Holy buckets of excitement, Batman! This month features Modern Baking's annual Retail Bakery of the Year award, and while it usually generates a certain level of excitement for the winning bakery, I have rarely seen an owner as exuberant as Marc Serrao, whose Oakmont Bakery won this year's award.
His enthusiasm, not just for the award but also for his baking business in general, is something that is difficult to convey through words on paper. But it radiates from him to his staff and is a bug all bakers should be willing to catch.
Every year, Marc sets goals and chooses an area in the bakery to improve. Perhaps the most challenging is one that many bakers must address in the face of increasing competition, which is making his bakery a city-wide destination without leaving his local community behind.
To meet that goal, he stresses continuous education to improve products and processes, something every baker should strive to do. He sends staff to seminars, classes and trade shows to allow them to learn new things and, in return, grow his business. He isn't satisfied with his breads, so his son Tony and another baker are going to the San Francisco Baking Institute to learn how to make authentic sourdoughs. His goal: to have customers say, “This tastes just like the bread I had in San Francisco.”
He and his bakery should be an inspiration to other bakers. We can all learn something from his desire to improve the bakery and educate himself and his staff.
His love of baking also has infected the bakery's second generation. He told me that he used to have to sneak out of the house in the morning from the time Tony was five because Tony would try to go to the bakery with him. At just 22, Tony has already worked in the bakery for 10 years and now runs production.
As is always the case, we didn't have enough room to run all Serrao's great ideas. But if you want to find out more about what makes Oakmont Bakery so successful, you can meet members of the bakery's team at IBIE next month. Join us at the Modern Baking booth (5618) on Monday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m. They will be on hand to share some of their tips on how to make your bakery a destination.
Not to take anything away from Marc and his bakery's accomplishments, but this year, like almost every year, the competition for Retail Bakery of the Year was tight. With so many great bakeries, it is very difficult to choose which one is best in any given year. Every year we winnow the nominations down to the final three, and what makes us choose one bakery over another may be one small detail that makes the bakery stand out from the others. This year, Marc's palpable enthusiasm was the deciding factor.
If you're doing something great, let us know about it. Often, some of the best bakery operations don't take the time to toot their own horn. So, next summer when the nominations roll around again, don't hesitate to let us know about your bakery. Even if you've been nominated in the past, apply again. You never know — your bakery could have been one that was only one small detail away from winning. And another small detail may push you over the top next time.
Be proud, be loud.