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.

 

Meet Eric Holstad: Reporting and Systems Manager

“It’s very inspirational to see the passion for the products and to see how well everyone works together here,” says Eric Holstad, Macrina Bakery’s Reporting and Systems Manager. In his role, he deals with every facet of Macrina’s operations from the executive team and sales to production and delivery.

Eric is a natural when it comes to understanding technology and ensuring that it works for everyone else. He manages the software that powers our wholesale operation and prepares key reports that our leadership team can use to optimize our performance. Eric’s analytical skills mesh well with those of Macrina’s President, Scott France. “I really appreciate Scott’s critical thinking skills and the logical thought process behind how he does things,” Eric says.

Another reason Eric is a treasured colleague is that when you have a computer or server issue in the office, he is the magician who makes the problem vanish.

Before coming to Macrina full-time in 2019, Eric worked for Pagliacci Pizza for 17 years. He started in the stores, rising to a general manager before being recruited to the office where his computer skills and attention to detail were needed.

“I love working with Leslie,” Eric says. “Her enthusiasm brings everyone along and gets you pumped about what we’re doing and where we’re going next. And our production and delivery crew is very diverse, much more so than any job I’ve had before, and I think that’s great. It exposes me to new cultures and new kinds of people. I appreciate having that in my life.”

Outside of work, one could define Eric by three deep passions: music, computers and food. He enjoys listening to music and collecting vinyl records of his favorites. “I’m a fan of music in general,” he says. “There’s no genre I wouldn’t listen to. I’m very open when it comes to experiencing music.” When he has time, he plays the bass guitar. But time is limited these days by a relatively new addition to his life: a young daughter. “It’s such a life-changing event to have a child,” he says.

Meet Trevor Kitchin: Food Safety GM

At heart, Trevor is a teacher, his field before coming to Macrina Bakery. As our Food Safety General Manager, Trevor puts those skills to good use. He worked with Blake Gehringer, Macrina’s Production Manager, to establish food safety plans for both retail and wholesale operations. He spends his days training, answering questions, observing, documenting, testing, and continuously learning.

Trevor Kitchen

In 2016, Trevor was hired by Macrina and applied his skills as an educator to food safety, as an assistant manager for three years before taking over the top spot in 2019.

“I love the teaching part and have a lot of patience,” Trevor says. “I recognize where employees are and help them get to the point they need to be.”

Many languages are spoken at our bakery, and all of Trevor’s teaching skills come into play. “I use visual guides and often work through the GM of each department, all of whom can translate,” Trevor says. “When I do formal trainings I hire translators.”

It could be said that Trevor has a rooted interest in food safety that goes beyond the obvious: He’s married to our Retail Operations General Manager, Crystal Kitchin.

Both Crystal and Trevor were born and raised in the Seattle area and are very close to their families. At their wedding, in addition to their extended families, many members of their Macrina family were there to cheer them on—along with a Macrina wedding cake.

Trevor took Crystal boating in the San Juan Islands, one of his favorite places. “She fell in love with the islands as well,” he says. When time permits, they love exploring the islands in the nineteen-foot Cutty Cabin boat. At home, visiting family and spending time with their husky are significant parts of their life.

And the best part of his job (besides Crystal)?

“The people that work at Macrina are fantastic,” Trevor says. “That’s why I work here.”

Meet Jennifer Truong: Macrina’s Wholesale Office General Manager

Born and raised in South Seattle, Jennifer Truong had no desire to leave the city when she graduated from the University of Washington in Environmental Studies. Her job search led to Macrina Bakery, which was hiring Customer Service Representatives. “I was looking for a job to help me pay off my student loans,” Jennifer says. “Office work and the chance to connect with people was great.”

Five years later, Jennifer has grown into the job of Wholesale Office General Manager. “I fell in love with the whole team,” Jennifer says. “They continue to grow me and give me new opportunities. It’s a great environment to work in. “I manage the Customer Service Representatives, making sure we deliver exceptional customer service.”


In addition to taking care of Macrina’s wholesale customers, Jennifer works with production and delivery to ensure they have what they need to execute their jobs.

Jennifer cites Macrina’s Wholesale Manager Fanny Alvarado, and her hard work and management style, as a major influence. “I’ve learned from Fanny to remind myself that this is really a small business. We have the ability to be flexible and adapt to changes as we need to. We learn and grow from our experiences.”

Outside of work, Jennifer loves to get together with Amy Bui, Macrina’s General Manager of Wholesale Sales, and dine out. Often they visit Macrina’s wholesale customers. “I’m definitely a foodie,” Jennifer says.

Crab is a favorite. Summer weekends are often spent dropping the crab pot from her double kayak in the Sound, enjoying a paddle, and returning to see if a crab dinner is awaiting.
Another favorite: Seattle. “I love that I live a short drive from downtown,” Jennifer says. “Or I can go the other direction, and I’m in the mountains. I love the views. I don’t know if I could imagine life without seeing Mount Rainier”

Baking Holiday Cookies with Friends

At Macrina, we love baking and we love community. The annual holiday cookie exchange is a great example of this—each cookie a story, each an act of love. It’s a time to visit your neighbors and share good tidings. Not much tops baking family recipes with friends, but when you don’t have the time, Macrina has you covered. Our collection of 20 holiday cookies, sold in a reusable Panibois wooden baking box, will bring joy to your friends and neighbors. Each of the six delicious types of cookie has a story and a distinct flavor.

Read our blog to hear how one of Macrina’s partners, Michelle Galvin, has rekindled and nurtured dear friendships through an annual holiday cookie baking gathering and to learn more about our Holiday Cookie Box.

A few years after college, newly married and busy establishing a career, finding time to visit with dear friends was a challenge. In high school, Trina, Kerri and I would spend whole days together, talking every day. But now, despite the desire, we barely saw each other.

With Christmas approaching, we made a promise we’d start a new tradition: a holiday cookie party. We all loved baking and revered the neighborly tradition of the cookie exchange. What better way to reconnect than spending an afternoon sharing and baking family recipes together?

At the first gathering, Trina brought a vintage pizzelle maker. The family heirloom looked, uh, well-loved. It was easy to imagine the hundreds or thousands of thin wafer-like cookies it had produced over the years. Making 200 pizzelles alone would be a monotonous task, but the repetitive task of spooning dollop after dollop of dough into the rustic pizzelle iron with friends made it fun.  We laughed a lot and had plenty of time to catch up.

Next, Trina taught us her Nonna’s biscotti recipe, the best in all of Montecatini she’d claimed. Her “trick” was to toast the almonds before adding them to the dough. Nothing satisfies the need for crunch like biscotti do, and I loved hearing the stories of Trina’s grandmother.

Since only two baking sheets could fit in the oven at a time, we spent an entire Saturday baking. It was like old times, talking of matters big and small, remembering old stories and sharing new ones. And at the end of it, we each had a large box of cookies to share with our friends, neighbors and family.

We promised we’d do it again the next year. And we did. And the year after that, too. Sometime in the early aughts, one of us showed up with a special holiday cookie edition of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. We tried making her Chocolate Crackle Cookies. Soon our hands were sticky with chocolate dough. But they were so delicious straight from the oven—chocolate crack-le!—I worried we wouldn’t have enough to give away. Of course, they got added to the yearly event. Even after all these years, Kerri and Trina still debate whether they should be crisp or chewy and how long to bake them. I love them both ways—and both of them—so I sit back and enjoy the playful debate.

 

As we added cookies, we also added kids. Gingerbread cookies with bright white royal frosting and decorated sugar cookies made their way onto our cookie trays. With the many small helping hands, the mess grew exponentially. The number of hands helping clean up did not! But the kids were thrilled to help. Though some of them struggled just a little to part with the cookies, they were all proud to present their teachers with plates of cookies they’d helped make.

Not only did I catch up with my friends, but now we also traded parenting secrets and potty training strategies. Later those stories included the challenges of starting new schools, puberty and middle school, sharing the car keys with new drivers, and college tours.

Not that it was all free of tragedy. At one gathering, midway through the pizzelle making, Trina dropped the heirloom iron and it broke. (Thank goodness, it was her—not me!) We raced out to a fancy kitchen store for a replacement. It sufficed but didn’t make cookies anywhere nearly as good, or as beautiful. So, we took to eBay for a replacement, carefully inspecting images and bidding patiently. Three years later, we had not one but two vintage pizzelle makers—exact replicas—safe cover if the dropsies came over us again.

With more kids and more plates of cookies to assemble, the single oven was a bottleneck. So, we ventured down to the Macrina test kitchen in Kent. The kitchen had so much space and fancy ovens galore. We were like pros in there. In just three hours, we had plates and plates of cookies, and we’d barely broken a sweat! We realized that the point of the gathering wasn’t about speed and efficiency (although the convection oven with rotating racks that baked all our cookies evenly was amazing), but nurturing friendships of more than 40 years. We’re back to the two cookie sheets oven.

Fortunately, it is the exception when time and circumstance doesn’t allow for our annual event. The few times it has happened, all three of us were very grateful that we could count on the fabulous bakers at Macrina. Sure, we missed the time together. But we were still able to bring our friends, family and neighbors lovely gift boxes of homemade holiday cookies we could be proud of.

Macrina Holiday Cookie box is an assortment of 20 cookies bundled in a reusable Panibois wooden baking box. It contains:

2 Gingerbread

3 Chocolate Crinkle

3 Mexican Wedding Balls

4 Cranberry Orange Almond Biscotti

4 Pecan Rosemary Shortbread

4 Rugelach

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.” 

 

 

 

Phuong Hoang Bui

Update: 6/14/2019Macrina’s Head Baker, Phuong Hoang Bui, started working at Macrina in 1994. To celebrate his 25th anniversary we gathered with him and his family at Palisade Restaurant to share our gratitude for everything he has done for Macrina and the way he brightens the workplace with smiles and his cheerful heart.

“The best part of the heartwarming dinner was Phuong sharing his fond memories of Macrina,” says Jane Cho, Production Manager. “Behind his kind, respectful mannerisms, he is a comedian and loves to laugh and tell a good story. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Phuong for so many years and to be inspired by someone with such integrity in everything he does.”
To learn more about Phuong’s amazing journey from Vietnam to Macrina read this blog that Leslie wrote about Phuong.

Original: 10/14/2012

Throughout my new book, More from Macrina, interspersed among the recipes and beautiful photography, are stories about the people and partnerships that make the Macrina community.

Phuong Hoang Bui has worked at Macrina for 18 years and as much as anyone, he embodies the spirit of the Macrina community in a way that makes me so proud to have him as a colleague.  I first met Phuong through the International Rescue Committee, where he had been eagerly seeking employment.  At our first meeting, Phuong conveyed a deep desire to work and to learn – I hired him as a dishwasher on the spot. This was in 1994 – just after Macrina first opened.

Phuong

While he worked as a dishwasher, Phuong would always make himself available to help with food prep, to help shape bread, and to watch the bakers load the ovens – constantly seeking opportunities to learn more so that he could grow professionally while supporting Macrina’s growth.

18 years later Phuong manages our entire wholesale production team – fifty employees in all, diverse in age, ethnicity and experience – and Phuong takes great care to help them all develop the skills to succeed in their work, and for many of them, to adapt to a new life in Seattle.

Before starting at Macrina, Phuong had been trying to get to America from his native Vietnam for some time.  His first attempt was as a boat refugee when he was captured and imprisoned for two years.  When he was released Phuong received help and support from friends and family, which led to his arrival and new life in the United States.

Today, everything Phuong does through his work at Macrina demonstrates his gratitude for the help and support he has received. Phuong works with his team to help them develop professionally and embrace new opportunities, just as he did (and continues to do).  Phuong’s desire to repay the kindness he was shown when he first arrived here reflects so much of the culture here at Macrina, and just as Phuong is grateful for the life he has here, I am grateful for the chance to have him be a part of our daily life at Macrina.

Learn more about Phuong and his amazing journey in More from Macrina.