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October wine dinner


Bakery Nouveau

Exquisite fun, part 2

Intent on continuing his own improvement, William decided to try for an internship at the National Baking Center at the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis. They took two interns a year for a six-month commitment. "I knew it would be a foundation for me to move up in the industry. It was very intense. Out of more than 20 people in the program, only four of us made it out in six months. In my little time off, I would ride a bike around all the lakes in the area. I lost 50 pounds while I was there." In the meantime, Heather got a job with an architectural firm in downtown Seattle.

William returned to Seattle in the summer of 1999 and started making calls. A friend worked at Bellagio in Las Vegas and knew of jobs for the new Paris hotel. "They had 10 different restaurants in the hotel and hired French chefs, some who had MOF awards (master craftsmen). I wanted to work with an MOF chef and spoke a little French; I got the executive assistant pastry chef job. Chef Jean Claude insisted everything be made from scratch. I handled the restaurant, ice cream, and chocolate, and had three people on my team. It was great, but we worked all the time. Heather moved to Las Vegas and worked with a firm that designed the University of Las Vegas library, and hospitals. I had proposed before we left Seattle, and we got married at a church that her firm had designed and had our reception at the Paris hotel." They left after two years and she returned to her old firm.

William joined the Essential Baking Company, staying five years. He made candy and cakes for the cafes. "They let me do what I wanted that was new to Seattle. The cafés took off. I hired three people; when I left, it was a staff of 50. Co-Owner Jeff Fairhall bought the Redhook building on Phinney to begin making chocolate. I began buying tools and equipment and was geared up for chocolate, but I was accepted for the US Baking Team. My goal was to win the bakery competition, so I had to focus. Jeff realized he'd taken on too much; he sold Essential Baking."

For nine months, William spent one week a month at the San Francisco Baking Institute practicing for the World Cup of Baking. "You had to prepare for everything. It was very precise-down to your baguette's weight. You were judged on several things, including artistic design." The work paid off and the US team won in 2005.

One of his mentors helped farm him out as a consultant. As he worked with others, he built his own business plan. "I kept thinking, I could do this for us instead of someone else! One night, Heather and I went out for ice cream at the Husky Deli and checked out a bakery nearby. It had closed, so we went back to Husky Deli to ask Jack the owner about the space. It turned out Jack's brother Joe owned the building. Since about 1936, there had been a bakery in that location. Joe gave us the space. We've never done ice cream or gelato in that space because of the relationship with Husky Deli. We opened December 17, 2006. Heather was home with our first baby. Our first day was a Sunday and the Farmers Market was open; it was a great day for us."

Their second location was Capitol Hill, opened in April of 2013. "I opened that just to see if I had the formula right. I had researched the demographics and it worked." From the beginning, they wanted to have cafes, not just bakeries, plus he needed more room to make chocolate. "I would have liked to do it in West Seattle, but I couldn't outdo the developers. So, we bought the building in Burien and opened in September of 2016."

They make all their chocolates in Burien; William constantly experiments with combining different cocoa beans to create the perfect chocolate for making mousse and bars. "We're still growing at 4-5% a year. I thought we would have leveled off after three years."

Inspired by what his customers want, he creates things they can relate to and identify with, and what they need. "I ­need chocolate! With a wife, two kids, and three bakeries, I'm full, I'm out! Nothing is missing from my life. But I'm home nights and weekends, and that is a wonderful thing."

Bakery Nouveau

4737 California Ave SW
West Seattle, WA 98116

137 15th Ave E
Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA 98112

426 SW 153rd St
Burien, WA 98166

Photos courtesy of Bakery Nouveau 

Connie Adams/April 2018

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