On a warm Monday morning, Scottish Bakehouse owner Daniele Dominick sits in her comfortable Oak Bluffs living room reading Paris in the Spring with Picasso to her 17-month-old son Rocco who is snuggled in her lap. Her short black hair slips out from beneath a black cap, covering her eyes. She takes the cap off, slides her hand over her head and tucks the stray strands back under. Rocco looks at his mother and pats the book — back to reading, please. He wears a brown T-shirt that says Built by Bakehouse.
Daniele’s wife Samantha Barrow moves in and out of the living room, from bedroom to kitchen to office, packing up for her day. Samantha is the director of humanities at City College of New York’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. When school is not in session, she is in residence on the Island and often uses the Oak Bluffs library as her office.
“I want her to do what she needs to do on the planet,” Daniele says. “And she wants to support me too. If I’m not satisfied, it’s my own stuff I have to deal with. When we first got together in 2007 . . . . and began to get serious, we did what is called a hand-fasting ceremony, where we committed to be together but gave ourselves a year to see if we could work with the back and forth of Samantha being in New York and me being here.”
Samantha joins the conversation, “We’ve had a lot of ceremonies and weddings,” she says. Together they list them: in addition to the hand-fasting ceremony, there was a scotch and chocolate weekend (which included a pagan ceremony and a Quaker ceremony) and a pig roast. Then, in April 2011 they were legally married in Boston and went out for Ethiopian food. “And now we are parents! And we’re trying to work out a new formula that involves Rocco. So far it’s been pretty great.”
Samantha nods. “No one has this mastered,” she says, referring to parenting. Daniele adds: “Right now, we swap off being Mama One and Mama Two. We’re trying to get me to be Mama and Samantha to be Mommy.” She laughs. ”But we’ll see what he ends up calling us.”
Daniele glances at the clock. “Time to go to Mary’s!” Samantha takes Rocco to Daniele’s white truck and Daniele grabs his lunch and gear. Rocco spends his weekdays in family day care with Maryann Cournoyer in Vineyard Haven. “She’s amazing. And it’s a great group of kids,” Daniele says.
After dropping Rocco off at day care, Daniele heads to the bakehouse, arriving at 8 a.m. to a kitchen thrumming with people chopping, kneading and cooking. Out front, there’s a line of people waiting for their morning breakfast sandwiches and coffee. “We open at six. During the summer, there’s usually a line already waiting at six. I used to be here for what felt like 24/7, but Samantha has really helped me learn how to unplug. Do this and have a life outside of it.”
She pours herself a black coffee (“In the summer, the bakehouse uses and sells 150 pounds of coffee a week!”), grabs a pÃ£o de queijo (a Portuguese cheese bread) and plugs in. Half of a metal industrial shelf in the back of the kitchen serves as her desk. The other half of the shelf is loaded with a case of coconut milk and garlic scapes. There is no chair. The shelves below are loaded with giant totes of beans.
Daniele will spend most of the next four hours here, standing opposite the kitchen’s giant walk-in refrigerator in her well-worn Keens, black T-shirt and jeans. She points to an old black L.L. Bean backpack with a broken strap sitting on the floor. “This is really my office.” From the bag she extracts her computer and sets it down on the shelf next to the coconut milk. Next, she pulls a clipboard from the bag. The top page bears a maze of nearly microscopic print that on close examination reveals itself to be a set of shopping lists. She laughs. “This is how I keep track of my orders. What I need and how much I’ve used. It looks like the work of a mad person, but it is actually a great system! And believe it or not, I find attending to this list to be a very relaxing, meditative task.”
Her voice drops to a stage whisper. “My bag also holds the kitchen’s Sharpies. People eat Sharpies around here. I have to dole them out.”
Because this is Monday, one of her first tasks is to email her five main food purveyors and ask for the week’s prices on the foods she needs. “Prices change weekly. My ability to use different people for different foods each week is what keeps us alive and able to keep our prices down and consistent. I am committed to being a year-round business. For example, the same raw sugar that I need is $75 from one purveyor and $55 from another. That $20 doesn’t go into my pocket, it goes back into the business.”
As if on cue to underline the point, one of the line cooks comes over and shows Daniele that several knobs are broken on the range. She looks them up. “What are these even called? Knobs? Aha, they are called stove handles!” The cost of three new knobs? Roughly $20. “This is the way it always happens,” she says, “I save in one place and then have to spend somewhere else.”
One area of her business that Daniele has heavily invested in recently is the Scottish Bakehouse garden, which sits on the back half of her property. She walks down behind the kitchen to check on well-tended rows of dill (“for pickling”), baby kale, parsley, tomatoes (“for canning”). Blueberries, rhubarb, asparagus and other vegetables and flowers are spread over about an acre of the two-acre parcel.
“I started this not to compete with other farmers here, but as a complement to what the farmers here do,” she says. “We work with so many local farmers. I use Jefferson Munroe’s chickens [The Good Farm], I have beef at Pilot Hill Farm. I buy from Black Water Farm, Mermaid Farm, Andrew [Whippoorwill Farm], Liz Packer, Richard Andre, Lisa Fisher Stannard Farm, Gideon Spykman at Back 40 Farm. I buy as many local eggs as I can get, greens from everyone. This is a pretty amazing place when it comes to local food, and I just wanted to participate in that process. Experience.”
Walking back to her kitchen, Daniele checks in with Angela Aronie, one of her counter people/farmers (four of the kitchen and counter staff also work in the garden), who is headed out for a break. “I give my employees paid breaks and free food so they can handle the customers. It’s a lot in the summer, and I’ve found if you just give someone a few minutes to unwind and nourish themselves, everyone fares better,” she says. “I had five counter people at a time without breaks. Now I have three.” After Angela has given her a rundown on the morning’s counter traffic, Daniele spies her septic guy in the parking lot. “Jay! Thanks so much for coming!”
Yesterday, she noticed that the bathroom toilet was “not behaving. Nothing terrible, but not working well either. I called the plumber and we have a hunch that my septic might need attention. And I’d rather address the issue now than have a real problem in a week.” Septic man Jay Araujo has come to help assess the situation. He checks the grease trap, which looks fine, and then cannot get the septic tank lid open. He shakes his head, “Too much plowing will do this.” After another half hour of digging, Jay tells Daniele she will have to hire someone with a large machine to dig it out and he’ll have to come back. She walks back into the kitchen, calling her landscaper to assist with the lid problem.
As she returns to her shelf desk, a young girl comes in. “Hey, Amoy, I didn’t know you were working today,” Daniele says. Apparently head baker Tanya Chipperfield had asked Amoy to come in and prep for a bake. “My crew is remarkably self-sufficient,” Daniele says. “A few years ago, Samantha ran around following me with a notebook, recording every task that needed to be done in the kitchen. From this exercise, we created a manual for each position. Some of it is very basic, for instance, for the early morning baker, the first task? Turn the lights on. But you’d be amazed by how much these simple instructions, identifying the order of what to do and when — turn the ovens on, then mix — makes everything easier, go more smoothly and efficiently. And people have more freedom. I’m a control freak, but this helped me let people have space and be creative. But if I see something going wrong, I’ll ask, so what’s going on with that?” She pauses. “But I don’t pretend that I don’t get the last word. I do.”
A woman named Jennifer appears at the kitchen’s back door. She is here to interview for one of the early morning baking shifts. Daniele walks her to a picnic table near the garden. She explains the job. “We bake some things for 7a, the Home Port, Alley’s, pretzels for Bad Martha, and a few other restaurants. I love it, but we have to have stuff ready for our wholesale orders at 6 a.m. So this means you need to start early, around 3 a.m. Some of my bakers like to give themselves a little more time and come in at 2:30 a.m. Would that be a problem?”
The woman is offered a trial run. Daniele goes back to price checking her food orders. She walks by a bucket filled with food scraps. “We compost everything. We recycle as much as we can,” she says. One of her sous chefs approaches with a question. Speaking in Portuguese, he asks Daniele about the chicken he is prepping. She replies in fluent Portuguese. She explains that she dated a Brazilian woman for several years and would spend three months a year in Brazil. “I was there in a town where no one spoke any English. I wanted to talk to people, be a part of the community, so I learned,” she says.
Learning on the job is part of who she is. “Honestly, there is so much I can learn. I didn’t go to cooking school, so I learn from everyone who cooks here. Everyone I cook with. Work with. And have worked with in a kitchen,” she says.
She did not set out to become a chef, or even a business owner. She attended Stony Brook University on Long Island to become a physical therapist and play basketball. In her second semester of college, she didn’t do well in chemistry, which made her “grade out in a very competitive program.” So she majored in psychology and then tore her Achilles in her senior year, ending her athletic career. “I went into college with one thing in mind and graduated with a totally different set of ideas,” she recalls.
In 1996, after college, she came to the Island and got a job at the Hungry Whale for the summer and fall. For the next two years she worked for Gina Stanley at the Art Cliff Diner. “I was Gina’s helper and hinderer,” she says. “I was just learning about what it was like to work in a restaurant and a kitchen.”
Then she worked for Robert Cropper at BonGo in Vineyard Haven. It was the first kitchen she’d ever managed. “Gina and Robert taught me so much. The curried chicken that we sell here I stole from BonGo and the balsamic chicken is Gina’s recipe.” She laughs. “Of course, I asked if I could use both of these recipes at the bakehouse.” Nine years ago, she was offered the opportunity to manage the Scottish Bakehouse; three years ago she became the sole proprietor. She smiles. “Next year will be 10 years. I want to achieve 10 years. Then, who knows? I just bought a smoker.” She walks back outside to show off a black metal contraption that looks like a giant black steel bullet on a trailer. “I love barbecue!”
Erica DeLorenzo, Daniele’s assistant, appears and greets her with the warmth of a sister. “Good morning! I think last night went well!” The bakehouse had catered an event on the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship that stopped over on the Vineyard. Daniele agrees. They talk through a few bills, an upcoming wedding and an account that Erica needs to follow up with and then Erica is off.
“She is a great help to me. She is a lawyer and is tough. And does things like get permits for all of our catering gigs. You need a permit from each town for each event you do.”
It’s now about 11 a.m. and Daniele is back standing at her shelf desk, assessing what has to be done today and for the week. The freezer needs reorganizing. “I organize our freezer nearly every day. It’s like playing Tetris. I also have a cleaning crew who help me scrub the place top to bottom every night.” She adds tomatoes to her clipboard list and begins creating another list on a pad of food order slips.
“I have to be 10 steps ahead of everybody.” It’s clear that if a head of garlic was missing or out of place, she would know. She calls Beth at Island Food Products and places an order. Then there is a call to United Organic for Earth Balance, Tofutti, Kombucha and almond milk. Daniele is one of only a handful of bakers on the Island who makes vegan and gluten-free baked goods and meals.
Although there are seven people working in the kitchen and three counter people moving in and out, the space is calm, not frenzied. “I don’t do well with frenetic energy,” she says. “My staff knows what to do and right now they are just doing it.” The only thing that looks strained is the kitchen itself, which is bursting at the seams with everything from drying thyme to giant pots, ovens, freezers, stoves, prep stations, proofers and a $30,000 dollar mixer that takes up almost as much space as a refrigerator.
At 1 p.m. for her lunch break, Daniele heads to Edgartown for a yoga session with her instructor Megan Grennan. “She keeps my body from falling apart. I stand pretty much 12 to 14 hours a day. She has taught me to stand without locking my knees and hips. And has really helped with my Achilles.” Two hours later, Daniele returns, looking relaxed and refreshed.
She reads an email on her phone from Steve Broderick, parent of one of Rocco’s classmates. He has found a storage container for Daniele. “That is so amazing! So nice of him! I was telling him about my space problem. And here he is helping me solve it! How lovely is that?”
Moments later, the newspaper man arrives to take away unsold papers and brings Daniele empty egg cartons for her farmers. She thanks him. “You know, when you treat people well, they treat you well. I have a deep respect for other people’s need to get paid and their money. I pay my bills every week. And then for about 15 minutes I am debt free!” More laughter.
As the afternoon rolls on, Daniele prepares a large batch of pretzels for Bad Martha, a microbrewery that opened Edgartown this summer. Her hands work the dough with pure muscle memory. “I love the way dough feels.” She looks at the clock. “I think I’ll have just enough time to get this done before it’s time to get Rocco. I can’t wait to see him. I wonder what I’ll make for dinner tonight, what Samantha is craving.”
She wipes the surface down with a rag and begins dipping the dough into boiling water. “Rocco loves beans and rice. It’s great. I’m a cook and he likes to eat.”
Daniele Dominick by the Numbers
Profession: Scottish Bakehouse owner, chef.
Employees: 10 counter people, 5 bakers, 5 kitchen staff, 3 farmers, 4 cleaners and a catering crew.
Raised: Long Island, N.Y.
Moved to Martha’s Vineyard: 1996
Family: Wife, Samantha Barrow, son Rocco, 17 months.
Pets: Two cats, Daisy and Haycock.
Hobbies: Trying new recipes, restaurants, yoga. “When I’m in New York, I like to play FreeCell during alternate side parking days.”
Places she’s had great meals recently: Dinosaur BBQ, Death and Company and Red Rooster in New York, The Beach Plum Inn on Martha’s Vineyard.
Favorite activities in New York: “Eating out and to spend as much time as I can in the Fairway at 125th street. It mesmerizes me. I walk through it as though it is a museum.”