We were once croissant-less. Capitol Hill, now home to the hottest, most-hyped patisserie in the city in Crumble & Flake is planned to be a second home for another renowned Seattle purveyor of pastry, CHS has learned.
West Seattle’s Bakery Nouveau has launched plans for a new shop on Capitol Hill in one of the most unlikely retail locations in the neighborhood.
“The focus will be more patisserie — over the top cakes, candies, kick-ass sandwiches — more four-star dining between two pieces of bread,” founder William Leaman tells CHS about his planned expansion — Nouveau’s first since debuting six years ago in Leaman’s home neighborhood of West Seattle.
A call earlier this fall to the captain of the gold-medal U.S. team in the 2005 World Cup of Baking brought a request to “wait a few weeks.” Now the paperwork is in motion — but there is still a very long wait for this plan to be baked.
The West Seattle Blog went behind the scenes in Leaman’s kitchen (Image: Christopher Boffoli/ WSB with permission)
The planned location for the Capitol Hill foray is surprising — especially given the amount of new construction and retail space being created around the Hill. The new Bakery Nouveau is being planned for a commercial unit in the East John Court development along 15th Ave E that has stood empty since the building went up more than five years ago. CHS looked at the problem child of Capitol Hill commercial real estate here in 2011 — What’s wrong with the retail space at John Court? The short answer has been no parking, large (and therefore expensive) units and lack of infrastructure required to host a full-bore restaurant.
Leaman said working with DPD to come up with a suitable plan to build a bakery in the challenged space is all that stands between us and a new Nouveau. Apparently other ventures have tried to make the space work before — and failed.
“There’s been like three or four entities who have tried,” Leaman said. “The space has some limitations.”
How Bakery Nouveau will sort all of that out remains to be seen. But Leaman is adamant that the project won’t go forward if he cannot bake on Capitol Hill.
“You fall out of the terms,” Leaman said. “You can’t call yourself an artisan baker if you’re putting product on the truck to be transported from different locations.” He’s not talking about Seattle regulations there — these are Leaman rules.
Having built Bakery Nouveau near his West Seattle home, Leaman said he also is planning his Capitol Hill venture as a local endeavor. No, he won’t be moving to Capitol Hill. Instead, Leaman said he has two chiefs of staff — “One for sweet, one for savory,” he said — ready to lead the new bakery toward the lofty, flaky, crispy, rich, beautifully constructed heights of the first Nouveau. Sweet and Savory live around the Hill, apparently. We look forward to introducing you to them as the story unfolds.
The East John Court problems aside, the planned venture could mark yet more food and drink investment along 15th Ave where new players like Rione XIII and The Wandering Goose have filled-in alongside upgrading veterans and others are doubling down on their presence on the suddenly busy street.
It also presents a solution for croisant-loving Capitol Hillites who’d rather walk uphill than downhill to get their fill of perfect pastry. Neil Robertson opened his Crumble & Flake on E Olive Way in May and the lines have lessened but not yet faded away.
Both Robertson and Leaman were featured in this recent City Arts piece about Seattle’s “bad ass” bakers: Robertson is the lone artist, Leaman the “a polymath-ubergeek-mad scientist-varsity captain” —
Akin to Camas Country Mill, Pure Éire uses a French-made DeLaval system that processes milk with minimal heat output. “It pasteurizes but it doesn’t homogenize, which totally destroys flavor,” Leaman says, slivering his butter onto a nub of baguette. “You tell me.”
The flavor is musky and bright and immediately addictive.
“My goal is to make my own butter,” Leaman says, effusive. “No other bakery that I know of is crazy enough to do that.”
This rather fascinating look at the Bakery Nouveau business from a baking industry perspective helps explain some of the secrets of Leaman’s West Seattle success:
What works is Leaman’s innate sense for what West Seattle residents want in a bakery. He hit the nail on the head from the beginning with the product mix. When developing the product line, Leaman focused on creating products that would keep the bakery busy all day with pastries for breakfast, breads for lunchtime sandwiches and a variety of chocolates and desserts for all-day treats. “I try to give them [customers] something they can relate to, but also have some French cakes and pastries. I try to tap the world of artisan bakery and also high-end desserts and candy. I torment myself a lot with all three.”
Leaman tells CHS he hopes to invest in Capitol Hill the same way he has invested in West Seattle.
“We’ve created more than 35 jobs. More or less, we’ll be doing the same thing for Capitol Hill,” he said. “Creating something that will be active during all dayparts.”
That’s the economic pitch. He’s not yet ready to talk about the specifics of the plan for the new bakery space like details on seating or the display cases let alone consider a possible target for opening. He knows there will be no pizza — DPD has already nixed that variety of oven configuration. The always conservative construction budget reported to DPD for the buildout is $144,000.
Even if the East John Court space remains cursed and doesn’t work out, Bakery Nouveau appears destined for the neighborhood.
“We’re really excited about Capitol Hill just because of the diversi
ty up there. And we love the demographics,” Leaman said. Pastry may be his passion. But it’s also his business.
You can view the West Seattle menu and learn more at bakerynouveau.com.