Apronomics: Nathaniel Reid

There’s something special about a bakery: the scrumptious smells, camaraderie between customers and staff, and of course, the delicious treats all make it hard to even think about without smiling. The charm of local bakeries is part of what inspired chef Nathaniel Reid to open his own, the aptly named Nathaniel Reid Bakery. “I love the interaction with the community,” Reid explains. “When you work in the kitchen of a restaurant or hotel, you get a ticket for each customer and that’s how you know them, as a number. Here, I can engage with the guests.”

A Missouri native, Reid says the road to opening his own bakery has taken him around the world. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and received two diplomas, one for pastry and one for savory dishes. Reid enjoyed every bit of his experience in the program. “Part of the learning experience was just being immersed in French culture where high-quality food is such an important part of everyday life,” he says. “There are so many great bakeries and pastry shops. I tried to spend as much time as possible exploring the city.”

While Reid was at Le Cordon Bleu, one of his instructors won the prestigious Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF), a unique French competition that recognizes a variety of trades, including pastry-making. Reid assisted the instructor, providing him with valuable insight. And the baker has made his own mark in world pastry competitions, winning several, including the U.S. Pastry Competition. Winning, however, was never the point of competing. “I’m happy that I won, but it really was about making myself a better chef,” he explains. “I would try to create the best version of something. Thinking in those terms makes you open your mind to other options and challenges you to be the best you can be.” Even though Reid no longer competes, he sometimes serves as a judge and finds coaching other chefs extremely rewarding.

Before opening his bakery, Reid worked as a pastry chef at a number of prestigious venues, including The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis. His favorite memories are from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he was assistant pastry chef at Joël Robuchon. Reid was part of the team that opened the Michelin three-star restaurant. “I loved it,” he says. “It was like-minded professionals working together to create an amazing product. I felt at home with people who worked the same way.”

Reid’s ultimate goal, however, was to open his own bakery. It had been a dream of his since starting in the business. Opening the shop in St. Louis wasn’t part of the grand plan, but it turned out to be the perfect location. “Missouri is my home; I even talked about how great it is when I was living in France,” he says. “Being able to do this in the community that I love, and with the help of my family and friends, is definitely the crowning achievement of my career.” The community has undoubtedly embraced Nathaniel Reid Bakery in return. Part of its appeal is most likely the variety: Beyond exquisite pastries, Reid showcases his experience by offering various sandwiches, quiche, jams, chocolates and more. And customers are invited to be part of the action behind the scenes through a window that spans the kitchen.

When it comes to Reid’s favorite delicacy from the bakery, he says the hazelnut pound cake is pure pleasure. “It has lemon and orange zest in it, and I dip it in milk chocolate with caramelized hazelnuts,” he says. “The combination is just unbelievable.” But he admits to eating more of his wife’s chocolate pecan cookies. “It’s definitely the item I eat the most—too many,” he jokes. “Sometimes we don’t sell out, and at the end of the day, they’re just staring at me. I feel guilty if I don’t eat them.” It’s a temptation not many who visit Nathaniel Reid Bakery would be able to resist either.

2 1/8 c whole milk
1 vanilla bean (scrape out the seeds from inside the pod)
4 1/2 oz. all purpose flour
8 oz. sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 oz. unsalted butter
1 oz. dark brown rum

» Boil the milk, vanilla and butter, and let the mixture cool slightly.
» Mix the flour and sugar with the eggs.
» Slowly add the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking gently until smooth. Mix in the rum.
» Cover the mixture and let it ‘mature’ in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
» Lightly butter copper Canelé molds with a pastry brush.
» Whisk the batter and pour into the prepared molds, filling them three-quarters of the way.
» Bake the Canelé in a preheated 385 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes. The color should be a deep brown, and the insides should resemble a set custard.
» Unmold the Canelé while warm and let cool before enjoying.

Photos: Bill Barrett