It's hard to start a business in the Bay Area. And even harder to make it successful. We're inspired by the couples who have done it together and have decided to highlight them every week in our new "Bay Area Power Couples" blog series. This week we chatted up the brains and brawn behind Baker & Banker.
Chef Jeff Banker and Pastry Chef Lori Baker combined their powers of fine pastries and cuisine to form Baker & Banker, opened in late 2009 in lower Pacific Heights after years of waiting for the right space and the right time to come their way. But it's not as if they spent that time just sitting around. Both have created cuisine for Bix, Home Restaurant, and Postrio among many other stints at star-studded restaurants in the Bay Area & beyond.
Located in an old apothecary, Baker & Banker is a swanky, warm place where hand-crafted breads and desserts are just as much stars on the menu as its mouth-watering, farm-to-table appetizers and entrees are. Lori Baker's just opened her new bakery August 1st, right around the corner from the restaurant. She's churning out everything and the kitchen sink, from breakfast pastries, foccacia pizzas, layer cakes, and cupcakes to a variety of breads, fresh sandwiches and seasonal pies.
How did you and Lori first meet?
Jeff: We were introduced by mutual friends. Lori and I both worked at Postrio but at different times. The friend who introduced us worked when I was there, and had also worked when she was there and thought we would be a good couple.
How do you influence eachother when it comes to cooking and running a business?
Jeff: We're constantly collaborating with one another. We always talk about menu ideas and how to improve the business and we both share the same vision of what we want. We definitely like to go the market together, we like to go out for meals to experience new techniques and flavors. We definitely help eachother with menu planning and coming up with ideas.
Lori: Jeff influences my dessert menu a lot. He comes up with a lot of great ideas when I'm stuck. As far as the business goes we just try to figure things out the best that we can by talking it through.
Now that you own a business together, has your relationship changed at all?
Jeff: Working together at Home Restaurant for a couple of years, we kinda knew that we could work together, but since opening our own business, we've found it to be really rewarding. We definitely have disagreements occasionally but for the most part, we had a vision of what we wanted and it's been rewarding to have taken what the vision was for many years and put it into an actual space and location and create something that's great. We're really enjoying it.
Lori: I would definitely say our relationship has changed for the better. Being together all day long and watching what the other person does and do what they excel at makes us have a lot of respect for the one another.
What do you guys do to get away from the business? Any favorite dinner date spots?
Jeff: Actually, last night we went up to Napa. We like to do that once a month or so, and we went to [Masaharu] Morimoto's new restaurant and stayed in a hotel. It was crazy because we ended up sitting right in front of Morimoto at the sushi bar, and it was a really fun experience. We're closed on Mondays so we like to go out once a week to try out new restaurants and places. It's partly research and partly just to eat new things.
Lori: We like going to SPQR a lot and Pizzeria Delfina, and sushi.
Do you guys have any kids, or is it just you two for now?
Jeff: We're actually due to have a kid in December!
That will be a nice opportunity to get away for a little bit!
Jeff: Yeah, but the beauty of it is that one of us will always be able to be at the restaurant. We're really excited about having a child.
Do you have any advice for couples who run a business together, or are thinking about it?
Jeff: Yes. Listen to what the other person has to say, and be patient. I think that's really the key, just being respectful and listening to the other person.
Lori: My biggest piece of advice would be.....therapy. I think it helps to have someone to go and talk to every week. I don't think we would be where we are today without it!