It had it all except bakeries!" William had met Heather, his future wife, so he brought her out for three days. They went back so she could get her architecture degree. He got out of his partnership ("I went to the University of IRS."), packed his back pack, and moved in temporarily with Jane and her two kids. "It was 1996 and I arrived during Folk Life, sitting on the lawn in the sun. I fell in love with the city and there were still no bakeries! I checked out Salty's on Alki and took the pastry chef job, went back and got Heather and we moved here. I spent a couple of years at Salty's, during which time I would drive 9 hours to California to attend week-long classes at the CIA at Greystone. I took a bread class taught by a World Cup baker who became my coach and mentor."

William with Bakery Nouveau creations

Bakery Nouveau

4737 California Ave SW
West Seattle, WA 98116
206-923-0534

137 15th Ave E
Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA 98112
206-858-6957

426 SW 153rd St
Burien, WA 98166
206-717-2100

bakerynouveau.com

Connie Adams/March 2018


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