Macrina in the Community

St. Macrina, our patron saint, was known for working to improve the quality of life for people in her community, and we strive to do the same. On our first Thanksgiving, back in 1993, Leslie brought some extra loaves to the Noel House, which was located in a nearby alley. “The ladies there were so appreciative of the fresh baked bread it brought me to tears,” says Leslie. Our mantra became that of St. Macrina.

We enrich our communities through the joy of artisan baking, but we also donate directly to non-profit organizations that do outstanding work supporting members of our community. Our employees frequently join us in donating, and we match each of their donations.

As part of our celebration of Juneteenth, we donated $2,500 (including matched donations from employees) to Community Passageways. In September, we are donating $2,000–$3,000 to three additional local community organizations including: Helping Link, Plymouth Housing, and St. James Cathedral Kitchen. Here’s a bit more about these incredible organizations:

Community Passageways

This community-based, black-run, black-owned organization was founded in 2015 by Dominique (Dom) Davis. They work primarily with court-involved young people of color and help break the school-to-prison cycle with a school-to-life pathway by restoring lives, nurturing dreams, and developing life skills. In the last five years, Dom and his team have helped divert over 120 years of prison sentences.

Helping Link

Since its founding in 1993, Helping Link has supported our local Vietnamese community with free services and programs such as citizenship classes, a computer lab, English classes, and much more. They help foster cultural resilience and empower members to celebrate their histories and traditions.

Plymouth Housing

Since 1980, Plymouth Housing has helped Seattle break the cycle of chronic homelessness by providing adults experiencing homelessness with opportunities to stabilize and improve their lives. Plymouth follows the “Housing First” philosophy, operating on the principle that people cannot improve their lives until they have a safe, stable place to live. Plymouth owns and operates 14 buildings, both renovated historic properties and new construction, from South Lake Union to the International District. In the coming years, Plymouth plans to build an additional 800 apartments.

St. James Cathedral Kitchen

The Cathedral Kitchen feeds a nourishing, hot meal to 150 guests on Seattle’s First Hill every weekday. They serve anyone in need, regardless of age, gender, or creed. Throughout the pandemic, out of concern for their guests, they switched to to-go dinners and a bagged lunch their guests could eat the next day while still providing a limited number of physically-distanced tables for those needing a moment of shelter.

In addition, Macrina donates thousands of pounds of bread and pastries to local organizations that help feed those in need, including The Salvation Army, Alma Mater in Tacoma, El Centro de la Raza. Over the next few weeks, we’re also donating over 300 meals to Helping Link and St. James for fundraising events.

“Donating to these organizations is just one way Macrina supports our communities and works to better achieve our mission,” says Scott France, Macrina’s President.

Solidarity with the Asian Community

The alarming rise of pandemic-related racism against Asian Americans has contributed to an increase in hate crimes, including the horrific shootings in Atlanta. At Macrina, we are proud of our diverse crew, which includes many people of Asian descent, Vietnam in particular. We stand together against hate, intolerance, and racism. Macrina employee, Michelle Galvin, a fourth-generation Japanese American, shares some of her troubling experiences and a plea for kindness in these difficult times.

Over the past year, Covid has changed all our lives dramatically. With changes to how we socialize, work and even buy our groceries, life has been different and difficult. For those of us, like myself, who are of Asian descent, an additional challenge has been contending with heightened bias and discrimination.

Living in Seattle for my adult life has been a blessing. I grew up right outside of Chicago. As a child, my schoolmates regularly taunted me. They called me “Ching Chong Chinaman,” and made fun of the rice balls I brought for lunch. Our next-door neighbors, a family with three boys, said I was the reason for WWII. They blamed me for their grandfather’s death. I was six.

Moving to Marysville, WA, in my teenage years was liberating. Though I was one of the only Asian kids in school, I never experienced racism like I had in Illinois. Years later, as an adult living in the Seattle area, I was relieved my four children would not experience the sort of racism I did. And it has been better, much better. Still, we talk about how irritating it is when people ask us where we are from and when we answer Seattle, they say, no, where are you really from. And once a parent of a kid in my daughter’s first-grade class asked me if I was Mia or Gracie’s mom—she could never tell us people apart, she said. (My daughter, Gracie, asked me at the time if it was because her glasses were broken.) Despite the occasional challenge, my children have always felt comfortable and proud of their Japanese heritage.

One of our family’s favorite places is the International District. We visit at least once weekly —grocery shopping at Uwajimaya, dumplings at Dough Zone or pastries at Fuji Bakery. When the International District was vandalized earlier this summer, it broke my heart. As if Covid and quarantine weren’t enough of a challenge to our beloved restaurants and shops in that neighborhood! Rising hate crimes against Asians have added to the struggle. It brought tears to my eyes to have to tell my teenage children that it was not a good idea for them to go to the International District by themselves to get Boba in the evening because it is not safe.

We have always prided ourselves on the welcoming work environment at Macrina. There is truly no place here for hate, discrimination, or racism. Our head baker, Phuong Hoang Bui, has been at Macrina nearly since we opened, and he embodies the spirit of the Macrina community as much as anyone. His daughter, Amy Bui, who ran around our Belltown café at the age of three is now our general manager of wholesale sales. A great many of our bakers are Vietnamese. They are who we are.

We want to be sure the Asian community knows that we stand with them. We condemn the hate crimes and casual racism that are happening in our community against our Asian friends, employees, customers and peers. Macrina is a long-time supporter of Helping Link and the Vietnamese community. Most importantly, we hope to spread a message of kindness during these difficult times.

-Michelle Galvin

Meet Marc Mitchell: Food Safety AM

At heart, Marc Mitchell is a baker. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu before coming to work at Macrina Bakery in 2013. Marc started on our bread team before moving to wholesale pastry, where he took on leadership roles. But when the position of Food Safety AM opened up late in 2020, Marc’s skills made him a natural fit for the job. He applied and got it.

Not only is he intimately familiar with the various departments, but also with the people, processes and the vital importance of food safety. Like any great pastry chef, Marc is very attentive to detail, which serves him well in his new role. Working closely with Blake Gehringer, Macrina’s Production Manager, Marc oversees every element of food safety at our bakery and cafés. He spends his days training, answering questions, observing, documenting, testing and continuously learning.

One of Marc’s challenges is teaching employees whose first language isn’t English. But Marc has transcended the challenge by learning some Vietnamese, getting translation help when needed, visual aids and frequently demonstrating the proper procedure. “I teach by showing,” he says.

Raised in Washington state to a Filipino mother and American father, Marc learned to love Filipino food. When he’s not working, he and his wife (also Filipino) love to cook chicken adobo and other classic Filipino dishes.

As a kid, Marc learned to work on cars with his father, who sadly is no longer with us. The passion continues, and in his free time, Marc can often be found tinkering under the hood. Pressed on his dream car, Marc thinks a moment, then says, “Ferrari 458 Italia. It’s very nice, but not too bad on the pocket—as Ferraris go.”

To Make Great Banh Mi, Start with the Right Bread 

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, falls on February 12 this year. The day is a significant holiday at Macrina. Our head bakers, Phuong Hoang Bui and Thanh Huyen Dang, are Vietnamese, as are many of our bakers. Artisanal French and Italian traditions influence most of our bread, and the food in our cafes hews Mediterranean with a few American favorites thrown in, but an exception is our Bui Bun, made for banh mi, which was developed by Phuong with help from the bread team.

Banh Mi, the classic street-vendor Vietnamese sandwich, is one of the best comfort foods around. In Seattle, options abound, from traditional to hybrid. The one constant, in our favorites at least, is the right bread—fresh and airy, with the right mix of crackle, spring, and chew.

The baguette was introduced to Vietnam during French colonial rule in the early twentieth century. The earliest “banh mi” were straightforward, sometimes just a smear of butter and some ham or pâté, in the traditional Parisian fashion. But over time, both the bread and toppings evolved to become the unique, zesty Vietnamese sandwich that has claimed a spot in the global hall of culinary fame. Stacked with variations on satisfying fillings like cured and cooked pork, sliced ham, chicken liver pâté, green herbs, pickled vegetables, chili peppers, and spiced-up mayonnaise, the banh mi toppings are held together by a Vietnamese-style baguette or roll. The complex flavor of banh mi is a swirl of history, complementary and contrasting flavors, and a riot of textures—crunchy and tender—that make many other sandwiches seem boring in comparison.

For years, we served a bahn mi sandwich in the Macrina cafés on our Giuseppe Panini Baguette. We filled them with tofu, roast pork, chicken or flank steak, and classic banh mi toppings. It was good, but not quite right—we needed the right bread.

We turned to Phuong, who has been our head baker for over 20 years. Phuong started at Macrina as a dishwasher in early 1994, just after Macrina opened, and quickly proved himself to be a quick learner and skilled with bread in all its phases—dough, proofing, shaping, and baking.

“Phuong took the lead on developing an authentic banh mi bun, a product we’d later name after him,” says Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder. “He involved many of his fellow Vietnamese bakers at Macrina, bringing the whole bread production team together, including seeking out recipes from various cousins and parents, here and back in Vietnam. After months of testing, getting special pans, and testing it with our staff, customers, we launched our Bui Buns named after Phuong.”

The Bui Bun has a crisp crust and tender, airy crumb, just right for the perfect banh mi sandwich. Moreover, the bun, its creators, and the team-oriented approach symbolize one of our core values at Macrina: celebrating diversity.

To Phuong, Huyen, our fantastic crew, and everyone who celebrates the Lunar New Year, we wish you a year full of blessings and good fortune. Thank you for everything.

 

Helping FareStart Feed Hungry Families

Even before the coronavirus hit, too many people in the Seattle area struggled with hunger. Now with record levels of unemployment and disrupted free school lunches for many children, food insecurity is rising. We currently donate food to Marys Place and others, but we wanted to do more. 

When Marcia Sisley-Berger of Callebaut Chocolate, one of our suppliers, reached out to us about collaborating on a food donation to FareStart, we were all in. 

FareStart and Catalyst Kitchen, an initiative established by FareStart, have been producing approximately 350,000 meals a week to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity in our communities. More than 100 sites get meals from them daily, including Downtown Emergency Services Center, Plymouth Housing, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, Seattle Public Schools and King Countys COVID-19 isolation and recovery sites. 

Callebaut offered to donate all the chocolate wed need to make sweet treats for FareStart lunches. With 300 pounds of dark chocolate chips, 90 pounds of chocolate batons, and 52 pounds of Milk Chocolate Couverture in hand, Leslie reached out to two more of our suppliers for help. Both Medosweet Farms and Merlino Foods were both eager to support our community and didnt hesitate to get involved. Medosweet provided us with 150 pounds of butter and all the eggs we need. Merlinos donated 250 pounds of sugar and other supplies. 

Throughout June, we will be baking over 4,300 of Olivias Chocolate Chip Cookies, 1,800 Chocolate Cornetti, and 1,600 Milk Chocolate Brioches for FareStart to include in the lunches they distribute. 

Our mission is to enrich our communities through the joy of artisan baking. Being a part of this collaborative effort to support FareStart in their crucial mission brings us joy, and we hope, helps brighten the days of those most in need. 

Caring for Those Who Care for Us

Not all heroes wear capes, but many wear masks. And scrubs. And theyve been working insanely long hours during this crisis, giving their all to serve those in need. To express our appreciation and admiration, Macrina Bakery is donating 220 care packages each week in April to area hospitals. Each care package contains a Sliced Oatmeal Buttermilk Loaf, Rye Crostini, Sardinian Flatbread, Olivias Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Granola Bar Cookies.

Chris at Overlake said, “Everything was great! My staff greatly appreciated the generosity and gratitude.” Julie at Swedish Edmonds wrote, “I cant tell you how much the staff appreciated the care packages. They were SO excited! Thank you so much; we very much appreciate this thoughtful gesture!”

If youd like to help us support them, you can donate a care package, and well deliver it on your behalf. The care packages are $25 and we are currently visiting Overlake, Harborview, Swedish Edmonds, UW Northwest and Seattle Childrens.

In addition to the frontline healthcare workers, we know that many others are giving themselves to serve others. Our care packages are available for anyone you know who could use a little extra support right now. A huge thank you to all of you who have already ordered them.

To order care packages, please call 206-448-4089 or visit one of our cafés.

Meet James Stanton: Cartoonist

This Sunday, art and football intersect in the Seahawks Gameday Poster created by our Sodo café’s very own James Stanton.

The Seattle Seahawks partnered with the legendary local graphic designers Ames Bros to curate a series of posters with unique artwork to commemorate this season’s home games. Barry Ament and Coby Schwartz, the creative force behind Ames Bros, invited James Stanton to be one of the eight accomplished Seattle artists to produce a poster.

James, who has worked part-time at Macrina’s Sodo café for nearly five years, is a cartoonist and illustrator who has been publishing his small-press comic Gnartoons since 2005. He’s also done comics and illustrations for Thrasher, The Atlantic, The Stranger, The Nib, Adventure Time and other publications.

“It’s such an honor to work with the Ames Bros on a Seahawks poster,” James says. “Coby and Barry know my stuff. They pointed out what in my portfolio they thought would work well, which mostly wound up being comic book covers. I ended up thinking about the poster as a comic book cover more than I did as a print.”

Assigned the November 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, James created a serpentine-like hawk rising from the sea and swamping a pirate ship with shredded sails. Majestic Doug firs tower in the background. The 18” x 24” posters are screen printed and can be ordered online and picked up at CenturyLink Field on game day or at the CenturyLink Field Pro Shop during designated hours. The Seahawks are also producing 12 “platinum” posters on special paper with enhanced printing techniques. Those will be sold on the Seahawks’ Auction Website the day after each game and shipped to winners.

Buying a poster will not only serve as a unique art piece on your wall, but it helps fund arts education for kids. The Seahawks are donating all proceeds from sales of the posters to The Creative Advantage, an arts education equity program for Seattle Public Schools.

In addition to some cash, posters, and the prestige, James gets tickets to the game and a field pass. It’ll be his first live Seahawks game. “The Seahawks are a much bigger stage than I’m used to working on,” James says. “This was fun because they gave me a lot of freedom to draw whatever I wanted to, within certain parameters, of course.”

James moved to Seattle specifically because it’s a hotspot for independent comics and to help publish a free comics newspaper called The Intruder. He immediately found a room to rent in a Beacon Hill house already occupied by a few other comics artists. More than seven years later, that’s still the case. “When someone moves out, we find another cartoonist to take their place,” says James.

This coming spring, a hardbound collection of James’ collected work, titled Gnartoons, will be released by the Bay Area publisher Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club. And on Saturday, November 9, you will find James at Short Run, the one-day annual comics and arts festival that takes place at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, with his newest comic, Swamp Mythos,—and copies of the Seahawks poster.

See more of James’ work on his website  or on Instagram and other social media apps at  @gnartoons.

 

Meet Diana Yelton: GM at the Aloha Café

Ultimately, it was Macrina’s Greek Olive Loaf that led Diana to our café. A recent transplant to Seattle in 2016, Diana was looking for a job when her boyfriend showed up with a loaf of his new favorite bread—the Greek Olive Loaf. He casually mentioned that he’d noticed a sign saying Macrina was hiring. 

Diana and her boyfriend had moved to Seattle from New York City where Diana had worked in independent film production. Out of college, she had considered a career as a teacher, but student teaching had talked her out of that. Her job requirements were only that she didn’t want to be cooped up in an office. “I’m an extrovert,” Diana says. “Being around people gives me energy. I loved Macrina’s bread and it seemed like a fun place to work so I interviewed.”  

Customers and coworkers alike were quickly impressed with her hard work, kindness and spirited personality. When the Aloha café opened in September 2018, Diana was an instrumental part the opening crew. When the tightly knit community of North Capitol Hill filtered in to check us out, Diana’s product knowledge and bright, lively personality helped introduce Macrina to everyone.  Everyone who has ever opened a new retail business knows just how challenging it is. There’s hardly been a quiet moment since we opened the doors, so strong customer service skills and a good work ethic have been bench tested. “We have so many regulars already,” Diana says. “You know their favorite pastry before you know their name. Seeing familiar faces in line is definitely a great part of the job.” 

When the General Manager position opened up in June 2019 it was clear Diana had earned the nod. “I was honored to be offered the job,” Diana says. “I worked my way up and feel like they saw something in me. Scott and Leslie are at the Aloha café frequently and both are very open and supportive. When I’m hiring it helps to be able to say very honestly that the company culture is really good, and there are many opportunities for growth.” 

 

 

 

Cafe Flora & Floret: Always Fresh and Exciting

Like flowers in spring, new restaurants are blossoming in Seattle. We have nearly 3,000 restaurants now, up more than 25 percent from a decade ago. Not many of them were around 28 years ago. And of those that were, few still feel as contemporary as Cafe Flora, the beloved Madison Valley ode to fresh Northwest produce. Cafe Flora was farm-to-table before that phrase became ubiquitous. 

Cafe-Flora

A couple of years ago, Cafe Flora’s owner, Nat Stratton-Clarke, became interested in opening a second location. He looked at Capitol Hill and Ballard. But then an intriguing and unusual opportunity arose: Sea-Tac Airport. In February of 2018, Nat opened Floret by Cafe Flora. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant is located by the Delta lounge between terminals A and B. There is a full-service restaurant that seats 80 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those on the run, it offers coffee, pastries and healthy grab-and-go options, including hot meals. Floret has been busy since day one. 

 

Floret Shop

Floret: New Challenges Arise

Even though it’s in the airport, Floret is in a beautiful, light-filled atrium, making it reminiscent of the conservatory feeling one gets at Flora. “I wanted it to feel like Flora—and natural light is a big part of that,” says Nat“When the space became available, I really felt like it was the right one for us to bid on.” 

Floret

Like Cafe Flora, Floret serves vegetarian and vegan food, much of it made from produce freshly delivered from local farms. Nat says, “So many people are excited about good food. Most of our guests aren’t vegetarian. They’re just excited about something delicious to eat that happens to be vegetarian.” 

Floret Food

Because it’s the airport, all employees and vendors must go through security. “We had to get our farmers badged,” Nat says. “Fresh deliveries are so much a part of what we do at Flora, and we weren’t going to change just because there are a few more hurdles.”  

Floret Pinwheel

There have been logistical challenges, besides security. The airport is open 365 days a year—rain, sleet or snow. During the snows this past February, many employees stayed at an airport hotel so they could be there to prepare for the 4:30 a.m. opening. “Macrina was right there with us delivering bread and getting everything out there no matter how much snow was coming down,” Nat says. “Folks who were delayed stayed for breakfast, lunch and dinner—which was amazing. We had to close at Cafe Flora. There’s no option to close at the airport. That was new to us and we rallied together to find solutions.” 

Nat Stratton-Clarke

Nat is an avid Farmers Market shopper and market produce always finds its way onto the menu. “I love it in Seattle this time of year, when the city embraces nettles and fiddlehead ferns,” Nat says. “Other cities might hold out for asparagus and strawberries, but we get excited early. Ready for that fresh green. As much as we all love a root vegetable, by March we’re ready to say farewell to butternut squash for a couple of months. We love that bright green flavor you get from nettles. We were just talking in the kitchen about nettle pesto to go with gnocchi. Things like that are one of the really cool things about spring in the Northwest.” 

Floret Sandwich

Whether you’re on your way somewhere or looking for a great meal in the city, Cafe Flora and Floret are great dining options. You’ll enjoy exquisitely prepared meals made with produce delivered fresh daily from farms such as Local Roots in CarnationTonnemakers in Woodinville, Whistling Train Farm in Kent, and Hayton Farms in Skagit Valley. It’s no mystery why Cafe Flora is still going strong after 28 years and Floret has found such a following at Sea-Tac. 

Visiting the Heart of Washington State’s Wheat Country

The Williams Hudson Bay Farm is located near Walla Walla in some of the best wheat-growing land in the world. It’s also where Tom and Ray Williams grow the wheat for the new Whole Grain Baguette that Macrina Bakery has created in collaboration with PCC. This past summer I visited the Williams Hudson Bay Farm to meet Tom and Ray. Walking through their fields and learning of their holistic approach to the integrity of the grain gave me a new appreciation for what it takes to create a healthy and delicious product. 

Third-Generation Farmers

Williams Hudson Bay Farm

Tom and Ray took over the farm from their father. Their grandfather had moved West from Kansas and farmed the same land they use today, though the farm has now grown to 3,000 acres. They grow a diverse range of crops. It was mind-boggling learning how they manage the complexity of a modern organic farm.

As we toured the farm in the summer heat, Tom and Ray explained three essentials to organic farming: cover crops, effective pest management and crop rotation. Portions of the farm are designated for animals, which provides meat, but also manure for fertilizer. They also have Beehives everywhere to help with pollination.  

Wheat

While we examined the wheat, they explained how they determine the proper time to harvest. Having an understanding of the whole operation and feeling the nearly mature grains in my hands gave me a new reverence for their flour. The Edison and the Expresso wheats they grow, the heritage wheats we use in the whole wheat baguette, have so much more flavor than commodity flour.  

Macrina Team

Part of the Williams farm is on PCC Farmland Trust land, which supports farmland preservation, organic production and sustainable practices. Tom and Ray hold the same core values that PCC and Macrina share. This is what makes this partnership so unique. We are all working together to bring the most nutritious and delicious baguette to the epicurean and environmentally-conscious customer that PCC attracts.