A Look Inside the Portage Bay Bakery

Photo by Kyler Martin.

Photo by Kyler Martin.

Portage Bay is famous for its fresh, organic, and sustainably made farm-to-table meals.

But did you know that it has a bakery, too?

Based at Portage Bay Cafe’s South Lake Union location, the bakery is responsible for making all the bread and pastries offered in the four cafes throughout Seattle.

Typically, the bakery begins operating around the time the restaurant closes, at about 2 p.m. Over the course of the next few hours, the doughs used for the various breads of the day are mixed, shaped, proofed, and baked. Once the bread cools, it is packed up and dispersed among Portage Bay’s four locations.

The cycle is repeated every day.

Portage Bay Cafe’s baking team is made up of five people in total — the oldest, a sourdough starter, is referred to as “Mom” — and led by manager Ada Chen. Chen is known for keeping productivity up, and morale steady.

“I think I’m most successful because I’m organized,” she said. “And I make sure the bakery runs in an organized and efficient manner.”

In keeping with Portage Bay’s dedication to locally sourcing their ingredients, all the breads are made with the assistance of participating farms and small businesses. Over time, some collaborators have especially stuck out to Chen.

All photos by Kyler Martin.

“Small’s Family Farm in Walla Walla is one of my favorites,” she said. “They produce a high-protein bread flour that we now use to make our burger buns and sandwich rolls. We also use some of their bread flour in our flatbread, which Catering uses for sandwiches. For pastries and such, Tonnemaker Family Orchard is usually the stand that I look for at the farmers’ market.”

At the end of the day, enjoyment plays a big part at the bakery, too. From the crisp French toast to a slice of flavorful multigrain toast accentuating a Farmer’s Hash, everything born in the bakery is both a product of quality ingredients and genuine investment on the part of those working in the kitchen.

“In addition to being paid to do something I enjoy, I like that I get to be creative,” Chen said. “I can experiment with bread, pastries, different types of baking, [and more].”