On a rainy morning in November 1993...
With a line of Philadelphians waiting to try their just-baked breads, Wendy Smith Born and James Barrett opened Metropolitan Bakery.
The future business partners first met at Philadelphia's pioneering farm-to-table restaurant White Dog Café, where Wendy was managing partner and James the pastry chef. Bonding over a mutual love of food and travel, they lamented how hard it was to find great breads and pastries like those they enjoyed in Europe.
So the two friends created Metropolitan Bakery.
At the time, breads made with all-natural starter, a long-slow-cool rise and crackling crusts were unique in Philadelphia and the U.S. And "shop local," "locally sourced" and "whole grain" were still fledgling food movements.
Twenty years later, Metropolitan Bakery has become a Philadelphia institution, with five retail outlets, a café, and a busy online business. Its breads are served in many of the city's finest restaurants—including Barbuzzo, Kanella, Vernick Food & Drink, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse and Jose Garces’ Volver. Its confections are sold in specialty stores throughout the region, and shipped to Metrophiles across the U.S.
Metropolitan Bakery is a nine time Philadelphia Magazine "Best of Philly" winner and was named "Small Business of the Year" by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in 1997. Nationally, its handmade granola was chosen as "Best in the U.S." by Epicurious.com, and its breads and snacks have been showcased in O, the Oprah Magazine, Saveur, Gourmet, Family Circle, Daily Candy, Tasting Table and Martha Stewart Living, and on NBC's Today show.
Behind the scenes, Metropolitan Bakery uses and sells locally-sourced and sustainable products from area farmers and small producers. Metropolitan is also very active in initiatives that directly affect the communities it serves, including endeavors to promote other local businesses, fight homelessness and support healthy food programs for city residents. As an employer it participates in several training programs providing job skills for low income students, recent parolees and formerly homeless adults. As leaders in the business community, Wendy and James regularly partner and share their expertise with civic and charitable organizations to fight hunger, supply food banks and support local agriculture.
This commitment to community—as well as a unrelenting devotion to quality—is what has made Metropolitan Bakery such a sweet success.
See Metro in action courtesy of this “Friday Arts” featurette from WHYY-TV.
What makes this update on the old-fashioned coconut cake so special is the shortbread cookie base and the layers of passionfruit curd. It takes some time, and there are no shortcuts, but it’s a labor of love you’ll want to make time and time again. In addition to basic baking supplies, you’ll need a mixer with a paddle attachment, a double boiler, an entreat ring, and an offset spatula.
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