In 2006, William Leaman opened Bakery Nouveau in Seattle, offering a variety of artisan breads and pastries as well as high-quality chocolates.
Why are you a baker?
It's not so much about being a baker, but more about being an owner/operator; I'm more of a provider to the community. This ranges from basic foods, such as breads, to finer foods, such as desserts and chocolates. I also feel a responsibility to provide some education to the community. We've hosted some small baking classes for a local school, and we try to continually educate our customers on the foods they buy. As an owner, it's very rewarding to be able to have positive interactions with customers and the community around us.
How did you get your start in baking?
I was looking for a job in high school, and baking sort of found me. It turned out to match my interests and abilities, and gave me a creative outlet early on.
How did being a member of the gold medal-winning BBG Team USA 2005 influence you?
When you own a shop, everyday is a competition. We work very hard to consistently turn out the quality of products our customers have come to expect. You have to continually ask how to improve or innovate product, make processes more efficient, etc., and competing at a high level helped develop and refine the kind of focus this requires.
How has the current economy affected your business?
It's not had too much of an effect so far. We are concerned about commodity prices, of course, but we're lucky in that we're in one of the more economically stable areas, and our customers are still looking for great food and treats. People still like to reward themselves with small luxuries, and we've positioned ourselves to provide good food at a moderate cost.
What sets your bakery apart?
We have a fairly wide variety of products for a small shop. As our name implies, we like to be fresh and innovative, and strive to bring out new items and flavors on a regular basis, both savory and sweet. We also try to bring a fresh view on classics, and introduce our customers to foods they may not have experienced before. For example, our new Pithiviers includes black forest ham and a béchamel-spinach sauce wrapped in a vegetable crepe and baked off inside of a puff pastry. We've found the customers enjoy discovering what new product we've just come out with.
Having recently opened your own shop, what advice would you give to bakers entering the industry?
You have to really be prepared to work hard. I would say two key skills to develop are organization and anticipation. Keep everything you need within reach or where you can get to it easily. You also have to be able to anticipate what you need ahead of time — from what you need in the next hour to the next few days.
What is the favorite part of your profession?
I'd have to say it's the challenge to consistently produce great foods for our customers, whether this means keeping up with customer favorites or creating new products.
Who is your role model?
Didier Rosada was a great role model early in my career, and continues to be a positive influence on my career. He's one of those rare people that not only have a positive impact on the baking profession as a whole, but also on individuals within the field. Also, Jack Miller, owner/operator of the Husky Deli, has been a real influence in terms of community participation. The Deli has been a fixture of the West Seattle community for 75 years, and Jack is one of those owners that all the customers love. I'd like to see Bakery Nouveau integrate community like that, and further develop the great customer relationships that we've created.
If you had to do something other than baking, what would it be?
Most likely, I'd be a chocolatier. It's a medium I enjoy working in, and there are a lot of product and flavor possibilities to explore.
What is your favorite meal?
I enjoy a wide range of food, from a good country-fried steak, to some local Seattle favorites like fresh salmon or crab. If forced to choose though, I'd have to say some good, fresh bread, pates, cheese and a good bottle of wine.