Raising the bar at Frederick’s
When it comes to delivering high-quality baked products on a consistent basis, the process begins long before the product reaches the customer’s hands. For Susan Lozier Robert, owner of Frederick’s Pastries in Amherst, N.H., quality is evident in everything from the amount of food coloring in the icing formula to the bakery’s relationship with its vendors to the cleanliness of the store and appearance of its staff. She has strived for perfection across every facet of the business since buying it from her parents eight years ago.
“I was brought up in the business and it is in my blood to have it be perfect,” she says. “We need the expression on the customer’s face to say, ‘This is exactly what I wanted.’ People put a lot of work into weddings, showers and big birthdays, and the cake is really the centerpiece, so it should reflect that well.”
Robert’s parents started the bakery in their garage before expanding to the retail location in 1980. Her father, Frederick Lozier, a member of the American Academy of Chefs and former Johnson & Wales instructor, originated all the formulas that are still used today. “We have had a lot of years of perfecting formulas,” she says.
Although the bakery has since opened two retail locations in addition to the flagship store and swelled to a staff of 27, all production is still done out of the Amherst facility for quality control and consistency.
“I didn’t want three different bakers at three locations with three different results,” Robert says. “The same people doing it every day will get me the same result.”
The Amherst facility also is where all new employees undergo a 30-day training period before they can officially join the staff. They are trained in Frederick’s style, starting with pastries, as Robert notes that very few new employees are at the appropriate level to start immediately on cakes. “In pastry, they perfect their skills, learn mousses and icing–everything is weighed and very precise. If they are making a purple bud on an éclair, they are literally measuring out that food coloring,” she says. “They do nothing alone. They don’t even answer the phone.”
Such discipline goes a long way on a busy week, Robert notes. “Customers don’t understand what goes into making their cake,” she says. “I don’t have one pan going through. I am making an 80-qt. batch. If it doesn’t taste right, I have 79 other people to worry about there.”
Good vendor relationships also contribute to quality assurance, she says. “We put a lot of energy into selecting and getting to know our vendors, and we use as many local people as possible. Having a valuable relationship where you are taking the time to understand their needs and they take the time to understand yours really helps your business.”
Last month, Frederick’s was voted the Best of New Hampshire for the 10th year by the readers of New Hampshire Magazine for its cakes and pastries. Robert says being selected by the community raises the bar for her and her staff to seek perfection year after year.
“As the years go on, the pressure becomes greater,” Robert says. “It makes us keep a closer eye on what we’re doing. Once you’re there, you want to stay there.”
Bredenbeck’s keeps it in the family
How long does it take a local business to gain name recognition in the community? For Karen Boyd, third-generation baker and owner of Bredenbeck’s Bakery in Chestnut Hill, Pa., 122 years and counting. That’s how long her family has owned the full-service bakery in northwest Philadelphia known for special occasion cakes and tortes, cookies, cupcakes and pies.
During that time, Bredenbeck’s has gained quite a following. The bakery recently was lauded by local media for its century-old formulas, and more recently, for designing birthday cakes for high-profile pop singers Elton John and Jon Bon Jovi. Boyd has spent the past 30 years working to maintain that reputation.
“It is a family name and has been around for a long time, and I’m very proud,” she says. “The name has always been about quality.” Boyd took over the business from her father and opened the current location in a converted Victorian home in 1983. All production is done onsite–mixing and baking are done on the first floor; then a dumbwaiter transports product to the second floor for finishing and finally back down to the bakery shelves. All dairy and fruit are purchased from local vendors, and every product sold is preservative- and additive-free. “I have always said we are baking like you would in a home kitchen using the ingredients you have–butter, eggs, everything,” she says.
Boyd strives to make sure the original formulas remain intact, down to the most minute detail. “A couple years ago, we started making manuals on how to make a product so there is consistency–which was key,” she says. “My head baker trains everybody with mixing, and my lead decorators train everyone who comes in on the fact that I like sugar roses a certain way, for example.”
Sanitation also plays a significant role in Boyd’s strategy for achieving quality. “I have been sending employees to classes to get ServSafe certified. I think it is imperative that they realize how important it is to take precautions to have a healthy, safe environment while producing food products–from when it is OK to use gloves to what temperature custards and whipped creams should be.”
She created a coding system for labeling products as they come out of the oven and hit the shelves–accounting for the fact that cupcakes have a different shelf life than Danish or bagels. “Being in the bakery business, we have shelf life. That is very important and can make or break you,” she says. “You want to make sure the customer gets that product, takes it home and then can enjoy it over the next couple days.”
She also encourages innovation, testing new formulas when time allows and urging the whole staff to get involved.
“When you have snow storms and no one is coming in the door, it is a great day to get the team together and test formulas,” she says. It took the staff two years to perfect Bredenbeck’s now-famous chocolate sour cream pound cake. “You have your busy months, but we are always looking at how we can improve. I am lucky to have this team that just strives to give the customer the best product possible.”