A passion for baking bread rolled into a second career for a woman in Fort Worth. The Black Rooster Bakery opened five months ago, and the ovens have been almost non-stop since.
"My grandmother used to always say, 'Be careful what you wish for.' I thought we'd open and it'd be slow, but we opened and it's been crazy," said owner Marche Ann Mann as she took a break from baking bread.
Mann spent 10 years selling houses for Ebby Halliday Realtors. "I love Miss Ebby. She's just fabulous," Mann smiled. Yet all that time, Mann dreamed of her own place, a bakery that specialized in breads.
That dream started taking shape in 2007. Mann retired from real estate, moved from Las Colinas to Fort Worth and applied to the prestigious French Culinary Institute in New York. "The bread side," explained Mann.
Then she waited. And waited. Two years later, she got accepted and moved to New York in the summer of 2009. "I had a little apartment in the West Village. It was roach and mice infested, but they were cute with the longest tails you ever saw," joked Mann.
Yet the experience and training she got that summer was a slice of heaven. "I've always been a bread maker, but always soft, white bread -- yet I love hard-crusted bread. I never knew you could make bread in any other way but a loaf pan," kidded Mann. She described long hours at school, wrist deep in dough, baking up to 500 baguettes a day. "I'd walk home every day saying, 'What did I get myself into?' After two weeks, I was hooked."
Mann came back to Fort Worth with a big announcement for her husband, a retired Southwest Airlines pilot. "The week I came home, I said, 'We're gonna open an artisan bread bakery.' True artisan bread, it's a craft, an ancient craft. I wanted to keep the tradition alive," Mann explained.
Shortly after, husband David found the perfect spot in the TCU/Park Hills area at 2430 Forest Park Boulevard in the same center as Sapristi Bistro and Wine Bar. David gets credit for finding the place, but ask who gets credit for the name Black Rooster Bakery and a mystery unfolds.
"Neither of us wants to relent," joked David as he explained how the name was inspired by a statue of a black rooster in the kitchen.
Fortunately, the bakery is just a few blocks from the the Manns' home. Marche Ann works 14 hours a day, six days a week, with "David, my sweet husband, I love him." at the counter much of the time, too.
To Marche Ann, though, it's not a job, it's passion.
"I grew up on a farm, doing physical work and I enjoy it. You do something with your hands, then see this beautiful product you created. It's very satisfying to me," said Mann of her long days.
The beautiful products Marche Ann and her team creates include sweets like cinnamon rolls and scones inspired by her grandmother's recipes, rustic fruit tarts that sell out long before they come out of the oven, sandwiches to go and, of course, artisan breads.
"My favorite bread is the Borealis. It's a beautiful, beautiful bread. Hard-crusted, soft on the inside, so flavorful. It loves me and I love it," described Mann who by the way, is slim as a rolling pin. "I have a lot of energy here," she reasoned.
And patience. Some of the artisan breads she bakes like the Borealis and sourdough can take 24 to 72 hours to ferment.
"I'm into flavor, so it if takes me three days to get there, that's what I'm gonna do," said Mann.
And she's willing to give time, too, for customers to warm up to her craft. Business is brisk with new and repeat customers, but right now it's their sweet tooth pulling them in.
"The sweets do outsell the bread. Maybe people don't know this kind of bread yet," Mann said. "Most people love sweets, but word's getting out about our bread. And I hope as people learn about good bread, they'll appreciate it more."