The Rock Stars of Yeast and Flour
Martha Stewart hosts them regularly, magazines battle for their wisdom and Google wants them to talk to their executives. How the duo behind Baked became the biggest things in the dessert world.
It’s a timeline to fame that’s impressive by any standard, all the more so because we’re dealing with two people who put yeasty things into ovens. In four years, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito went from opening a bakery—Baked—in an out-of-the-way neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. to O Magazine , which featured their heartbreaking brownie as the food porn centerfold, to a second store in Charleston, S.C., and then full-fledged stardom: Martha Stewart, the Today Show, People Magazine. Google even asked them to speak at their corporate offices.
So what made the pair’s image rise along with their cakes? They don't get reminiscey about learning to bake at their grandmother's knees (in fact, they are anti-nostalgic: no Madeline pans on the walls or paper doilies on cake stands for them). And they are also not looking to ride the tails of the cupcake fad. Rather, they speak of Baked as a "dessert lab." For example, Matt learned to make a better Tollhouse pie by adding whiskey, an idea he picked up from his functional alcoholic neighbor in Alabama who apparently added whisky to everything, and over time it became a recipe good enough to earn a place on the Baked menu, and in their cookbook (smartly called Baked).
They speak respectfully of molecular gastronomy, but clearly think it's a load of crap. They have their own four basic food groups: Chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and liquor. They also have a small obsession with malt, and use four kinds at the bakery. Some of which are from an actual brewery.
Hungry Beast caught up with the popular pair.
Clearly on occasion you have to break away from your four basic food groups and eat something else. What are your go-to ingredients or foods?
Matt: Red wine. Pasta (boxed and fresh variety). Malted Milk Balls. Garlic. Olive Oil. But my favorite ingredient is chocolate. I am still kind of blown away when the odd person will tell me they don't like chocolate. Huh?
Renato: I'm about the olive oil, too. Also apple juice, chicken breasts, rice, pasta (and a harvest of herbs and spices). And I do sometimes eat Entenmanns’s pastries, which I know is surprising.
Entenmanns’s... well, we'll be damned. How do you like your eggs?
Matt: In a cake batter.
Lots of us want to quit our day jobs and go work in a bakery. What would you be doing if you weren’t baking?
Matt: Degenerate beach bum.
Renato: I would either still be designing or living as a recluse in Europe throwing pottery. (Making, not physically throwing it at people- although I can see myself doing that as well)
Matt: I am a huge Chateauneuf de Pape fan. The wines generally feel angry and aggressive. I hate boring wine.
Renato: I don’t drink much wine, but on a recent trip to Charleston I came across a Pinot Gris from MacMurray Farms that I totally love. For red, Rot Süss from Lauffen. It’s a blended red wine from Southern Germany. Don’t judge.
We never judge people's drinking habits. This is our favorite question: most embarrassing moment in the kitchen?
Matt: I offered to hold a huge dinner party for a dear friend in my very small apartment. I was in over my head and a guest actually pulled me aside to say "Do you know that there is still a Cornish Hen in the bathtub?" Glad he found it; however, it was too late.
Favorite hard-to-find ingredient?
Renato: Not really an ingredient, but my boyfriend is from Germany, and on my first trip to his hometown, he took me to a local supermarket, and it seems that they rely heavily on Knorr products. They had an entire aisle of seasonings and mix-ins. I came across an enormous variety of dried salad dressings (just add some olive oil and water and mix) that we stockpile in our cupboards and use for our nightly dinner salads.
In your happy place, which musician is playing while you cook?
Matt: Do you think Dolly Parton is as fun in person as she is on TV? If so, Dolly it is. I like Southern influence in a kitchen.