Walk into Amie Bakery and you can’t help but smile and feel welcome in this French style bakery in Osterville. Owner Amie Smith has truly created a neighborhood sweet spot offering pastries, pies, tarts, sandwiches and cakes. The S’mores bar, coffee cake and almond chocolate croissant are several of our favorites. Amie means “friend” in French and Amie has created a warm and friendly place to relax with a coffee, grab a pastry or two or pick up a treat for dessert.
Amie took time out of her busy summer schedule to provide Sweet Travels with her latest scoops.
Prior to AMIE Bakery you lived in NYC as a corporate marketing writer and taught writing at Northeastern University. How did AMIE Bakery become a reality?
I love writing and spent my entire career working for some of the best Fortune 500 companies as both a technical and marketing communications writer. I’ve written hundreds of pieces of corporate collateral as well as launched and managed several newsletters and magazines. In 1995 I started my firm WordSmith Ink and in 2008 when the economy was hit hard, I was suddenly out of work for the first time in my life. Normally my business would increase dramatically during any economic downturns because my clients would outsource work even more, but 2008 was different. I had taken recreational courses at the Institute of Culinary Education and I always had an eye on their professional pastry program but never had time to participate. I decided to enroll and I loved it even more than I thought I would love it—everything we did reminded me of how few places are selling baked goods from scratch and things I remember from my childhood. I knew when I completed the program that I wanted to open a bakery as an outlet to be creative as well as have people experience authentic pastries.
What skill sets from your corporate life have helped you in your transition to the culinary field?
I’ve never been a stranger to hard work or long hours and you need to do both to be in this industry. However, the skills you need in this field are no different than any other—motivation, creativity, determination, patience, organization, budgets, discipline, persistence, as well as juggling and managing multiple projects at once. I simply applied all of these things in a new industry. As with anything new, it takes time to learn the business. Anyone can learn to bake—although those who think baking is difficult might disagree. I’m still learning and I’m always taking advanced courses to continue my education. One of the hardest parts for me has been the physical demand in terms of standing most of the day versus sitting at a desk. As several industry vets told me, “you’ll get used to it,” which is true.
What is your connection to Cape Cod and specifically Osterville?
I grew up spending summers with my grandmother at the Jersey shore. After attending Northeastern University I remained in the Boston area for nearly 24 years and the Cape became a natural location for a second home. One of my dearest friend’s mother had a home in Osterville and she introduced me to the area. I was sold on Osterville from that one visit and I’ve had a residence here since then and that was over 20 years ago.
Have you always had your hands in a mixing bowl?
My dad was a baker before I was born. Ironically, he quit after I was born due to the long hours. However, we would make production batches of butter cookies and I always loved being in the kitchen. My mother used to have to drag me away from watching Julia Child. I was mesmerized watching her and I thought she was so funny. Throughout my life I’ve always baked and I remember receiving cookbooks as gifts on special occasions and I always hoarded recipes from various publications.
Who has inspired you from a culinary perspective?
There are many people I follow, but I adore Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) and I wanted to be kind of the Cape Cod version of what she had done in the Hamptons. When I was trying to come up with my business name I came up with the Baronessa of Barnstable, but that was a mouthful! I’ve always baked with simple ingredients and her style and recipes remind me of the elegance in simplicity—and great food that tastes great. I tend to modify her recipes a little to put my own spin on them if I think they are too rich, but she is an inspiration for my culinary career and I would love to publish some cookbooks one day. Of course, Julia Child was my first inspiration.
If you could bake with someone for one night, who would that be?
I wish I could bake with my dad again and I wish he could see the bakery.
What has been the most challenging customer order and why?
This is a tough question, but the one that comes to mind is petit fours. We had to make a lot of them. They are not complicated, but I had just returned from an advanced pastry class and wanted to use a new beautiful glaze on top that I had just worked with in class. They looked okay but the glaze had gelatin and it was difficult to pour and work with on these petit fours so it took much longer than it was supposed to take.
What is the latest baking craze you are seeing out there?
I notice that people are combining two items into one, like the cronut (doughnut plus croissant).
You focus a lot on “real buttercream” and why that makes a difference in baking. Can you really taste the difference?
I think I focus on “real” in general. I’m a huge proponent of making things with simple ingredients from scratch. If you look at baked items sold in the stores, look for perfection and I see factory made with lots of preservatives. Our buttercream is swiss meringue buttercream which is adding butter to meringue and if you taste American buttercream (shortening, butter, and confectioner’s sugar) it will taste good, but swiss meringue takes it to another level—and you can taste the difference.
What recommendations do you have for someone trying to open their own business?
If you want to bake, find work in a bakery. Opening a bakery means you will be spending most of your time managing the business. I would encourage anyone who wants to open their own business to do it. It took many years of saving and a lot of sacrifices to be able to open the doors. Having your own business is not easy and you have to be prepared for the relentless frustration that comes with equipment issues (even with brand new things), employee issues, and you cannot underestimate the level of details that will need to be addressed. On the flip side it can be the most rewarding thing to see your vision come alive and there’s nothing better than getting positive feedback from customers and being recognized in the press and the community for a job well done. And finally, whatever you think it is going to cost, it is going to be 2-3 times more than you plan for, so be prepared financially.
How do you use social media to help market your business? (Amie Academie, blogs, some chefs/bakers are using “Simmer” to create and share their video recipes, Facebook Live, Instagram, etc.)
I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram regularly to promote what we are doing. I wish I had more time to devote to my blog posts on my website. AMIE Academie is poised for growth and eventually we will have a YouTube channel. I’m always amazed at the power of social media—it can be one of those things that can be annoying to have to pay attention to and keep up with, but it’s worth it.
Photos courtesy of Brian Samuels