It All Started with a Turkey Sandwich
Michael Baker and Phyllis Kaplowitz of Baker's Best talk about how the business has grown, what makes a good matzo ball and why sometimes guilt is a good thing.
If Michael Baker had been able to get a decent turkey sandwich 26 years ago when he was traveling for business, we might not have had Bakers' Best Café and Catering.
Before moving into the current Lincoln Street location of Bakers' Best, Baker owned a small take-out place across the street, where he would actually carve turkey in the window of the store and hungry passersby would stop in for a sandwich.
In 1994, Baker moved his shop to the current location and expanded in 2001.
"As we grew, we expanded the menu. We grew 15 to 20 percent per year for the first few years," Baker recalls. "Some of the people who work for us catering started when they were in college, and now have two or three kids and still come back at nights and on weekends. They just really love what they do."
Someone who clearly loves what she does is current Bakers' Best Executive Chef Phyllis Kaplowitz. Though she started out as a journalism and political science major at Northeastern, after working front-of-house in restaurants like Jacob Wirth and Lydia Shire's BIBA, Kaplowitz enrolled at Johnson and Wales University.
Kaplowitz found her way to Bakers' Best five years ago and will actually be featured on The Food Network's cooking competition reality show "Chopped" when Season 6 debuts next month.
"It was definitely a tremendous experience in my life. I'll never forget it," Kaplowitz says. "Very intense. It's not really so much about your culinary skills and what you build up to do in your life. It's time management and getting something done very quickly."
Time management also played a key role in the major transition that occurred at Bakers' Best three years ago when they moved their catering operation and food preparation from the basement of the Newton Highlands location to a 10,000 square foot, high tech facility on Gould Street in Needham. One of the most impressive features of this location is their enormous soup vats, most often used to prepare Bakers' Best's famous matzo ball soup.
And what is the secret to good matzo balls?
"Columbians," laughs Kaplowitz. Baker expands, "We have all of these wonderful non-Jewish kids who are making the matzo balls and they seem to just have the right touch."
Baker reports that the Jewish holidays–Passover in particular--are when they receive their highest volume orders.
"We make 500 to 600 pounds of chopped liver, 300 or 400 quarts of matzo stuffing, and about 500 quarts of matzo ball soup on the first two days of Passover," Baker states with pride.
Baker also takes great pride in not only their large number of corporate customers--including Microsoft and TripAdvisor--but also in the fact that he is able to balance his commitment to his business while making time for his family.
Baker will be spending Hanukkah with his kids and grandkids in Newton, but Kaplowitz thinks that she will end up working most of the nights of the holiday.
"Maybe my boss will give me a call. Maybe he'll give me some chocolate quarters…gelt for guilt!" she laughs.