Perhaps the least surprising thing about Melissa Weller is that she was once an engineer. She still is, essentially: As a baker, she’s exacting in what she creates, thoughtful and strategic. These days her processes result in the sort of sticky buns and bagels and babkas that make devotees out of even the flightiest New Yorkers. Her chocolate chip loaf is a feat of physics. At Sadelle’s, the bakery-slash-appetizing shop she opened last year with the team at Major Food Group, mornings are an ode to baked goods and opulence, to lox and laminated doughs alike.
Bagels are the stars of Weller’s menu, chewy and fresh and often scattered with seeds or loaded with smoked fish sliced from slabs that sit in display cases like big fleshy jewels. Sadelle’s has all the polish and grandeur of a Major Food Group restaurant—the company also owns Manhattan’s Carbone, Torrisi, Parm, and Santina—with the accessible comfort of a top-notch bakery. This month, Weller was named as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker award.
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I had read that she once spent a year baking through Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery, and I wanted the full story—so over coffee and a slice of that soft, ricotta-rich, near-perfect chocolate chip loaf, I asked her how she came to bake.