We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Yanc and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor is to always keep in mind who and what you’re doing all of this for while you’re working. A natural extension of yourself will always come out better, no matter what you are making. Although you have to keep some things in mind, as it is a business: consistency (making sure you can meet the guest’s expectations if not exceed them) and digestibility (how easy it is to comprehend and is it the item the right choice for them as an individual). We treat the bakery like an extension of our home, and while it isn’t a grand culinary experience the guest is (hopefully) leaving like they just spent some time with their neighbor.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I went to pastry school in Colorado: Johnson & Wales University for Baking & Pastry Arts and continued to work all over Denver’s best restaurants. For a few years I did minimal pastry work and cooked, then eventually went back to pastry for a few months at this big shot restaurant where I met Sean. As roommates, he watched me develop my first bakery which I opened in 2015. I earned Denver’s Best Bakery in one of the bigger print magazines and sold it the following year to move to New York. I dove in to learn about bread more intensively at Bien Cuit where I fell in love with sourdough. After a year I moved to Los Angeles to become pastry chef at Gjusta. In that time of 2017, Sean and I expanded our family while commuting to each other weekly from southern California to Northern California. I joined him at SingleThread Farms & Inn as the hotel baker for 1 year and began doing farmers markets.
The Farmers Markets were rough. I would work on and off in the day, while our older son napped, then in the middle of the night (after Sean got back from SingleThread) I would bake everything from 11pm – 7am. We got through our first market season like this until I got pregnant and worked until I was a month away from having our second child.
When our younger son was 2 months old I brought him to the production kitchen with me in the middle of the night to prep so I could feed him when he woke up.
It was gnarly to say the least, but I enjoy pushing myself and my body to great lengths especially when it amounts to something greater. I really do love what I do for a living and while many say career over family is a hard choice to make: I say why can’t you have both? I also recommend having a good partner, like Sean, in this choice of having both!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would start by driving the Shell Beach at 5am to see the last hour of low tide and explore the tide pools, go to Wildflower Bakery in Occidental on the way home to get the best scones (ever, ever, ever), then to Flakey Creme back in Healdsburg for a real breakfast, grab dinner items from the Healdsburg Farmers Market, trail walk and blackberry picking at Riverfront Regional Park, grab lunch to-go at Campo Fina and take it to Preston Farm & Winery to eat and follow with their wine tasting. Lastly, dinner at home in the backyard made with items we got from the farmers market.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband, Sean McGaughey: he takes my recipes and technique to a whole other level. We stand out for food alone with the technique and thoughtfulness he adds to our offerings.
Emma K. Morris