Naomi Harris

 
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A few words about Naomi

A couple of months after Madruga Bakery opened, they offered a croissant made with Parmesan and thyme. Not only was it unforgettable, but what happened when I talked to Naomi about it was even more revealing. After devouring the croissant in one fell swoop, I approached the counter to speak with Naomi. “That’s the greatest croissant I’ve ever had in my life” I told her. In her inimitable way, she said “Wait one second” and called over a young woman. “Can you tell her what you just told me?” Naomi asked. After repeating my praise for the croissant, Naomi said, “It was her idea”.

I remember two thoughts exploding in my mind at that very second:

“This is why woman are so much better humans than men” (How many guys would just take credit for something one of his team had created?)

and…

“I love what she’s building here!”

At Madruga Bakery they mill their flour on site, make any number of delicious breads, pastries, breakfast & lunches… AND they’re proving that nice people can finish first as well.

In February of 2019, Naomi Harris received a James Beard Nomination as a semi-finalist for Outstanding Baker. It appears the entire world is aware of what she’s building in Coral Gables.

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3 Questions for Naomi

What Are You Doing?

- On a concrete level, I’m running a bakery and cafe serving scratch made bread and pastries, breakfast, lunch and coffee. On a broader level, I’m striving to serve our community and work toward an appreciation of a more natural approach to food. This industry is a tough one- it’s the constant management of 1000 details (my father’s favorite saying):  employees, equipment, ingredients, products, customer interactions, the list goes on. And yet, that means constant learning and striving to figure out how to do it all well. Of course, I am trying to run a healthy, profitable business.  However, it is much more than that.  It’s working to do things differently: using a business to provide a great environment for guests and our staff, provide better quality choices for bread, food, and pastries, and consciously seeking ingredients that are produced in sustainable ways.

Who Are You Doing It For? & What Drives You To Do It?

- I believe it’s important to truly question and examine how our choices affect the immediate customer, the world, and the future. We, the restaurant industry, and consumer society in general, are currently so far from a sustainable future—from using all varieties of produce shipped globally throughout the year, factory farming of animals, the creation of waste from both food and packaging.  My heart breaks thinking of all the negative impact. It seems impossible to run a business that responds to consumer demand and expectations while also addressing the reality of the costs and limits of production that come with producing quality food products. 

Yet, there is potential, and that is what keeps driving me.

Right now at Madruga we are sourcing organic heirloom wheat berries, and milling whole grain flours in house. Gluten and bread have such a bad reputation—but the kind of wheat used, and how its processed and baked, make all the difference. Heirloom whole grains used in their entirety and naturally fermented can actually be extremely healthful (and fascinating to work with for a baker). This small difference that we commit to is the foundation of the greater vision. 

Equally tied, but a somewhat different aspect that drives me, is what we are providing to people. It starts with warmth—creating a friendly environment for customers and staff, and the symbolic, nourishing warmth of a visible oven with bread and pastries coming out fresh for customers to see. It shakes me every time someone expresses their love and gratitude for Madruga. We see some customers so frequently that they’ve become extended family. I’m so grateful that the surrounding community has adopted us into their lives. 

This business can be very stressful, but then there are those moments when I can step back and look at a staff humming along creating delicious food, a full dining room of guests enjoying that food and coffee, and people walking out with fresh bread under their arms. That’s when it comes into a different perspective. Creating an inviting space and quality food can bring joy into people’s lives, and that has such worth on its own. Sometimes it’s just about giving someone the happiness of indulging in a damn good chocolate chip cookie.

 Madruga is the ever elusive goal of creating a more conscious business while serving our community, bringing joy to people, and supporting growers and producers who are working consciously and ethically.