NEW OWNERS RETURN TO ROOTS WITH PURCHASE OF WALLA WALLA BREAD COMPANY
DATE: October 10, 2018
Effective November 1, Walla Walla Bread Company will be owned and operated by The Bakehouse 55, an up-and-coming Redmond-based bakery known for its artisanal croissants and baked goods.
Michele and Coral Pompei, founders and owners of The Bakehouse 55, will be relocating to Walla Walla, where they will offer their highly sought-after baked goods as part of the Walla Walla Bread Company’s bakery.
The new owners will continue operating the Walla Walla Bread Company as both a restaurant and bakery. For now, the menus, hours, and services will remain the same. Chef Michael Kline will stay on as the restaurant’s chef until the spring of 2019 to help ensure a smooth transition. “We are very excited to be a part of bringing their talent to our small town,” says Michael.
The new owners hope to retain the current employees to keep a consistent experience for their customers.
The Pompeis will bring their own recipes and techniques to the bakery side of the operation, so while customers can still anticipate purchasing bread, croissants, and other baked goods, they will be able to experience their artisanal baked goods that have taken Seattle by storm since The Bakehouse 55 opened less than two years ago. They also anticipate offering artisanal Italian ice creams and other European pastries in the future.
In addition, the Pompeis plan to provide wholesale baked goods to other Walla Walla restaurants and hope to establish a relationship with the local culinary program to offer continuing education for the community.
While there will not be a separate storefront or location for The Bakehouse 55, the baked goods created under their brand will now be available in the bakery section of Walla Walla Bread Company.
The Bakehouse 55 provided artisanal baked goods to 15 shops in and around Seattle, including the notorious Metropolitan Market. Coral says that other major Northwest companies sought them out as a supplier, but The Bakehouse 55 didn’t have the capacity to service all the requests.
“While we will no longer be selling our baked goods in the Seattle area, we are incredibly grateful to our loyal customers who have helped us grow this beyond our wildest dreams. And we want them to know they can continue to get our products in Walla Walla,” says Coral. “We hope they will support this move and be able to experience our restaurant and bakery in the future.”
The new owners have offered jobs to any of their six current employees who wish to relocate to Walla Walla.
The Pompeis are artisanal bakers with broad experience in the food industry. At The Bakehouse 55, they specialized in using sourdough techniques to create rich pastries, cakes, and other baked goods. Although they have focused on breakfast pastries and classic viennoiserie, their interests include a broad array of items that they hope to explore in the future.
Michele is an expert at creating laminated doughs that feature the layers of butter and dough that croissants are known for. During his 30 years of experience working as a pastry chef, owning a business, and teaching baking, he has studied under grand masters and world champion chefs from across the globe. His work history includes serving as baking and pastry instructor of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle, Miami, and Orlando, and pastry artist for the Ritz-Carlton.
Among his culinary distinctions are writing and executing menus for Savoring the America’s James Beard House Dinner for the James Beard Foundation in 2008 and serving as the lead pastry chef for Team USA in the 2016 Gelato World Cup in Rimini, Italy.
Coral claims a lifetime love of baking. While attending Willamette University, she worked as kitchen manager of the on-campus coffee shop, which fueled her interest in the food industry. After graduation, she moved to Florida where she received a certificate in European baking and pastry arts from the Notter School of Pastry Arts in Orlando, where she met Michele.
Coral has been responsible for dessert preparation at Walt Disney World’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort Bakery and has been lead pastry cook for Monsieur Paul in Les Chefs de France Epcot (a Paul Bocuse restaurant). She brings a versatile background in baking, fine dining, catering, and large-scale production.
While both are involved in the baking, Michele focuses on innovation, development, and finesse, and Coral oversees the daily production and general business operations.
The husband-wife duo’s meticulous attention to every detail has resulted in rave reviews and exploding demand for their products. Michele says that every step of the baking process must be attended to with precision and utmost skill. “The croissants, for example, take between 48 and 72 hours to produce. The dough must be balanced according to the heat and humidity of the atmosphere. The butter must be laminated into the dough carefully, to maintain the integrity of each individual layer. Finally, each croissant is hand-rolled to achieve the perfect shape. It is a process!”
Committed to only the freshest ingredients, they plan to continue the Walla Walla Bread Company’s tradition of sourcing their food from local farmers. They will also introduce their line of sourdough-based products, which are made from starter they brought with them from Florida six years ago.
Walla Walla holds appeal for the Pompeis on multiple levels. “We felt drawn to the slower pace of small-town life, the vibrant food scene, and the opportunity to step into the next phase of our dream,” says Michele.
Coral’s parents and some of her grandparents attended Walla Walla University, her sister attended Whitman College, and her paternal grandfather, Cliff Sorensen, served as president of WWU during his career. Her maternal grandparents have lived here for decades.
Coral and Michele had been planning to open a retail food space for some time, but it wasn’t until a chance breakfast at Walla Walla Bread Company that their dreams seemed to align with an opportunity. Intrigued by the “For Sale” sign at the restaurant, she asked to talk with the owner. Soon, a sale was in the works.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the future,” says Coral. “Walla Walla is exactly the kind of place we want to raise our son and to call home. We’re eager to contribute to this community and can’t wait to build on what the Walla Walla Bread Company has created.