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INTERVIEW #04

Amanda Michael

Amanda Michael is the owner of a trio of bakeries in San Francisco — Jane on Fillmore, Jane on Larkin and Jane the Bakery. In addition to being a professional baker, Michael also considers herself a professional eater. “I’ve spent my whole life in food and eating,” she says. “And I have a terrible sweet tooth.”

The San Francisco native has always loved baking. “I started baking professionally pretty young. But before that I always loved being in the kitchen. It was always one of my favorite things to do. My grandmother and I would bake together a lot. She was not a baker, but we would look up recipes and bake things we liked. We would make Madeleines together and that felt very grown up and sophisticated. We would take out the big mixer and we used a special pan. It was a lot of fun to do that with her.”

That ritual of baking with her grandmother is an important memory for Michael. In fact, ritual, in general, is important to her. Michael calls herself a creature of habit. And one of her most important habits is setting a vibe for the day by having a peaceful morning. “My perfect morning begins alone,” she says. “I like to wake up before anybody else in the house gets up. It's usually dark and I'll spend the first half hour just with a cup of coffee trying to collect my thoughts and get ready for the day before turning on the computer or picking up the phone. It's just having those few quiet moments without the distractions to prepare yourself for the day and just gather thoughts and enjoy a little coffee at the same time. Usually, the next thing I'll do is go for a run. Get outside and get moving. It’s my most favorite part of the day. Then I come back to some breakfast.”

“I like to wake up before anybody else in the house gets up. It's usually dark and I'll spend the first half hour just with a cup of coffee trying to collect my thoughts and get ready for the day before turning on the computer or picking up the phone. It's just having those few quiet moments without the distractions to prepare yourself for the day.”

As a bakery owner, Michael never finds herself short on bread, so breakfast often includes toast. “It will depend on provisions at hand,” she says. “And what's in season, what fruits we have and also how hungry I am. But usually after a run I'm pretty hungry.”

No matter what she eats for breakfast — whether it’s as simple as buttered toast, or something more complex — Michael stresses the importance of taking time to be present with her food. “I think there's so many different things you can do to live a better life,” she says, "but I do think it’s important as much as you can to slow down and enjoy the moment that you're in instead of always thinking about the 20 things you have to do down the road. Everything will get done. Whenever you can take a moment just to take a deep breath and really be present in the moment, I think it is really important.”

It’s this focus on present-moment living that spurred Michael to take time out of the workforce to be with her two children when they were still young. Michael had worked in restaurants from the time she was 18 until the birth of her second child, Jane. Once Jane was born, Michael decided to take time off. “I realized it was too hard to balance restaurant work and two young children at home.” Of that time, Michael says: “When they were little and I wasn’t working, I was still baking all the time. So my kids have a lot of experience baking with me. It was part of our daily routine. The kitchen was the heart of the house. We spent a lot of time there. Being in the kitchen was just part of what we did. A lot of times the kids would be doing their homework while I cooked.” Michael chuckles and then adds: “I actually taught them knife skills early on. And now my daughter is a very good baker. When we bake together now, she does the heavy lifting. She doesn’t want to be a professional baker, but she definitely loves it.”

“Slow down and enjoy the moment that you're in instead of always thinking about the 20 things you have to do down the road. Everything will get done. Whenever you can take a moment just to take a deep breath and really be present in the moment, I think it is really important.”

“When they were little and I wasn’t working, I was still baking all the time. So my kids have a lot of experience baking with me. It was part of our daily routine. The kitchen was the heart of the house. We spent a lot of time there. Being in the kitchen was just part of what we did. A lot of times the kids would be doing their homework while I cooked.”

After some years at home, Michael felt the pull of restaurant life again. “When my daughter was older and in school, I was trying to figure out what I wanted, what my next steps were going to be,” says Michael. “I decided that I wanted to open my own place.” And even though she loved all kinds of food, Michael decided it would be best if she focused on something specific, at first. “I really just wanted to focus on — originally — pastries and coffee because my passion had been baking.” And from there, her first bakery was born. She named it — and the subsequent ones after her daughter, Jane. “I just love the name,” she says.

“I want something that everybody can have or items that most people are going to gravitate towards. I want a place when people leave, they leave a little bit better than when they walked in. Even if it's just because of a really good cup of coffee or a smile from a cash register operator or the best salad you've ever had. When somebody walks out the door, I want them to feel that their life has been made even just a tiny bit better having been in.”

Over the years, Michael’s vision of her business evolved. “In the process of opening and developing the menu,” she says, “you realize you need to have food as well to be able to keep people in your space during your business hours. The coffee and pastries are great for a few hours in the morning but to get people coming back they're going to need something heartier.”

“We think of flavors very uniquely, there’s a logic behind every flavor. It’s about piecing together a story from scratch. I’ll write eight pages of information on a flavor before I get into the kitchen. I think about the story of each flavor — the ride I want your tastebuds to go on, how I want the flavor to come off, the story I want to build.”

Like any good business owner, Michael was excited for her bakeries to morph. “The real goal, as the menu developed and as the business developed, was to be able to serve pretty much anybody walking down the street,” she says. “I want something that everybody can have or items that most people are going to gravitate towards. I want a place when people leave, they leave a little bit better than when they walked in. Even if it's just because of a really good cup of coffee or a smile from a cash register operator or the best salad you've ever had. When somebody walks out the door, I want them to feel that their life has been made even just a tiny bit better having been in.”

“We are a part of people's every day,” she says. “We have customers that come in two or three times a day. We have customers that come in every day. We've seen people get married, have kids. And their kids grow up.”

Because this feeling is important for Michael, her bakeries have thrived. And have even become rituals in many, many people’s lives. “We are a part of people's every day,” she says. “We have customers that come in two or three times a day. We have customers that come in every day. We've seen people get married, have kids. And their kids grow up.”

Amanda Michael

Founder and Owner of Jane the Bakery

Amanda is a San Francisco native and the owner and founder of the Jane cafes and bakery in San Francisco. Her mission is to serve healthy and delicious fresh baked goods, coffee drinks, breakfast and lunch. The food is always ingredient driven and flavor forward. She works with local farmers and millers to source unique grains and produce that are a big part of all she makes. Her baked goods are considered among the finest in the Bay Area. Amanda spends her days going between the cafes, creating new dishes and interacting with staff and customers. When she comes home at night she cooks for her family - working on new ideas to bring to work.

Jane the Bakeryhttps://www.itsjane.com/

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