Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell lead Bakery Lorraine to further expansion

For Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, it all started with cheesecake.

One Christmas after they had moved to San Antonio to take jobs at Rackspace Technology, they had the idea to bake 5-pound cheesecakes to sell to friends. They went on to expand the home-kitchen operation, cooking pastries in the electric oven in their apartment and carrying them down three flights of stairs to sell at the Quarry Farmers Market.

“At that point in time it was a weekend thing. We had full-time jobs. We weren’t thinking it would be more than that,” Ng said. “We thought, let’s just do this on Sundays, once a week.”

Before long, though, dozens of people were waiting in line for their pastries when they arrived at the market. That’s where they met the entrepreneur Charlie Biedenharn, who helped them open their first brick-and-mortar store on Grayson Street, east of Broadway, in 2014.

One of their customers was Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury, developer of the Pearl. He urged them to move the bakery to what would become its flagship location facing the central plaza at the Pearl.

Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell run Bakery Lorraine with its various locations in the area.

Billy Calzada, Staff / Staff photographer

They enlisted local artists and friends to help set up the bakery, hiring woodworkers to make the cabinets and glass blowers to make the knobs, Mandrell said.

“The fact that we’ve gotten as far as we have — even the first brick-and-mortar was such a community thing coming together,” he said. “All these people helped us created this thing.”

Since then, the two of them and Biedenharn have opened locations at The Rim, in the Medical Center area and at the upscale Domain shopping center in North Austin. They also operate a kiosk at The DoSeum children’s museum.

Ng and Mandrell come from different backgrounds — she grew up in the Philippines, he was a self-described “military brat” who went on to serve five years in the US Navy — but they are united by their love of baking. After both attended culinary school, they met working the night shift at Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley, north of San Francisco.

They recently sat for an interview to discuss their baking style, the importance of trusting their employees and their expansion plans. The following has been edited and condensed.

Q: You didn’t set out to be pastry chefs, right?

Ng: No, neither one of us. I was a food chemist in LA, but I decided my heart wasn’t in it. I love the kitchen. I love this kind of chemistry. So I decided to take the chance.

Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, who run Bakery Lorraine, speak with customers Josh and Jessica Olguin at the location on Louis Pasteur Drive on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, who run Bakery Lorraine, speak with customers Josh and Jessica Olguin at the location on Louis Pasteur Drive on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Billy Calzada, Staff / Staff photographer

Q: But you went to culinary school, right?

Ng: I did, but it wasn’t a viable option for me. I was going there for fun after I got my college degree. I didn’t seriously think I could make a career out of it.

Mandrel: I think neither of us thought of it that way. I avoided cooking in general for a long time.

Q: Did you enjoy cooking when you were growing up?

Ng: Yes, I love baking. I love the organization of it. I love the method. I love the exactness. And the aesthetic. French pastry chefs, especially — when I started seeing what they were doing, my eyes were opened. Like, “Wow, you can do that with pastries?” You know, because I started with a Betty Crocker cookbook.

Q: Jeremy, did you serve abroad in the Navy?

Mandrel: Je n’ai pas. I was landlocked at a hospital, which drove me nuts. It’s why I got out of the Navy. I mean, I didn’t want to go to war. I was a medic. I was good at my job. I joined the Navy to shake things up, for adventure, and I ended up in San Diego almost my entire enlistment. Which is not a bad place to be — it’s beautiful — but incredibly bored.

Q: The two of you met at the Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley.

Ng: Yup. We worked the overnight shift making croissants.

Mandrel: It was a limited dating pool, as such. She didn’t have a whole lot of options.

Ng: You know, bakeries are 24-hour operations. That’s what you don’t think about when you first get the idea. “Oh, I’m gonna go work at a bakery.” Yep, and frequently, that’s where you start. Working nights.

Macaroons are among the most popular items as Bakery Lorraine.  The owners say they focus on simple pastries done well.

Macaroons are among the most popular items as Bakery Lorraine. The owners say they focus on simple pastries done well.

Billy Calzada, Staff / Staff photographer

Q: Do you still have to do night work?

Ng: Occasionally we still do. But we have a pretty good team that we’ve built up. We’ve learned that after training, we have to let them do their thing, to enable them to grow too.

Mandrel: It was really hard to grow that trust. That was a whole learning process for us, to step away and let them figure it out, make mistakes.

Q: Did your business partner, Charlie Biedenharn, put you in the direction of a brick-and-mortar?

Mandrel: Originally we wanted to do a kind of a food truck thing, but small, like a Ford Transit van, and be super-mobile, put an espresso machine in the back and two pastry racks on the side. We put Charlie through the farmers market. He had been involved with another chef on a food truck deal that fell through, but he had our stuff and he was like, “Dude, we should do something.” Then we put Chad Carey. Chad was one who was like, “You know, you guys don’t have to spend a million dollars to open a brick-and-mortar. You can do it cheap.”

Q: Anne, I read a quote from you where you said there’s a void in the culinary industry for women and you try to be a mentor for women. What do you try to teach them?

Ng: Yeah, it’s an industrywide thing. I’m really glad that awareness of this issue has really blossomed in the past few years. We have a lot of women managers, actually, in our company, which I love. Empowerment, you know? Training them and then letting them lead. Giving them a chance to make decisions, make mistakes, learn from them and forge ahead. I think that’s huge. And then just making very clear, within our teams, what the boundaries are. And trying to cultivate a good team spirit and morale, which is super-hard to do.

Mandrel: We came up in the days where you would work 12 hours, but you clocked out after eight. The sexism in the kitchens — we had one really bad chef …

Ng: I didn’t realize until recently — Oh, my gosh, he harassed me and all the other women working under him! You just had to shake it off before and take it as, “This is what I gotta do to get there.” But now we make it super-clear to everyone that you do not need to tolerate that from a teammate or from a customer.

Q: You had been expanding in the years before the pandemic. Were any of the new locations at risk?

Ng: I guess we didn’t think of it that way. There was always this mentality that we had to make it out the other side no matter what. So we never thought of closing anything permanently. When you own a business it changes the way you think, you know? Like, you’re not just responsible for yourself, you’re responsible for all the people who rely on the bakery to put food on the table.

Mandrel: So much of ourselves — I mean, we’re synonymous with Bakery Lorraine. It’s all-consuming in our lives. I think quitting on a bakery would be like quitting on us.

Q: Do you plan to keep expanding?

Mandrel: Yes. A little bit. We’re kind of limited because we want everything fresh every day. I don’t know that either of us want to build another commissioner out somewhere else. But within range. We have a commissary kitchen (on Eleanor Avenue, off Broadway) in addition to the other locations. We bake everything there and then we deliver every day to all the locations.

Q: Any particular markets you’re considering?

Ng: I would love to look at the space between here and Austin. I think there is so much growth happening right now. San Marcos; we’ve talked about Dripping Springs.

Q: How is your style of making pastries different from that of other restaurants?

Ng: I would say we like simple things.

Mandrel: Simple things done well.

Ng: We’ve worked in fine-dining establishments where you have to have 12 different components on the plate just to make it look nicer. I think it was from that that we bucked the opposite direction. You know, everything that we put in a pastry has to have purpose. It doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated. People love a good chocolate chip cookie.

Mandrel: Quality ingredients. We use excellent flour, excellent chocolate, butter. I think the sweetness level, too. We try not to be cloying. We eat pastries everywhere. We try them all over the world. Any town that we go that’s the first stop, to hit the bakery. And there’s so much overly sweet stuff out there. We want you to be able to get through the entire thing, enjoy it, feel good afterwards.

Q: Do you try to add a local flair to things?

Mandrel: We definitely try to put San Antonio’s flavors into some of our things. When we first opened they were like, “You want to open a French bakery? You should open a panaderia.” And we were like, “We can’t do that better than what’s here.” But what we can do is, you know, we had a mangonada mac (macaron), and we have the Mexican hot chocolate cookie.

Q: Do you do your experimenting at home?

Mandrel: We do it on our friends. Like, “Hey, you guys want to come over for dinner?” We’re like, “Yeah.” We always bring dessert.

Ng: R&D is hard. Often it takes a long time, and most things do not come out the way you thought it would come out in your head the first few tries. It takes a while.

Mandrel: We’re good when it comes to R&D. Because after three tries, if I don’t have it, I move on. I have a ton of ideas. She’ll beat a dead horse. If she’s working on something and we can’t get it, I’m like, “Dude, you gotta cut that loose for now.” We actually work really well together. Any of my deficiencies she more than makes up for.

Ng: Yeah, we’re a good team. He tells me when it’s time to quit.

Mandrel: And she tells me when it’s time to keep going.

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