MANCHESTER, NH – Jon Buatti and his beard are really baking up something special at 819 Union Street. The 20-something Salem native with an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts and a BA in culinary management from Southern NH University, purchased the former Michelle’s Bakery in December before stamping his own unique identity on the place in April: Bearded Baking Company.
Yeah, he sports a heavy one and, why not? What with women comprising 61.3 percent of bakers in this country according to DataUSA, I figure Buatti just wants to put it out there.
His wedding cakes are all the buzz. Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Making that, baking. Or is it the artist he is at decorating?
I study the art gallery of his pre-masticated masterpieces and am so smitten with the contemporary elegance of Exhibit D and Exhibit L that I fantasize about getting married again just to eat one. When Buatti tells me, his raison d’être is making buttercream icing, it seals the deal. I know what I’m gifting my hubby – but mainly myself – this fall for our 33rd anniversary.
(Non-nuptial types, hold tight. Other bakery highlights to come!)
It has been a strange wedding season, Buatti confesses, but cake cancellations have been few. While couples had been postponing wedding plans during the beginning phase of COVID-19, more and more people are finding and implementing alternative options. With a Bearded Baking Company wedding cake.
FYI: Buatti is engaged.
“I’ll be making the most elaborate wedding cake I can imagine for my bride,” says the new father of a bouncing baby Golden Retriever named Stark.
“I’m a real Marvel Comics geek,” says Buatti, “and I introduced my fiancé to Tony Stark [aka Iron Man] at the movies while we were dating and she became a big fan, too, so Stark seemed the perfect name for this little guy.”
Gosh! Wedding cakes, puppies, what’s next, cupcakes? Yes! All kinds and all beautiful.
Neighbor and friend, Matt Leonard, comes in for two boxes of deliciousness to give to the staff at Barking Dog Day Care.
“I can’t get enough of this place,” says Leonard grinning ear to ear. “It’s a great little shop. The workers are great and Jon is good people.”
As if owning a new business and a new puppy weren’t enough, Leonard tells me his pal Buatti is a champion volleyball player – two-time state champ from Salem High – and coaches varsity volleyball and basketball for Londonderry.
The profile of this hard-working, ambitious, Gen-Y is emerging.
As a kid, his whole family worked at a friend’s Hampton Beach restaurant. Dad did books, mom hosted, sisters waited, and Buatti bused and washed dishes. Until that fateful night when he was asked to plate desserts. That was really something.
“Even though sports were my main passion at the time,” recalls Buatti, “the experience at that restaurant changed my life. I knew I never wanted to work in an office or be in sales. The kitchen just kept calling me.”
While working at various eateries through high school and college – even as he entered culinary arts and culinary management at SNHU – Buatti managed to squirrel away money at every opportunity with one goal in mind: owning his food biz.
A listing for Michelle’s Bakery on Craigslist last fall turned the idea into brick and mortar. And the luck kept coming even as the coronavirus came to town. Deemed an essential food business for take-out and curbside – no indoor/outdoor seating – with a menu of breakfast and lunch options as well as pastries and beverages, Buatti’s new business didn’t suffer as badly as others and actually saw new clientele as a result.
No wonder. After savoring an elephant ear from this place, you won’t soon forget it. The buttery, flaky dough; the just-right combo of crystalized brown sugar and cinnamon. Or the luscious juiciness of the raspberry turnover with a rich, flavored coffee.
The sandwich menu is short and sweet. Oldies but goodies like egg sandwiches for breakfast and American favorites for lunch with turkey, tuna, ham, BLT, along with some Italian deli selections.
My goal is to try everything they make and start again. You?
Got foodie news? Carolyn R. Choate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org