PC: Melissa De Mata
Forget fan-girling over Hollywood stars… we’re fan-girling over a chef.
The new head chef of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse to be exact.
Over coffee and toast, we sat down with Miss Brittany Delval to talk about her role in the city’s highly regarded bakery. She comes in beaming with just the brightest, friendliest smile. Right away, we notice how humble she is when she starts to talk about her love of baking.
We learn that she first started baking and cooking 9 years ago in San Diego. She graduated from Culinary School with honors, went on to create recipes for companies and worked with French bakeries in Southern California.
We ask her how nervous she must have been interviewing for Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. “Incredibly!” she says. “All of my friends were saying how Mr. Holmes was a HUGE DEAL in San Francisco and at first I had no idea!” After applying for the position online and some Skype interviews, she flew to San Francisco for the final test that would prove she was THEE one for the position.
It wasn’t until her first day on the job when she witnessed first hand just how different Mr. Holmes was from other bakeries. She was working in the kitchen when the owner, Aaron, told her to go outside.
“I thought… ‘Shit! I messed up already!?’ But we go outside and he says ‘I wanted to show you something’… there was a line that was 2 blocks long! That’s when I knew this place was really special to San Francisco.”
Fast forward 2 months, Brittany now leads a very talented kitchen staff -of all women!- day in and day out to bring San Francisco our beloved cruffins and doughnies!
She tells us how she has a giant whiteboard in her room so when the creativity strikes, she can quickly jot down her ideas. And when she needs to clear her mind, she goes running. “At least five miles” she tells us. Queue Cynthia, “I don’t think I can run one…” 😛
We asked Brittany if being dubbed the new head chef of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse was the most pivotal moment she’s had so far in her career.
“Oh yes. This is the kind of company I had been dreaming of working with for years. The Mr. Holmes kitchen operates unlike most kitchens in the restaurant world.”
Most kitchens run with a very strict hierarchy– with the head chef’s opinion being the only opinion that matters. “I’ve worked with bakeries before and the environment never fostered team collaboration. It was strictly, ‘yes chef’ ‘no chef’… Mr. Holmes is not that way at all.”
She emphasizes her point: “We are one unit. Everyone collaborates. Like with the new Fall pastries, we were all emailing each other ideas from the start, even those working the front of the house. We’re all enthusiastic about it and wanting to improve. That’s why everything is so damn good… everybody loves what they do.”
It’s been noted before that a head female chef is few and far between. And what’s even more fascinating is that the entire kitchen staff of Holmes is entirely made up of women. That’s very rare in the culinary world. Brittany tells us how much fun it’s been for her: “It’s like girl talk every day!” She tells us how cool it is to show up for work (at 5am!) and start the day by blaring some 90’s R&B throwback jams with her baking crew at her side. BTW, that’s a dance party we’d love to join someday.
When asked about the hiring process at Mr. Holmes, she tells us that owners Aaron and Chris said they “simply hired the best people for the job, and they just so happened to be women!” Way cool.
Of course we asked about the Mr. Holmes cruffin. The half croissant, half oozy-gooey muffin that comes in a multitude of seasonal flavors like strawberry cheesecake and matcha green tea. These are known to sell out within an hour.
“One day, we sold 170 cruffins in 1 hour. It was crazy!”
Making these cruffins are one hell of a process. Typically a THREE DAY process. (Damn Gina!)
PC: Julia Robbs
“The cruffin recipe is so specific and has so many different variables that you have to get exactly right: weight, the dimensions… not to mention working with yeast… yeast is alive, it’s always changing. You have to work very quickly with it. It’s very scientific. San Francisco has a lot of moisture in the air and that makes it easier because working with yeast in hot weather can be quite nerve wracking. That string of hot days we had a few weeks ago was a little nuts for us! But we got through it! I’m used to baking in 90 degree weather being from San Diego.”
The cruffin is something that we can ONLY experience at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse itself. “We’ll never do special orders for take out with the cruffin. We don’t care if the President wants them delivered, it’s always going to be an in-house thing. People will call and say they’re willing to pay double for cruffins, but we don’t do it! We have a great special orders menu though.”
We asked if there was a good day to come and grab a cruffin as they always sell out so quickly. “Monday or Tuesday because everyone tries to eat healthy in the beginning of the week, by mid-week, people don’t care anymore and the lines get even longer again,” she says laughing.
But y’all, no matter which day you go… there’s going to be a line. Holmies know it’s worth the wait!
When we finish up by telling her just how much we admire her work ethic, she humbly thanks us and says, “You know… I just think that whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly with passion. Even 80 hours a week to me is nothing. It doesn’t feel like work because I just love what I do.”