Inside Staff Meal at Little T American Baker: Taking a Bread Break

by Katherine Sacks
Little T American Baker
June 2012

Restaurant

  • Little T American Baker
    2600 Southeast Division Street
    Portland, OR 97202
    (503) 238-3458
    www.littletbaker.com

Staff Meal Details

Baker Tim Healea weighs in.

Staff meal food costs:
The cost is minimal, because the staff often brings in special ingredients that we normally don't have into the bakery.

Size of staff meal:
12 to 15 people

Time of staff meal:
3pm on Sunday

Staff meal is set to the rhythm of prep time and service, feeding hungry chefs just at the right moment. But for the many service industry outfits that don't fit into that schedule—retail locations, bakeries, and the like—eating as a crew is a rare occasion.

But 2011 Portland Rising Star Baker Tim Healea is a rare chef, and at Little T American Baker, his family of bakers and staff often get together for a meal when the shop closes early on Sundays. "Because everyone's schedule is a little different, we don't normally have the opportunity to sit down and have a staff meal on a daily basis," says Healea. "But we do have a really tight-knit staff, so every so often we take the opportunity to hang out together and eat on Sunday afternoons."

Barbecue ribs for a staff feast at Little T American Baker.

A staff experiment at Little T American Baker turned into a delicious Green Pea and Bacon Leaf.

When the doors close, the crew at Little T American Baker sit down and relax together with a festive crew meal.

Instead of the typical fuel-up and get back to work meal, Little T's opts for a relaxing, celebratory end to the staff's day. "Every time there's a theme," says Healea, "and it turns into a potluck, where each staff member brings a dish and attempts to outdo everyone else with their culinary skills." For their recent barbecue fest, the team brought in a spread of ribs, sausages, and a variety of sides. And of course, the meal also included these chefs' European baking skills with "a special batch of buttery soft rolls."

Extracurricular baking isn't just relegated to this Sunday shared meal. Healea encourages staff experimentation, pushing his team "to use the bakeshop as a bread laboratory and work on different breads using interesting techniques or alternative grains." The result of these staff projects often turns into shared snacks. Healea's current favorite came from "mad scientist" Baker Dillon Debauche, a Green Pea and Bacon Leaf. "The crumb has a really cool green hue, and bacon truly does make everything better," says Healea. "Dillon decided to process the bread like a pretzel, with a lye solution dip, and that adds a nice depth of flavor and deeper crust color."

After the staff experiment recipes are tweaked to perfection, Healea often folds them into the menu's rotation, but the staff gets to nibble on the experiments in the process. "They often come up with something really fun and interesting, [and that] gets the staff excited," he says. If bacon and pea flour experiments (along with an occasional barbecue feasts) are the result, we're fans of unconventional staff meal.