Joanne Chang Talks Flour 4, Cookbooks, Expanding Myers + Chang
Late last month, reigning local pastry queen Joanne Chang announced (via Twitter) that she’d be opening a fourth location at 131 Clarendon Street (news that made everyone that lives in the general vicinity of the Back Bay incredibly, incredibly happy). Add opening yet another Flour to the three she already runs, plus Myers + Chang, plus her forthcoming cookbook (the sequel to her popular first baking cookbook) and you’ve got a woman with a lot on her plate (see what I did there?). I recently rang up the chef to chat about what we can expect at the new location, her forthcoming cookbook, and if she’ll add an additional Myers + Chang into her already stacked empire.
How long has Flour 4 been in the works?
It’s actually been in the works for a while, but I wanted to wait until we formally signed it because you never know if something could go wrong. We’ve been planning it pretty thoroughly for the last, at least two months. We were looking around at a bunch of different locations, but this is the one we were focused on.
Why the Back Bay?
It wasn’t that the Back Bay was an area we wanted to go for. We were interested in a number of neighborhoods. For us, we looked at the actual physical spaces, and this physical space really, as soon as we walked in, we were like, ‘Oh, yeah, this could be a Flour.’ It has a lot of light, open windows, high ceilings—it just had the right feel and it just happened to be in the Back Bay. I did want to make sure we put a new location in an area that was relatively close to the others, I didn’t want to commute out to the suburbs, it’s never been in our plan to have an outpost anywhere where I have to drive. I currently commute by biking around.
How does the new space compare to the others?
It’s larger than the first—the first one is so small. It’s about the same size as the second location. We will have about 50 seats. Each location will continue to have the same pastry menu and basic sandwich menu, and each location will have its own daily specials with soups made by the chefs of that location.
When will you open?
We are hoping by the end of the year—it’s something we’ve been hoping for, for this whole process, [to be open] by the end of 2012. It might be right around Christmas time, in which case we will open the doors and not say anything. I won’t even tell you! It’s the busiest time for us, the Thanksgiving-Christmas period.
Where are you at with your second cookbook [Flour Too]?
There is one or two more rounds of edits. Chronicle has it and is editing it. There have been three versions of the cover that have gone back and forth, I’m waiting on the final version. I’m working on the acknowledgments, which is the last thing I have to write. At this point there’s no more writing to happen. It’s just ensuring that there’s a copy edit. That’s supposed to come out next spring, I think they are targeting May 2013.
Can we expect a Myers + Chang cookbook?
That’s definitely my next goal. With my second book, I had thought Chronicle would want a Myers + Chang book. But they were really just about the success of the first book, and they wanted to capitalize on its popularity by following up with a second Flour book. Which is great; I think of us as a bakery, but so many people think of us as a cafe and they come for our BLT or for our egg sandwich. This is a book really geared toward them—there’s a lot of sweets in this book as well, and party desserts and some breakfast items. But then there’s also a lot of savory stuff—sandwiches, soups, salads, dinners, party snacks. Things like that. I’m hoping that after this book is done, then I’ll go back to Chronicle. They already have my pitch for the Myers + Chang book.
And you’ll disclose the recipe for the pork dumplings?!?
Will you ever open another Flour?
I’m pretty maxed out in terms of what I do and what my team does. And I am really happy with the three locations and I’m super excited about the fourth. It will be interesting to see how things go. My first priority isn’t to grow, it’s to make sure that we continue to do what we’ve always done, which is make the very best pastries and food that we can. If there happens to be another location at some point in the future, that works for our management team and for me, I am certainly not going to rule it out. But it’s not a goal.
What about Myers + Chang? Will you ever open another?
It’s something we’ve toyed around with too, but that’s different because we don’t have the same management structure yet. We certainly think it’s an idea that would do well in other places, and that we could take advantage of all the stuff we’ve learned, and all these recipes, and all of the systems we have in place and do it in another location. That’s something we might do at some point. We haven’t looked around or anything. But we haven’t closed our minds off to the idea.
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