It may have taken longer than Sarah Botcher had hoped to officially open her first brick-and-mortar cafe, Black Walnut Bakery. But it’s not for lack of trying. The chef/owner has been clocking 23-hour workdays, with only cat naps to keep her from collapsing.
Expanding her empire is an adjustment. The pastry chef built her beloved brand of baked goods — found behind the counters at all six Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co. locations — on her own. She baked her renowned kouign amann, croissants and other laminated pastries out of the un-air conditioned kitchen at Black Forest Inn on antiquated machinery, surrounded by hanging sausages, worrying about her dough melting. Conditions have now improved in a state-of-the-art kitchen of her own design. There’s climate control, upgraded equipment, and even better, “I don’t smell like sauerkraut anymore.”
And though she’s hired an almost all-female staff of bakers to join her in her new venture, she’s still powering through both the day shift and the night shift till she can staff up further.
“You can’t grow a business alone,” she admitted Thursday morning, sunlight streaming into her new Parisian-esque cafe in Uptown Minneapolis (3157 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., blackwalnutbakery.com) that is slated to open late next week.
Especially with an exponentially larger menu. In addition to the pastries she is known for, Botcher has added savory treats to her repertoire, including a breakfast sandwich (available all day) on croissant toast that’s filled with creamy goat fines herbs and a sky-high egg custard. Croque monsieur, Red Table charcuterie and Alsatian potatoes are among the other offerings.
There are more sweets, too. One new avenue for Botcher is a cake program, with five flavors available to order whole or taste by the slice. Cakes had been her “Achilles heel,” she said, but the new space has given her the confidence — and the room — to explore that side of pastry.
"I wanted to do things that aren’t practical for wholesale,” she said. Refrigerated things, like lemon tarts and butterscotch banana cream pie, won’t show up at a Spyhouse, but can both be found here.
Botcher is hoping once things calm down — and maybe she gets a bit of sleep? — she can return to expansion mode and consider another outpost “in a highly populated area,” though she won’t hint where.
The Twin Cities is fertile ground for baked goods right now, with recent expansions for Rose Street Patisserie (now on St. Paul’s West 7th), Honey and Rye Bakehouse (at the new Graze food hall in the North Loop) and a Rustica Bakery coming soon to Southdale.
“Bakeries are very popular all over the country and that’s exciting,” Botcher said. “Fifteen years ago when I started baking, I couldn’t find a job.”
How things have changed; now, Botcher is the one who’s hiring. Especially for someone to take that overnight shift off her hands. “Know anyone?” she asked.