A Conversation with Wendy Smith Born of Metropolitan Bakery

Wendy Smith Born and James Barrett

Metropolitan Bakery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

What influenced you to start baking? 

Wendy, originally from New York and James from Philadelphia met one another as managing partners and pastry chefs, at the Philadelphia restaurant, White Dog Café.  There was a real need for an artisan bakery in Philadelphia, so In 1993 James and Wendy decided to combine their experience and open Metropolitan Bakery. 

How did you learn how to do it?  --are you self-taught or did you have formal training?

James studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and Wendy spent almost nine years at the White Dog Café.  James’s bread making is influenced by his grandmother’s recipes.  

Do you have a favorite cookbook?  

James and Wendy have published a cookbook together.  The Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook is available at Metropolitan Bakery retail shops. 

What kind of starters do you use for baking?

Most of the breads at Metropolitan utilize wild yeast as the leavening agent.  Generally the starters are made from fruits like grapes or figs.  The starters are influenced by James’s grandmother’s recipes but are originally created by Metropolitan.  Metropolitan uses different starters for different breads. For example Metropolitan uses separate starters for white, whole wheat, rye and spelt breads.  This is one of the ways Metropolitan is different from other bakeries.     

What is your favorite type of bread to bake? 

Wendy’s favorite bread to bake is Miche, a traditional French farm house style bread.  It is made with wheat, white and rye flours.  She also enjoys the French Baguette and the Metro Baguette which is similar to the French Baguette but made with sourdough starter.  

Favorite music to listen to while working?

Wendy does not always like listening to music at work, because it can be disruptive when employees fight over the radio station.  When Wendy is baking bread at home she prefers to listen to Jazz.     

Most memorable baking experience?     

One time the wheel came off a van during a delivery.  It was on Pine Street, the people walking on the street were very surprised.  Fortunately, no one was hurt!  Metropolitan does manufacturing; wholesale and retail of its products so there are many opportunities for something strange to happen.  There have been snow storms in the past when it was impossible to transport bread from the bakery to retail stores.  The retail stores had to make do with the bread that they had available from the day before.  

What makes Metropolitan special? 

Metropolitan is one of the only artisan bakeries in Philadelphia. Wild yeast starters and handmade items allow Metropolitan Bakery to offer breads that are very pronounced in flavor and texture.

A Quick Glimpse of Metropolitan Bakery
Papillon Brasserie