Quy Nguyen, Savory Department

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

A year after I opened the bakery, I took over an adjoining space and opened the Belltown café. Customers could sit down for a slice of quiche, weekend brunch or a sandwich made with Macrina’s fresh bread. Back then, the savory items we made didn’t require a whole department. Brunch was an all-hands-on-deck affair, but as Macrina has grown and our lunch and brunch crowds have expanded, we had to do something to keep up with demand. Because of this, we now have a Savory Department. They prepare all the sandwiches, quiche, soups, spreads, salad dressings, and meze for our cafés. Quy is one of the stars, a talented cook who is efficient and graceful, two desirable qualities in a bustling kitchen. 

Leslie

Quy Nguyen, Savory Chef

On weekends, our Sodo Café bustles with brunch customers. In front of the stove, Quy Nguyen keeps her focus on the pans of eggs, sizzling applewood smoked bacon, herb-roasted potatoes, and heaping plates of French toast. Her hands quickly dart between the knife and pan. New orders come in and servers deliver hot dishes to tables. The kitchen heats up, but Quy stays cool. She churns out one pan of perfectly-cooked over-easy eggs after another and beautifully garnishes the plates. 

The rest of her workweek is just as important, but less intense. 

As a critical member of our Savory team, Quy preps and makes savory items for all of the cafés at our Kent bakery. After ten years, she knows all of the recipes and techniques. She works with the same precision and focus she employs on the brunch line, but she has time to share stories and chat with the other staff. “I like to joke around with them,” she says, through a translator. “They are like a second family.”

Still, nothing tops those busy mornings at the Sodo Café. “The favorite part of my job is working brunch. I find it very rewarding,” she says.

More about Quy

Quy moved to Seattle from Dalat, Vietnam, in 2003 with her husband and teenage daughter. The climate in Seattle is very similar to that of Dalat, whose temperate climate stands in contrast to Vietnam’s otherwise tropical climate. The region’s valleys are cloaked in mist much of the year, leading to its name “City of Eternal Spring.” For the first five years living here, she stayed at home while her daughter went to school. When it came time for her daughter to graduate from high school, she thought about working again. A friend recommended Macrina, so she interviewed and was hired and she’s been an essential part of the team ever since.

Quy does enjoy cooking at home. She primarily cooks Vietnamese food for her family, but has developed quite a taste for the diversity of cuisines in America, especially those of the French and Italian influence. Macrina’s Mac & Cheese is her current favorite dish to eat. 

She returns to Vietnam every two to three years to visit her mother, along with her sister and brother. She likes sharing with them recipes that she’s learned, and has begun teaching them how to make soups and salad dressings similar to Macrina’s. 

Marilyn Mercer manages the Savory Department. She says, “Quy amazes me. She’s willing to do any task needed to support our success. She’s quick and efficient, sometimes under hectic and stressful situations during brunch. Her food is always on point. Everyone at Savory and the Sodo Café appreciates her skillful teamwork. I truly enjoy working with her.”

Alfredo Machorro, Steward

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

To those who deliver our supplies, Alfredo Machorro is the face of Macrina. His kindness is genuine. But he’s no pushover. If something isn’t right about an order, he straightens out the invoice or refuses product that doesn’t meet our high standards. With his rare combination of rigor and sweetness, Alfredo has earned the respect of our suppliers and admiration from all of us at the bakery.

Leslie

Alfredo Machorro, Steward Lead

Most of our customers never see Alfredo Machorro, but without him we’d have a hard time making a single product. Alfredo is our Steward Lead and Receiver. He greets each of our suppliers at the loading docks, checks in their deliveries and carefully ensures the quality and contents of each order. 

Alfredo takes great pride in his work and the knowledge that, indirectly at least, he has a hand in everything at the bakery. He ensures that the fruits and vegetables that arrive are of the highest quality and that the meats and cheeses have been refrigerated properly. He also manages an extensive inventory of various flours, sugars, butter, and all the different items we use for bagging and packaging our baked goods. 

“Each day is a little different, but each day is very busy,” Alfredo says. “I’ve been here seven years now, and with each new year I’ve taken on new responsibilities. I like everything about my job.”

Blake Gehringer, Alfredo’s supervisor, says, “Alfredo works hard to make sure that every single product Macrina orders is correct, gets dated and rotated appropriately one hundred percent of the time. I really appreciate how thorough and organized he is. I also guarantee that he is the nicest receiver in the Pacific Northwest, even when he needs to turn away product.”

This quality of kindness and thoroughness, both in his work and his relations with co-workers, has endeared Alfredo to everyone at the bakery. Not to mention how many rely on his knowledge of exactly where anything is. 

During the week, Alfredo arrives at 6 a.m. and works until 2 p.m. Incoming deliveries, rotating stock, taking inventory, and ordering new supplies take up most of his time. “Moving to the bigger space in Kent has made my life much easier,” he says. “The Sodo space had gotten too small for us. Now I can manage the inventory much better.”

Family, Food and Travel

Alfredo moved to Seattle almost 20 years ago from the historic city of Puebla, located in Central Mexico. Puebla has a climate quite similar to Seattle, so the rain and cool nights weren’t a hard transition. Eager to start his next chapter in America, he worked a variety of jobs, building a robust skill set. Before Macrina, he worked as a forklift driver, which is a tool he frequently uses at Macrina. 

Three of Alfredo’s sisters followed him to Seattle, settling near Burien, where Alfredo lives. They get together on Sundays, “After church on Sunday I visit my sisters,” Alfredo says. “I live alone, so it’s nice to play with their kids and enjoy time with family.” On special occasions, they make make Alfredo’s favorite dish, Mole Poblanos.

Alfredo also enjoys visiting his favorite restaurant, Azteca. The original location for the regional chain is near his home in Burien. It started out as a small mom and pop place in 1974. “The food is great,” Alfredo says.

When he’s not spending time with family in Burien, downtown Seattle has always been one of his favorite places to explore, though he does like to make it out of the city. “When I have a little vacation time, I like to visit the Oregon Coast, or sometimes I go to Wenatchee. I like all the apple orchards.”

Mike Johnson, Delivery Assistant Manager

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

Mike Johnson is a devoted and passionate member of the delivery team. He arrives at work while most of the city is asleep, gets the orders together, helps pack the delivery vans, and often drives one himself. Mike and his team are on the streets well before daybreak so that Macrina’s bread and pastries are at the many groceries, cafés and restaurants when you arrive.

Leslie

Mike Johnson loves to drive. So much so that he spends as much of his free time as he can watching the races at Skagit Speedway. “Dirt racing is my passion,” Mike says. “I just got a car that can race in the tuner class, the slowest type of cars. I hope to start racing soon.”

Fittingly, when he joined Macrina in 2013, it was as a delivery driver. If Mike wasn’t so observant of company policy, we might worry about him screeching around corners. “Mike is a man of rules and likes to run a tight ship, he works by the book enforcing company policies,” says Sergio Castaneda, the Delivery General Manager. “He is very thorough and organized, which helps ensure that orders aren’t missing items.”

From the beginning it was clear that Mike was ambitious, had a positive attitude and wanted more responsibility. Impressed with his work, Sergio promoted him to lead driver and then soon after to assistant manager. 

“At my previous job, I dealt with a lot of angry customers,” Mike says. “Here, our customers love our bread and pastries, so I’m mostly dealing with happy people.” 

Except for the one time he nearly got clobbered with a frying pan. 

On an early morning delivery, he had to use the bathroom. “I went toward the back looking for it, thinking I was alone,” Mike says. “What I didn’t realize was that a girl had just started her shift. She was half asleep, and for some reason she was carrying a frying pan. As I come around the corner, the frying pan goes up in the air. I screamed ‘Macrina.’ It was all I could think to say. Fortunately, she lowered the frying pan. After we recovered our wits, we laughed. Most deliveries aren’t so exciting.”

Mike talks about his time at Macrina, “I’ve been handed a lot of responsibility as the company grows, but I have lots of support. Sergio, my supervisor, is a great teacher and listener. I’ve developed more internal strength from this job than any other because the owners and management have been so supportive of me.”

Seeing Mike’s success at Macrina, his sister Kelly followed and now works with him in the delivery department as a packer. Raised nearby with his two sisters, Mike has stayed close to his family. “My dad is my number one mentor,” he says. His parents host the occasional weekend family gathering at their house in Kent. 

Mike and his sister Stephanie Johnson at a Mariners game

Treating people in his department like family is part of Mike’s success as a leader. He often arrives at 1 a.m. and works with a team of packers to load the delivery vans. With so many routes to prepare the bakery is bustling throughout the middle of the night. “We drink a lot of coffee and the occasional Red Bull,” Mike says. “And while we work hard, there is a lot of teamwork and laughter.”

A few months back, several members of the pastry packing department were out sick. Mike saw they were in trouble. If something didn’t change, the delivery vans would be forced to leave late, meaning many cafés would be missing their Macrina pastries when they opened. Despite the fact that Mike had his own work to do, and it wasn’t his department, he donned an apron and gloves and began boxing pastries. Sergio says, “Mike has strong problem-solving skills. He finds solutions to problems and does so much for the delivery department. He is passionate, cares about getting things right, and holds his position with a lot of pride.”

As Macrina grows, new challenges arise. Mike has helped develop better organizational plans for getting our various products out of the oven and delivered to our customers. “We’re growing exponentially as a company, which brings opportunity,” Mike says. “The management team values my input. It’s nice to feel like you’re an important part of the changes that are happening.”

Rebecca Gutierrez, Pastry Manager, Belltown

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina.

When I interviewed Rebecca Gutierrez I had a hunch she would be one of our best. She had recently graduated from pastry school and was eager to learn more. She trained with one of our finest pastry chefs, Jane Cho, who is now our production manager. Rebecca has become a first-rate pastry chef. Not only does she head the pastry team at our Belltown Café, but she also does all our specialty cakes. We’re lucky to have her.

Leslie

Rebecca Gutierrez, Pastry Lead, Belltown


Nothing beats a pastry still warm from the oven, or the smell of fresh baked goods that permeates the café. Our cafés in Belltown, Queen Anne, and Sodo each have a team of pastry chefs preparing baked goods specifically for that café. Rebecca Gutierrez is not only one of our most talented pastry chefs, but she has also become a great teacher of the craft.

She grew up in Bellevue and went to pastry school at South Seattle College. After a short stint at a small wedding cake company, she discovered Macrina. Over the last seven years, she’s worked at all of our cafés at one time or another. If you’ve ordered a custom cake from us, chances are she made it. She also helps develop new products for our pastry case.

“When I interviewed for the job, I was impressed with how cool and down to earth and nice Leslie was,” Rebecca says. “If I didn’t already know, I never would have guessed she was the founder. Since the first day, I’ve liked Macrina a lot. The people are the main reason. I’ve made a lot of friends and management takes really good care of us.”

Erica Olsen, Macrina’s head pastry chef and Rebecca’s supervisor, says, “Rebecca is one of the hardest working people I know. She’s a phenomenal mentor. I enjoy working with her not just to witness her mad skills, but because time goes by so quickly when you’re working with her because she’s super funny.”

Because the pastries must be ready when the café opens, the morning pastry shift starts early. Rebecca often arrives at 4:30 a.m. She enjoys the relative calm in the kitchen before the café staff shows up. “It’s a pretty fun way to start the day,” she says. Working when others are sleeping means that sometimes you’re sleeping when they’re still playing. “I’ve had to say no to things my friends invited me to do, but they understand. They know my job comes first.”

But starting early means getting off early. And Rebecca lives near Discovery Park where she loves to go running with her dog while most others are still working. If the weather is beautiful, she likes to take an adventurous hike. 

Rebecca with her sisters and her dog

Rebecca is also very close to her family and her Mexican heritage. Her parents were raised in Eastern Washington. “My parents are both one of eight, so I have a ton of family,” she says. “Family is super important to me.” Both sets of grandparents came to Washington State as migrant farmers. Her mom and dad, born in Arizona and Texas respectively, grew up in the nearby towns of Sunnyside and Prosser. They met at Yakima Valley Community College. About the time Rebecca was born, her family moved to Bellevue.

She sees her parents at least once a week and often her brother and sisters are around, too. “There’s always something going on,” Rebecca says. “My nephew will have a recital, or one of my nieces will have something.” The family also gathers for Seahawks games. “I’m not really into sports, but I go for the food and to see everyone. My mom is a great cook.”

And her family looks out for her. Burns are not uncommon in a kitchen with so many hot things, and Rebecca has gathered her share over the years. “One of my sisters does makeup,” Rebecca says. “She jokes that if I ever get married, she’s going to have to do my arms to cover up all the scars.” 

Humor is an essential part of her family life, and likely where she picked up her great sense of humor. “They joke around a lot. They’ve started picking on my boyfriend when he joins me, good-naturedly of course. That’s how you know you’re in. They must like him because it didn’t take too long.”

Bay Phan, Wholesale Pastry

Since opening in 1993, many amazing people have helped to make Macrina what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each represents an essential part of Macrina.

Bay Phan is an integral part of our wholesale pastry team. The team arrives in the mid-afternoon and works into the evening. Bay’s knowledge of our recipes and her precision and her skill with many types of dough is part of why our pastries are so consistently good. She leads by doing everything the right way and stays calm even when we’re in the midst of our crazy holiday rushes.

Leslie

Bay Phan

 

Bay Phan joined Macrina in 2009, shortly after arriving in Seattle from Vietnam. Her friend, Phuong Hoang Bui, our head baker, encouraged her to apply. She began in the wholesale pastry department and proved herself to be a quick learner and a hard worker. Nearly nine years later she’s become one of our leaders in the tight-knit group.

Speaking through a translator, Bay says, “There are about 20 of us, and most speak Vietnamese. We work together like a family. They know everything about me, me about them.”

“Bay is one hard worker,” says Tramy Le, the manager of the wholesale pastry team. “She’s very nice to everyone at Macrina and I am so happy to work with her.”

In 2016, Macrina’s wholesale pastry production moved from behind the Sodo café to a much larger facility in Kent. Bay says, “We were getting way too crowded there. Here we have the space we need to spread out. It’s much more comfortable.”

With growth comes new challenges, one of which is navigating the new food safety regulations. “Learning all the new rules is probably my biggest challenge, but it’s necessary,” Bay says. “But as I get used to them and all the new records I have to keep, it is getting easier. It’s a good thing!”

Training new employees who don’t speak English is another challenge for her. “Teaching employees who can’t read the recipe takes some time, but if they’re determined to learn and listen carefully, it’s rewarding. I always remember that I was like that when I started here. Once the new employee masters one pastry, we can move to the next. They become part of our family. I’m so grateful to Scott and Leslie for welcoming so many from the Vietnamese refugee community.” 

Bay lives in the Sea-Tac neighborhood with her husband and two children. Her son attends the University of Washington, and her daughter is a registered nurse working at St. Francis in Federal Way. Beyond spending time with her family, two of Bay’s great pleasures are going for walks and runs in local parks and cooking. Pho is her favorite dish. She hasn’t taken to the many other ethnic foods available in the Seattle area. “I love Vietnamese food. The only non-Vietnamese restaurant I’ve found that I like is called Mongolian Hot Pot. The food tastes really good,” she says.

Next year her daughter is getting married. The wedding planning is already underway. “My daughter is looking for an American restaurant for the wedding,” Bay says laughing. “She doesn’t want an Asian restaurant.”

Bay has returned to visit her mother and four siblings in Vietnam twice since she moved to Seattle. She says, “It’s a long trip. Twenty hours.” She hasn’t explored Washington State much, but when her daughter was in nursing school in Yakima she visited a few times. She says, “I love the farms over there. I would like to explore more in that area.”

 

Ten Years of Skillet: Evolved Street Food for the Masses

Skillet’s food has a personality and flair that stands out. It’s been that way from the get go. When I think of Skillet, I think of assertive flavors, great recipes, classic culinary techniques applied to innovative spins on American favorites, and a focus on seasonal and local ingredients. Skillet is a beloved Seattle restaurant and I’m proud they’ve chosen Macrina rolls and breads for many of their classic dishes.

Leslie

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In restaurant years, ten makes you a veteran. For Skillet, the ride has been adventurous. Skillet’s wild years began in a renegade Airstream trailer, involved a few skirmishes with a health department unfamiliar with food trucks, and a couple of run-ins with aggressive tow-truck drivers. But ambition, talent, and a few unforgettable dishes have carried Skillet to a successful but never dull maturity.

In 2007, street-food trucks weren’t a phenomenon. You could actually find downtown street corners without one. Beyond taco trucks—fabulous, yes, but one dimensional—there wasn’t much. Then Skillet’s pioneering street-food truck came along. People stood in long lines to eat the Fried Chicken Sammy, the Bacon Jam Burger, Poutine (not at all ubiquitous then), and the Kale Caesar. When discussing local food trucks, it’s fair to divide the conversation into Before Skillet (the dark ages) and After Skillet (the enlightenment).

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Fast forward ten years, Skillet has grown into a Seattle institution. There are four brick and mortar restaurants—Capital Hill, Ballard, Denny Regrade, Seattle Center—and two food trucks. What hasn’t changed is the food. Skillet’s chef-driven take on American-inspired classics has become a brand unto itself. Their greatest hits—the chicken sandwich, the burger, the Caesar, the waffle with braised pork belly, the griddle cakes with compote—couldn’t be pulled from the menu without risking insurrection, maybe a little like a Pearl Jam concert in which the band refused to play “Evenflow.” It’s not that the new stuff isn’t worth trying—it is—it’s just that Seattle fell in love with Skillet’s classics first and won’t let go. And that’s just fine with Skillet. They continue to source great local food, fix it up, and serve their favorite dishes to customers, many of them long-time devotees.

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The diners are spacious, light and airy, with a menu that expands upon the original food truck menu. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Skillet is featuring a throwback menu all year that features recipes culled from old newsletters. March features the Lemongrass Pork Sammy with pickled ginger slaw. April features the Porchetta Sammy with hazelnut gremolata.

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That catering plays a role in Skillet’s middle-aged evolution should come as no surprise. Skillet’s burgers, fries, and milkshakes were first introduced at founder Josh Henderson’s wedding. Now, with a team of over 100 talented people, Skillet can cater up to six simultaneous events. Hundreds of brides and grooms have chosen Skillet to cater their weddings.

Catering Manager, Jessica Paul Jones, says that in addition to weddings, private parties and corporate events make up the bulk of their catering. But they can handle just about anything in Pacific Northwest. They’ve even have a china box that can roast a whole pig. One memorable catering event was a party at the top of the Smith Tower. Jessica remembers carrying food and equipment up the stairs (“My legs hurt for days”). Then there was the one at a ‘huuuuge” house in Laurelhurst that sat above the lake with 103 slate steps winding down to the lakeside tables (“My legs hurt even worse”).

When major life events occur, some Skillet fans rely upon their favorite restaurant. One such customer is Brian Benjamin, a weekly food truck regular since 2009. His go-to item is the Fried Chicken Sammy. His parents met his fiancé’s parents for the first time at the Skillet restaurant in Ballard. And guess who’s catering their wedding?

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Brian Benjamin

In a world of coincidences, one that isn’t all that surprising is that Brian is also a Macrina fan. He explains, “My fiancé, Jilian, used to live right behind the Macrina Bakery on Queen Anne. I always loved waking up on a weekend morning to walk over to get a ham and cheese brioche or Morning Glory muffin. We still swing by from time to time to pick up a loaf of rosemary semolina bread. I’m often more excited to eat the bread than I am the rest of the meal.”

Maybe that isn’t such a coincidence after all since Macrina’s potato roll has long been an essential part of Skillet’s Fried Chicken Sammy. At Macrina, we’re proud to be a part of one of Seattle’s favorite sandwiches.

What’s next for Skillet? Ani Pendergast, Skillet’s Director of Marketing, says, “Our focus is on maintaining the same kind of consistency we’ve always had. We’d love to open more neighborhood restaurants. But first we have to feel that we have the capacity to do it, then we need to find the right location. Our primary focus has always been on the food and the service. Whether you hit the restaurants, the trucks, or catering we want to be sure you get Skillet food and Skillet service. So we don’t spread ourselves too thin, we’ll only grow when we’re ready for it.”

Azeite Esplendido: Gold-Medal Winning Olive Oil from Portugal

“There are many good olive oils out there, but few that are exceptional, especially at a reasonable price. I tried Azeite Esplendido at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year and was blown away. Sheila Fitzgerald, the importer, impressed me with her passion and knowledge for all things olive oil, from its health benefits to the advantages of small-scale artisanal production. I love the balance this oil has. It’s assertive, with that great peppery spice, not bitter, and low in acidity. I am proud to add Azeite Esplendido to the small curated line of products we carry at Macrina.” 

Leslie

Azeite Esplendido: Gold-Medal Winning Olive Oil from Portugal

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A great extra virgin olive oil is as different from the typical pale yellow stuff sold in supermarkets as pure maple syrup is from Aunt Jemima’s. Good olive oil is alive and peppery, not bitter, and taken straight can make you cough. If you’re accustomed to bland commodity olive oil one spoonful of the real thing will transport you to another gustatory plane where flavor defies known parameters.

That’s sort of what happened when Seattle resident Sheila Fitzgerald was hiking through northern Portugal en route to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in 2012. In the high hills above the Douro Valley, a soaring majestic patchwork of cultivated agriculture and natural, craggy slopes, she found herself in a grove of olive trees. Some had massive trunks, their limbs twisted and magnificent with age. She introduced herself to the property owner, Henrique Cardoso, a fourth-generation farmer, who then introduced her to his olive oil.

fullsizeoutput_3e9a “I knew good olive oil, but I’d never tasted anything like his,” Sheila says. “The golden-green oil had a peppery spiciness to it, no bitterness, and a complexity and balance that I’d never experienced.”

That revelatory moment kicked off Sheila’s four-year journey to become the sole US importer of Henrique’s olive oil. The first challenge was winning Henrique’s trust, persuading him that she would uphold his fierce commitment to quality. Next came an extended process of gaining FDA approval, an involved study of the existing US market, selecting bottles, and designing a label.

Since that first visit, Sheila has been back many times, including at harvest time, which starts in November and goes through January.

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“Henrique picks his olives early and makes Azeite Esplendido from the first harvest,” Sheila says. “That means the olive is picked when they’re very green. Most farmers wait until the olives get plumper. That way they get more oil out of it. But the olive loses flavor as it ripens. My oil has a peppery spiciness to it. That’s indicative of an early harvest. It can bring tears to your eyes, even make you cough. That’s a good thing.”

Harvest is a time of celebration. An autumnal chill in the air, the groves often laced with tendrils of fog, pickers go from tree to tree using long rakes to pull the olives into nets. An old tractor hauls them to the press, no longer one of the picturesque stone mills, but a state-of-the-art stainless steel centrifuge.

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“The olives are washed then ground into a mash before they’re dumped into the centrifuge,” Sheila says. “Henrique continually adjusts the revolutions per second, which changes the oil. He’s always testing it.”

Before the bottling, which is done within twelve hours of pressing, comes the blending. Azeite Esplendido is composed of first cold-pressed oil from four types of olives: Transmontona Verdeal, Cobrançosa, Cordovil, and Madural.

Sheila says, “Henrique guards the percentage of each olive in the blend. It’s the secret to his recipe. Along with picking at the right time, carefully monitoring of the oil extraction, and cultivating the best trees.”

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The Tras-os-Montes region, where the farm is located, is one of the six protected designation of origin (DOP) zones in Portugal. The microclimate and soil make it an ideal place for olive trees. On Henrique’s farm, the trees are widely spaced to allow each tree plenty of sun and wind and rain. Some of the trees are five to six hundred years old. These are called the mother trees. Around their base workers mound extra dirt. When new shoots come up they are transplanted, hence the name mother tree. The trees are not irrigated.

Sheila says, “Henrique told me doesn’t want to babysit his trees. It’s survival of the fittest. If it can’t grow there, he doesn’t want it.”

While Italy’s olive trees suffered through a terrible year in 2016 that halved production, Henrique’s groves fared well.

“Olive oil is a live product. It changes over time,” Sheila says. “It’s dependent on fluctuations in the weather. The new harvest is so bright green. Henrique tasted the oil at bottling and said, ‘My olive oil is so good this year we’re gonna blow the dishes off the wall.’ It wasn’t a translation issue. That’s his expression. No one makes olive oil like he does.”

Last April, at the New York International Olive Oil Competition, 827 olive oil entries from 26 countries were judged. Azeite Espledido took home the top honor, a gold medal.

Macrina is proud to carry this fine olive oil. Buy a bottle and a loaf of your favorite crusty bread, puddle a bit of oil on a plate and dip. Will it blow the dishes off the wall? Probably not. But it just might blow you away.

Out of the Kitchen: Relaxing Stowell Style

Ethan and Angela Stowell probably don’t need an introduction, but just in case, they’re the couple behind 15 esteemed Seattle restaurants, namely Anchovies & Olives, Ballard Pizza Co. (3 locations), Bar Cotto, Bramling Cross, Goldfinch Tavern, How to Cook a Wolf, Marine Hardware, Mkt., Red Cow, Rione XIII, Staple & Fancy, Tavolàta Belltown, Tavolàta Capitol Hill. Ethan is the chef, Angela the CEO. That they ever relax may come as a surprise, but they make time. I’ve always loved Ethan’s cooking and his dedication to using local and seasonal ingredients. I’m honored that they use Macrina breads at their restaurants. They are wonderful people and one of Seattle’s premier restaurateurs. Learn more about their life outside of the kitchen right here.

Leslie

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Out of the Kitchen: Relaxing Stowell Style

Everybody knows running restaurants is not for the lazy or the faint of heart. Add kids and a serious commitment to philanthropy and you’ve got a recipe for a life few would call relaxing. Humble, as Angela and Ethan Stowell both are, they’d be the first to point out that they have the support of a great team in all they do. But even with a strong team, Ethan and Angela work long and hard and are pulled in many directions. Still, they remain deeply committed to spending quality time together with their two young children, Adrian and Franklin.

Given their culinary prowess you might expect them to spend their free time teaching the kids how to foraging for chanterelles or morels in the forest, or out on the beach digging for Manila clams. Turns out they’re just like most parents with two young kids, racing home from brunch at their neighborhood dim sum restaurant before their two-year-old, Franklin, falls asleep.

Ethan explains, “Because when you’re doing naps—you know what it’s like having kids—after lunch you’ve got to race home before he falls asleep. If you have a half-hour drive, you’re in trouble. The last thing you need is a twenty-minute power nap.”

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Because Ethan frequently works in the evening, mornings become family time.

“The nice thing about our schedule is we have family breakfasts every morning because we have the luxury of not leaving the house until nine,” Angela says. “Breakfast is our long time together, kind of the reverse of most families.”

Ethan gets up with the kids and starts breakfast. When he can he gets them involved, often making pancakes, eggs, or oatmeal.

Angela adds, “Well, we try not to do pancakes more than two mornings in a row.”

Presently, in fact, Ethan is skipping the pancakes nearly altogether. About a year ago, he lost over 50 pounds through a mixture of diet and exercise and has kept the weight off. He is very careful about what he eats for breakfast and lunch, then lets loose at dinner. And he is religious about getting in an hour of exercise each day. Angela has always been a fitness and health advocate.

“Before having kids I did lots of triathlons and a half ironman,” Angela says. “I’ve been a runner for a long time. For me, it’s a stress relief. This may not be the most romantic thing in the world at 9 p.m., but if we’re both home, when we get the kids to bed, we’ll both go exercise. Sometimes it’s the only time we have, especially if it’s a Sunday and we’ve been busy with them all day. We both get our hour workout in.

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One key block of time for Angela to sneak in a long run is Saturday mornings when Ethan and a group of dads take the kids out without the moms.

“Saturday I just work a half day, so it’s dad and kid time,” Ethan says. “I have a friends’ group of five to six guys. A text thread goes out. Not everyone can make it every time. We meet somewhere at ten, go to the zoo, or the Science Center, or Golden Gardens. Then we get lunch and rush home for nap time.”

In the summer, weekends are often spent on Whidbey Island where Ethan’s parents have a vacation home. The island is Angela’s favorite place to be.

“Our weekends there are kind of always the same,” Angela says. “In the summertime we go to the farmers market in the morning, we go to Primo Bistro, we always go to Moonraker Books to check out what’s happening there and visit the owner Josh, then we visit a couple of farms with stands, maybe grab a loaf of Screaming Banshee bread. The cool thing about Whidbey is that there are a lot of people who knew Ethan when he was five years old. Those people are now super invested in our family.”

In Seattle, when the Stowell’s have the occasional night together they frequently go out to eat.

“We are definitely a family that doesn’t shy from taking them out to restaurants,” Ethan says. “I’m a big believer in bringing kids to our restaurants. You want kids getting used to eating good food, getting used to being out socially.”

In fact, this January they will be starting a family dinner night at Rione.

“I’m super excited about it,” Angela says. “From five to seven anybody who makes a reservation will be told that there will be kids around. It’s an opportunity for families to come out with their kids. Don’t feel bad if things get spilled. It’s gonna be hard to keep the kids in their seats.”

“There’s gonna be spaghetti on the windows,” Ethan says with a smile.

Angela adds, “We’ll be there. And at some point our kids will have iPads out. I think it’s good for parents to see that it is okay to do what you have to do to get through dinner at a restaurant. Because it’s not always going to be like this, and sometimes you just need a moment’s peace to finish your wine.”

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While they may be a more high-profile couple than most in Seattle, they both stress that their private lives are much like any other family.

“My life isn’t much different than any working mom,” Angela says. “You wake up and someone needs you right away—this morning it was who gets to sit next to mom—then you go to work and someone needs you. Then you get home and they need you again. Then maybe I squeeze in a little workout. Not anything different than any other working mom. We’re just really appreciative of the window of time we get together.”

Visit www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com to learn more and make reservations at your favorite spot.

Meet Our Team: Sergio Castaneda, Delivery General Manager

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Sergio started working as a driver at Macrina in 2002, delivering breads and pastries to wholesale accounts. Later, he became a packer, arriving early to bag all the fresh bread and pastries for delivery, was promoted to lead and later to an assistant manager. Having also spent some time as a pastry chef at a previous job, Sergio’s knowledge is broad. “I know all the elements of the business, from mixing dough and baking it, to handing it to the customer.” As the Delivery General Manager, Sergio oversees 23 drivers, seven packers, and an assistant manager. With new accounts being added every day, that number will grow.

His work day usually starts early in the morning. Not the sort of manager to sit idly in the office, Sergio can often be found shoulder to shoulder with the other packers, readying the day’s deliveries. Later, when all the deliveries have been made, he tackles his management duties, contacts new customers, works with other departments within Macrina to resolve pressing issues, hires new personnel, and continually looks for ways to improve his team’s ability to excel. He loves to work with so many people from different cultures and backgrounds. “I learn something new every day.”

Sergio lives in South Seattle with his wife and three children, ages 13, 11, and 6. By working early in the morning and getting home before the kids are out of school he gets to spend lots of time with them. “They’re growing up fast and family is the most important thing to me,” he says. Both he and his wife have strong backgrounds in food, so they share the cooking duties. His favorite cuisine to prepare is Italian—especially pizza and various pastas.

His family moved from Nayarit, Mexico to White Center in 1998 when he was 15. His two older brothers and an older sister helped him adjust to life in a new country. All of his siblings remain in the area.

When asked what his favorite thing about Macrina is Sergio paused, thought a moment, then said, “There are many. The Challah bread, the Brioche with Nutella, and the Plain Baguette, certainly. But also the professionalism of the people I work with.”

The Buzz on (Really) Local Honey

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On my Vashon Island farm, I have plenty of space for my gardens and chickens. But the current trend in urban farming blurs the old line between city and country. Farming used to be something that took place outside of town. Nowadays, many Seattle homes have parking strip planter boxes overflowing with beans, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn, and much more. Composting boxes overflow. Chickens cluck proudly in backyards, supermarket eggs are no match to their prize offerings. So it’s no surprise that urban bees should follow. That urban produce needs to be cross-pollinated somehow.

Corky Luster started Ballard Bee Company out of his Ballard garage. He’s the Steve Jobs of local honey, the godfather of the urban hive. Turns out it takes more than just plonking a couple of hives in your yard. You need to know how to manage the colony.

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(Photo: Seattle Tilth)

Corky’s love for beekeeping began in college when a German roommate started a couple of hives in their backyard. While working as a designer and contractor building homes in Seattle, he started raising bees in Ballard. City ordinance only allows up to four hives on lots less than 10,000 feet. So Corky began recruiting others to host hives. He manages them; the homeowner gets a dividend of honey and the knowledge that they’re helping our local ecosystem. The hive takes up little space, but its impact is large. Corky combats disease-and-mites by using integrated pest management principles and avoids harsh pesticides, such as acaricides, in his efforts to keep the hives healthy and happy. The city, surprisingly, turns out to be a great place to produce honey since urban trees and gardens tend to be free of industrial agricultural pesticides. With a surplus of fantastic honey, Corky bottled it and began to sell it through a few local stores in 2010.

Renee Erickson, chef of Ballard’s The Walrus and The Carpenter and Fremont’s The Whale Wins, has Corky manage hives for her restaurants. Corky’s cult status in the beekeeping world has also allowed him to partner with Seattle Tilth to teach classes on building and maintaining healthy hives.

At Macrina, I’ve always tried to carry a few locally produced items that complement our breads—it’s hard to find anything more local than Ballard Bee Company’s honey. The flavor is delicate and floral, with just a hint of lemon in the aftertaste. With Seattle’s explosion of urban farming, there are plenty of flowering trees, flowers, and gardens. Plus all those wild blackberries. So the bees do their important work, Corky’s careful attention keeps their hives healthy and we get to offer this beautiful honey. Everybody wins!

Leslie