James Barrett's love of baking began in the kitchen of his Italian grandmother, who impressed upon him the importance of natural ingredients, traditional methods and, above all, patience.
These were principles James would encounter again during his studies at the Culinary Institute of America and in Europe at the Ecole Francaise de Boulangerie d’Aurillac, where his appreciation of old world methods of artisanal baking deepened into a lifelong passion.
He brought this passion back to his hometown of Philadelphia and to the pastry kitchen of the White Dog Café, where he found a kindred spirit in restaurant manager and fellow Francophile Wendy Smith Born. "Foodies" before the term was invented, the two friends shared a love of the complex textures and earthy flavors of the breads they had enjoyed overseas. They shared a dream, too, of introducing these breads to America. But would Philadelphians, weaned on Wonder Bread, embrace the chewy rustic loaves of a bygone age?
Today, more than 20 years later, James rises every morning before dawn to begin work in Metropolitan's 10,000-square-foot bakery facility in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. There, on an average day, he and his team turn out by hand as many as 2,000 individual breads, rolls, cupcakes, brownies, biscotti, muffins, cannelle, fruit tarts and cookies, as well as the bakery's award-winning granolas, flavored popcorns and dog treats!
By the standards of modern mass production 2,000 pieces a day is insignificant, but it keeps this baker busy until well after dark, seven days a week.
James is a regular guest chef on Comcast's syndicated series The Chef's Kitchen and has appeared on the Food Network and on Christina Cooks (on PBS WHYY-TV). He also teaches baking at the Philadelphia Restaurant School, Cook and the Reading Terminal Market Kitchen, among other places. In addition, James donates his time to Metropolitan's charitable initiatives, often creating speciality items and
Along with Wendy, James is the author of the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook (Rodale, 2003) as well as the upcoming Best of Metropolitan Bakery cookbook due Spring 2013.
Wendy Smith Born
A native New Yorker, Wendy founded Metropolitan Bakery with James Barrett in 1993 and has presided over its growth into a nationally respected brand and retail, wholesale and online business employing hundreds of people.
Prior to co-founding Metropolitan, Wendy served as director of community outreach at Share Our Strength, a D.C.-based hunger relief organization, and helped open Philadelphia's White Dog Café, a culinary vanguard of the farm-to-table movement.
Wendy's tenure at the White Dog Café left her with an abiding respect for farmers and the importance of sustainable agriculture. From these early professional experiences came her career-long interest in finding the sweet spot between business success and social responsibility. Metropolitan sources its ingredients from local farmers and other small artisan producers.
Metropolitan Bakery's 19th Street shop was the first local business to provide a pick-up center for Winter Harvest and Farm to City, two Community Supported Agriculture programs. Wendy serves on the boards of several local civic associations and charitable organizations. Wendy was one of the original board members of the Reading Terminal Farmer's Market Trust, which delivers fresh locally grown produce to low income areas.
A mother of three, Wendy has long been a supporter of other working mothers and women in business, and recently received Philadelphia Magazine's 2012 Trailblazer Award. She is also a proponent of women furthering their education and In 2010, she earned a Master's Degree in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania, a degree she received 17 years after Metropolitan Bakery first opened its doors.