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Mel's New Bakery


melmck
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I'm new to the Portland area, and had the distinct pleasure of visiting Criollo today.... Wow!

The samples by the register were awesome. The place is sleek and classy. I bought a Cinnamon Roll, an Almond Bear Claw and a loaf of Country French Bread with apples, currants and walnuts.

The pastries were great! I especially liked that they were rich in flavor, flakey in texture but not distractingly sweet. You could actually taste the cinnamon and almonds.

I just had a slice of the bread with a "schmeer" of very ripe brie and it was to die for....

I picked up a menu, and it looks like you've expanded your lunch menu. I'll definitely be back for lunch. Mel, I didn't ask for you, but I will next time. Hopefully you'll have a spare moment (obviously a luxury for you!) to come out and say hello.

If any Portland eGulleters are interested in joining me for lunch at Mel's place, let me know...

You've got a real winner in Criollo - the neighbourhood is cute and your place and especially the product is terrific!

Julia

"Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last.”

Francois Minot

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Welcome, Julia!

I actually turned on my computer just to be able to say that the rhubarb almond financier was heavenly! Please make more.

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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Congratulations on your new hire, Mel! Hopefully you can get your own work week back down under 100 hours now...I feel like hell because mine got up to 70 or so, this week (so happy they didn't need me at my other job this weekend...). Onwards and upwards!

I may have light at the end of my tunnel, too...interviewed a young'n from the baking program at the local (highly regarded) trade school, has both formal training and field experience. Keen to work graveyard, since he's something of an introvert. Just need to decide what to do about my current graveyard baker.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I wish where I live we had the option of turning people down for a job. I've seen more emplyee toleration here than I probably ever will. This island describes itself as "loser friendly" and people don't care. Most owners and employers don't seem to care/know better either. You guys have stories of people being hired, I have stories of people being fired or quiting.

I've seen two guys go to jail straight from work. One to prison for statatory rape of a 12 year old. Sadest part is he was bragging about it when he came in to work. He was 20 and I was 17 + I was his boss, so you can tell he was a loser. Seriously it was kind of funny, the feds or detectives (I cant remember) came in including his probation officer, sealed off the office for like 30 minutes and took him out in hand cuffs

Another guy got a phone call from his buddy at work (lunch) telling him he had a warrant of for his arrest due to like 2 years of backed up child funds. So he immediatley left work letting all the orders keep comming in and turned himself in. The chef was called in to take care of the lunch shift, ha.

Another guy was the most worthless guy I ever worked with. He complained about everything as if the world was bringing him down. Cursed bush, the U.S. government, religion, work, everything. I laid into him hardcore one day and may have gave him an a personal revolution because from that day on he didn't complain. Anyways he kept takeing a smoke break every 10 minutes (literally) leaving work unattended so finally the chef told him if it does it again hes fired. He got all huffy and puffy and ran out acting like he was misjudged or some shit. The next day he broke up with his g/f and drove to california with one of our waitresses (worthless also and huge complainer, perfect fit). The funniest part was she had friends to stay with and he didnt, so he used up all his money to drive back because he couldn't find a job and begged, I mean hands and knees (thought he was joking), begged for his job back. Which he didn't get.

Another guy, his predecessor, turned out to be a crack head and a theif. Stole steaks almost everynight from the resturaunt and on his last night stole a co-workers debit card and pin in which withdrew like 220 dollars and was never seen again.

I've got plenty more but am tired of typing.

Edited by chiantiglace (log)

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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WWWHHHEEEWWW! Damn this is a SAGA you got going Mel! What with the crap you took to get this endeavor started, the petrified rat and clean up efforts, the ups and downs of starting, constant great reviews, getting beat over the head by fellow eGs. Whens the movie coming out cuz I bet the GOOD STUFF didn't even make it in! :hmmm:

I started reading this b/c my husband and I are currently looking for a business to buy and I wanted to see more of the reality of being a business owner. He's been there, done that, etc. but I haven't. I realize we aren't starting something from scratch but it will likely be a lot of time apart with him running the business and I will likely spend extra time on it after my regular job (which I have to keep even though I don't like it so we have one person with a regular income).

This has been a real eye opener to see the daily challenges of going on your own. Yea, sure I'm sure you'd love some time to go get a drink and relax but you are working for your future and as my Dad would always say, "Its only temporary" a means to an end, eh? Also, my bet is that it doesn't ALWAYS seem like work since you are doing what you Loooovvvveee. :wub: I salute you and your work ethic. I wish I could say I could do the same but my body doesn't like me anymore so I no longer have that option (boo friggity hoo) :angry: . Besides, if it was easy, we'd all be doing it, eh?

Questions!!!!!

How do you source your payroll, are there ANY benefits or not? These are purely business decisions. Are you planning a website (since I think you mentioned your hub is inclined in that stuff)? What about mail order? (MMM I'd love to try your stuff!) Do you plan on growing your business? how? Also, how do you reinvest in your business? I think you have said you don't quite have the profits to do this yet, do you have a plan for when you do?

Thanks so much for all your time, its been cool to go through this vicariously and GIRL YOU ROCK!

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We are doing our own payroll. By we, I mean my husband Steve. We had our accountant (who is awesome) set us up with Quickbooks, which I bought at Costco. Once it's set up it's pretty easy to do, just have to remember to do quarterly Federal taxes and monthly State taxes. TAXES BLOW! I am surprised there isn't a 'breathing in local air' tax! So we print our own checks, including those to vendors.

I also print all my own menus. I got an all-in-one printer (also from Costco) copy/fax/scan etc. We have the accountant come in maybe once a month to make sure we are on track and completely reconciled.

I go to Office Depot regularly as well as Cash-n-Carry (a.k.a. United Grocers) Why? Because I don't necessarily need a whole case of some things which is how they are available through big suppliers like Sysco.

We had a good weekend again, and my new hire started Sunday which was tremendously helpful. And now I'm getting Maurius--THANK YOU! A few days a week until he gets his biz going. He worked at Payard for a looooong time, and since he managed to stick it out there it means he's fast and he's tough. Plus talented and makes killer product.

Hilarious question of the weekend: "Is it OK to grab a chair and sit down while I zest these 8 lemons?" :raz: I swear, I'm not making this stuff up.

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Hi melmck,

It's taken me over 1 week to read your blog from start to finish, while at work of course... I think you are incredible for documenting this whole thing, and I thank you. I dream of having a business of my own, not necessarily a bakery - maybe more of a chocolaterie. Reading what you have gone through just makes me want to do it more. The sense of accomplishment that you felt in March when you broke even must have been very rewarding... You go girl!! I'm in Montreal, but if I ever make it your way, Ill pop in for sure!! Great luck to you! :raz:

Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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Woo hoo! I get to taste some of Mel's stuff this weekend!

My tastebuds are already doin' the happy dance!

There's a big eG BBQ goin' on this Saturday in Seattle. It so happens one of the attendees

will be driving up through Portland and he's stopping by the Criollo to pick up treats!

Can't wait! Can you put a danish in there for me, Mel? :wub:

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love the happy dance...

yes I will put danish in, specially marked for Anne! ahhh now you can judge for yourselves...too bad I can't meet you in the top pool at Olympic Hot Springs... which reminds me, when I lived in Seattle, we always used to stop in Port T. at the only bakery I know of, is that you??? get good and sugared/espresso'd up before the hike up the mountain.

random comments I've been meaning to throw in---at Artisanal in NYC, the pastry chef there has to work with a 2 burner hotplate as well! And that's for a cranking insanely busy restaurant...(I have worked in the kitchen there, for a James Beard deal.)

My sheeter is bumming me out, it's at least 1,000 years old, and as soon as I am able- I am going to upgrade bigtime. It's a dumb design even for 1,000 years ago. If anyone has any favorite types, feel free to enlighten me.

duuuuhhh can't remember the rest due to pastry boot camp, still in effect...

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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oooohhhhh I hope you guys liked everything!

Holy crap, another insanely busy day, stuff flying off the shelves as fast as we can produce! One couple said they were driving from Boise to the coast, and made a trip through Portland to come to the bakery! That's very sweet. Another woman from Portland said her Dad in ST Louis told her about my bakery and to come here.

So what's hot?

Quiche

Savory bread puddings

Danish & croissants

Rhubarb cream cheese coffeecakes

Raspberry shortbread bars, hmmmm

Tart cherry financiers

Mexican mocha scones

Ham & cheese croissants, may be the #1 seller , tied with cinnamon rolls

Chocolate buttermilk cake

Pistachio eclairs

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Melissa went above and beyond and created two platters of exquisite cookies, brownies and pastries for me to whiz up to Seattle for a BBQ party/potluck. The almond cakes were a real favorite along with the nut bars and the variety of chocolate treats. I was so happy to meet you, Mel and to see your happy customers in your bustling bakery. I'll be back.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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I've had trouble putting across savoury bread puddings at my shop. Fortunately, the conventional ones are selling briskly. My ham and cheese croissants are popular, but unfortunately my night bakers can't seem to get the knack of handling them, and they're always underproofed/overproofed underbaked/overbaked. I'll probably end up dropping them, because so many end up unsaleable.

It's always interesting for me to see what the hot items are in someone else's store.

I liked the look of those raspberry shortbread bars (finally got to see the mag today). Might give them a spin...

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I had the pleasure of being among the Seattle crowd that got to sample Mel's work today. Excellent stuff all around. Here are the two platters.

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Here are some closeups of these irresistable little bite-sized treats, starting with the almond cakes, through the chocolate selections, and then the cookies.

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Finally, here's chefpeon with a bonus croissant and danish from Mel.

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Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Thanks for posting the pix, they look fabulous! What kind of camera is it, anyway? I need one for extreme close-ups.

Savory bread puddings, lordy I've done a million. Yes it's bread pudding, although I frequently use older croissants for savory and older bear claws for sweet.

Strata, which is layered slices, hence 'strata' =layer. But yeah, same principle. I make a big ole batch of plain custard, divide it into half for sweet bread puddings, half for savory to which I add fresh nutmeg, paprika, pepper and a lil Tabasco. Fresh herbs, usually some caramelized onions too. Whatever cheese you like, goat, swiss, cheddar, Manchego, bleu. Ham or bacon. Butternut squash, wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes -the list is endless!

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Ok, that's it! I have to go into business for myself, too!! I've been reading your blog since stumbling on it this past winter, and it makes me laugh, cry, and yearn for...something un-nameable!! I've been wanting to open my own place for years, but never really felt ready, but your inspiration (heaven and hellish parts included) are pushing me closer. I have an idea and solid plans--just no money. My husband left his 9-5 job last fall to go into business for himself as a home computer help person, and so our budget is dependant on our combined income. *sigh* At least I can still read along and wish. :)

Keep it up!! All the best is being wished for you!

It's not the destination, but the journey!
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Mel!!

Thank you SOOO much for my personalized box of treats!!!!!

I got my very own rhubarb/cream cheese danish and a croissant....from Mel herself!

Yo!

Yep, Mel definitely has her danish and croissant DOWN, people! Ok, so you saw my pic with

the pastry before I ate it.....and I was gonna take a picture of the inside of the croissant to show how BEAUTIFULLY flaky it was, but there was no time.....nothing gets in the way of me and my croissant! I was gonna save the danish for the next morning, but I couldn't stand it. I had those pastries in my possession for about 15 minutes, and then....poof.....they were gone.....!

Mel's pastries arrived about mid-way through the party, and I was just picking at food til they showed up. No way was I gonna be too full for those! Glad I saved room, and man I was starvin'!

I reveled in laminated dough perfection! Ahhhhhh!

Thanks again Mel......next time I get South, Criollo is my first stop!!!! :wub:

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speaking of pure food porn, I was telling my French dude about how awesome my laminates were turning out (his reaction--phwfawww!! American shit!) oh how I miss him......anyway I said the croissant was so hot it should be in XXX Laminates magazine, a centerfold-I hold it up , spread it apart and peek inside at all those sexy buttery layers...oooh la la

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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I have made 2 major decisions today, one is to get the sheeter moved into the cold room, why the $$%^& someone decided right next to the @#$%^& oven is the best place for it????? wwhhhhaaaaaaaa??? so I'll need electricians, but worth it. me no likey butter oozey.

Next--I decided this while sheeting 10th paton-- when I die, I want to be Mel confit, roast in my own fat, should be the perfect percentage. Shred meat, mix with chanterelles, herbs, caramelized onions. Place Mel Rillettes on beef tenderloin in puff dough, slice foie gras on top of me, wrap me up and bake me. Eat me. :raz:

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Next--I decided this while sheeting 10th paton-- when I die, I want to be Mel confit, roast in my own fat, should be the perfect percentage. Shred meat, mix with chanterelles, herbs, caramelized onions. Place Mel Rillettes on beef tenderloin in puff dough, slice foie gras on top of me, wrap me up and bake me. Eat me. 

Ooooh, now you've inspired me! When I die, cremate me and dump the "organic Annie flour" in the Hobart and cream me with some butter.....no, make that Plugra. That way, you can whip me and beat me, but you can't make me write bad checks! :raz::raz:

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Just in case I forgot to mention, I do appreciate all the feedback, all kinds. Some things mentioned are good advice and some impractical. That's the fun part, figuring it out as each day goes by.

"If I hadn't bought this, that, or the other stupid thing before I opened, I could pay for that new condensation pump that is leaking all over the floor." hmmm

Why is it that as soon as one light bulb blows, they all blow? And why are halogen 50W $8 a piece?

Had to get the proof box fixed, and am keeping an eye on main freezer which has been blowing the fuse. Not good. Luckily I now know enough about refrigeration to baby it along. I shop-vac all the vents/filters regularly-- this is one of the main reasons your refrigeration goes down-- it can't breathe. Before calling that $90 an hour repair person, clean the stuff!

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Very manageable weekend. I have new hires so I am getting a lot more done. It is amazing to see how much you can do with just a few people! It really sets the standard and makes anything less than that seem easy. We can do $1500 days now without breaking a sweat! it has become de rigeur. not bad for a shop with 16 seats. At Christmas, it seemed like a stretch, now it is typical. want to drop that labor cost, by say, 30%, follow Mel's simple plan of doing all the work yourself :raz: just kidding people, hey I made it through and I didn't even shove anyone into the oven! I get 12-16 hours sleep on Sunday/Monday and cram a teeny resemblance of a social life in there too. And got to watch Bad Education

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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