Part of the adventure of living this baseball life is having to find a new job everywhere we go. I am fortunate enough to work in an industry with a high turnover rate, and probably have had just as many jobs in the culinary field as most of my graduating class. Working for different bakeries, with differing business models, ownership values, and menu products has provided me with an alternative education that I find incredibly valuable. I am not sure if you have noticed, but the new trendy food word is artisan. All of the sudden hand crafted implies a whole new meaning and price point to products. Every time I hear or see this word I croak. You mean to tell me that Lays potato chips are suddenly “crafted by hand” by the bazillions? And Dominos has hand crafted artisan sandwiches as opposed to… well, what were they before? Crafted on a machine and likely shipped frozen to a store near you. Advertising has a very powerful hand in shifting a person’s imagination to believe they are buying something of quality. I recently started my newest job at Seven Stars Bakery in Rumford, Rhode Island and thought I would do a little spotlight about a bakery that makes artisan products and holds a level of standards that is rare in the restaurant industry.
Seven Stars is a locally owned bakery that specializes in hand made breads, excellent coffee, and some bakery and pastry items. The products rotate on a daily basis, but the best sellers are the toasted walnut and raisin bread, the olive loaf, and their multigrain. They are deliciously moist mini lemon cakes, perfectly crafted chocolate chip cookies, and old fashioned cinnamon rolls that are to die for. Flakey and crunchy with just the right amount of chewy center… it’s a good thing they sell out or I would probably take one home every time I work! For the savory lovers they have ham and cheese croissants, cheddar and herb scones, and a variety of sandwiches that are brought in everyday at 9:30. They have three store fronts and one bakery located in Pawtucket that bakes for all three locations. Seven Stars has been incredibly successful and are run by a husband and wife team that believes that setting the quality bar high ultimately determines success.
Products are sourced locally when possible, from the coffee beans and tea leaves to the jam, butter, and yogurt, and even some of the baking products. Everything is baked fresh everyday. If you walk into the store on Tuesday you won’t see a single product from Monday. It might not be the most cost effective alternative, but it gives customers the best available for every experience. Everything they would throw away at the end of the day is donated to local food banks, which also does wonderful things for the community. The bakery standards sound high, set the bar for the rest of the products and service. Baristas go through a specific training program to learn the science behind brewing espresso and milk drinks. Cappuccinos are only poured in a 7 oz serving because that’s the way they are traditionally made. Regular coffee is brewed every 30 minutes, and after 30 minutes it’s thrown away so that customers get a fresh mug. Iced coffee is brewed specially for ice coffee. The vanilla and chocolate syrups are made in house from real vanilla beans. It’s been wonderful to work for someone for only 10 days and already feel like I am learning so much about ways to maintain quality.
I wish that all of my readers had the opportunity to come and visit such an incredible company. But since most of you live far across the country, I encourage you to seek out a local bakery in your area or at a farmers’ market. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. “Do you make your products everyday?” “Where do you source ingredients from?” “When the heck was this coffee brewed?”. These are all details that a customer deserves to know before purchasing a product. It’s also a wonderful way to support small businesses and seek out better tasting foods.