Less than six months after plans were announced for The Bakery Society Pittsburgh, this bakery business incubator has welcomed its first class of Bakers-in-Residence. The cohort of entrepreneurial chefs will spend the next 18 months learning and making at The Bakery Society’s headquarters in Mt. Oliver.

TBSP will work with Bakers-in-Residence on baking techniques as well as business skills. Photo by Brian Conway, courtesy of TBSP.

Jewel Edwards, one of the four new full-time students, describes the program as exactly the kind of support that was missing for local chefs for so many years.

“When I was in school, we became a little discouraged because we had instructors telling us that Pittsburgh wasn’t a market for scratch baking and you might as well relocate,” she told NEXTpittsburgh.

Even with a certification from the local Le Cordon Bleu chapter and many years baking at Children’s Hospital, she struggled to find financial support and a space with the necessary equipment. At The Bakery Society Pittsburgh (TBSP), she now has both.

Along with learning new baking techniques, the full-time bakers will learn practical skills like controlling the cost of food orders and writing a business plan.

“I always wanted to have a bakery cafe with a lounge,” Edwards says. “This is me living my dream.”

The idea for the bakery incubator began several years ago with a series of weekend events in Mt. Oliver organized by Economic Development South (EDS), a business development group working in the southern part of the county. At these “Sweet Saturday” events, local bakers and community groups gathered to sell their wares in community spaces around the borough.

The events proved so popular that EDS started thinking about ways to make it a permanent fixture.

“From the experience in my family’s restaurant business, I knew that any food service business is not a cheap endeavor,” said Jami Pasquinelli, director of community projects for EDS. “There are great bakers out there who would love to have their own space, but maybe need some help starting up.”

The perfect spot turned out to be the former Kullman’s Bakery on Brownsville Road, which had been a community institution for decades before being forced to close in 2013. The newly formed TBSP, a nonprofit formed by EDS and local partners, bought the space from the borough earlier this year.

Chef Phil Enck, general manager of TBSP, said that in addition to training many more cohorts of full-time Bakers-in-Residence, the space in Mt. Oliver will be available to all aspiring chefs.

“The Bakery Society Pittsburgh is not just a bakery, it is a community kitchen,” he says. “It’s a health code-approved kitchen that anyone can use.”

With classes in full swing, TBSP will begin selling delicious local desserts later this summer.