Meet Sam Stout: Retail Pastry Assistant Manager

Sam won our 2023 Core Value Award for Embracing Diversity

Each life has its own propensity for illumination, a moment when purpose and passion converge to cast a guiding light. Sam Stout found hers at Macrina, a much larger company than she’d previously worked for. A veteran pastry chef with a resume that includes some of Seattle’s finer restaurants, Sam found her work life abruptly interrupted by the pandemic. After five months of unemployment, a friend mentioned Macrina might be looking for someone with her expertise. With her experience, Sam was hired into the retail pastry department in 2020.

Initially, Sam felt somewhat out of place working within a larger team. “When I started at Macrina, I thought it was going to be temporary until I could get back to a pastry chef position at a restaurant,” Sam says. However, as she settled in to her new role, the quality and creativity of the pastries and desserts impressed her. Even more important was how comfortable she felt in the kitchen and the respect with which she was treated. She developed a special bond with Katarina Ducharme, the Pastry General Manager, and found Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, to be both warm and inspiring. “I was able to see a future with Macrina that promised stability and opportunities to grow.”

Macrina’s retail pastry team creates all the specialized pastries for the cafés, including the mousse cakes, pies, and cakes. Working in the space behind Macrina’s Sodo café, their creations are on display through large windows at the back of the café. “It’s especially fun when the kids watch,” Sam says. “Sometimes we sneak out and give them a cookie.”

Last year, Macrina participated in the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) Spring Spark, a whimsical fundraiser where creativity, community, and confections are celebrated. Leslie and Sam collaborated with PNB star Lucien Postlewaite to invent a new dessert, which they named Oberon’s Rose Pavlova. Comprising a rose meringue with raspberry lychee mousse, fresh berries, and gold dust, it clinched the title for best dessert in the playful competition. “That was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done,” says Sam. “It was the first time I’d gotten to spend a lot of time with Leslie. Creating food with her was wonderful. I’m so glad we’ve been invited to participate again this year.”

Macrina’s Core Value Awards — Hard Working, Remaining Positive, Continuously Improving, Embracing Diversity, and Integrity in All We Do — are among the company’s highest honors. During the presentation of the 2023 awards, Sam sat beside Leslie, who rose to introduce the Embracing Diversity award. As Leslie spoke, Sam was taken aback to hear praise for qualities that mirrored her own. “It took a moment for me to recognize she was talking about me,” says Sam.

Outgoing and friendly, Sam has illuminated the paths of many who work alongside her. She meets people where they are and finds ways to bring out their best. “I love to teach people to bake,” says Sam. “If you’re willing to learn and listen, make mistakes, pick yourself up, and learn from it, I can teach you.”

As Leslie proudly presented the Embracing Diversity award to Sam, it was a moment of affirmation for the values that stand at the center of Macrina. “She has brought so much creative energy to our retail pastry team,” says Leslie. “Sam and Katarina bubble up ideas and exhaust themselves perfecting the recipes. Sam has worked in restaurants for years and has distilled the best of all those experiences into creating an inclusive environment at work. The result is an inspired staff that truly feels valued. We so appreciate all that she brings to our Macrina family.”

Originally from Midland, Texas, Sam moved to Seattle in 2014 and fell in love with the city and surroundings. “Seattle is so beautiful,” she says. “There’s so much water — greens and blues everywhere. I love rain. I grew up with tumbleweeds and tarantulas. I miss my family but not the sun and heat. And I just love the ferries, the many long bridges over water, and the great food around here.”

Meet Alex Kaiser: GM at the Belltown Café

Most Macrina GMs begin their careers behind the counter and gradually ascend to leadership positions. Alex Kaiser is the rare exception. Joining Macrina in January 2024, he brought with him more than a decade of management experience in the hospitality industry. He immediately impressed our leadership team with his people and management skills.

Previously the manager of a popular local sports bar, Alex was looking to transition into a management role in a growing, community-focused company. “I loved Macrina’s products and had heard great things about the company as a place to work,” Alex says, adding that he was also ready to embrace a lifestyle that didn’t involve working late into the evening. “I met the Macrina leadership team and felt really comfortable right away.”

For the first few weeks, Alex trained at the other Macrina cafes, learning from each of the GMs and their management styles. “There were subtle differences in how they approached things, but one thing they all had in common was a sense of happiness and positivity,” says Alex. “It felt like a theme, which made me very comfortable coming in.”

Arriving as an outsider came with its hurdles, but Alex quickly earned the trust and support of his Belltown crew. “I inherited a great team,” says Alex. “Strong people, hard workers, great personalities, and very positive. That made the transition a lot smoother.”

Before moving to Seattle in mid-2020, Alex, originally from North Dakota, spent a decade living and working in Baltimore. His leadership roles there included overseeing the bars and restaurants at a Maryland horse track and managing a prestigious members-only club frequented by professional athletes.

As the pandemic hit, Alex took a two-week hike on the Appalachian Trail. “It was a blast,” Alex says. “It was kind of my first foray into backpacking. I just kind of dove in headfirst — maybe a little too headfirst.” That trip led to a visit to the PNW for another hiking trip. He fell in love with Seattle and the natural splendor of the area, prompting his move to the city with his brother. In his spare time, he continues to explore the outdoors by trail.

Although his brother eventually returned to his hometown in North Dakota, Alex has embraced the collaborative and positive culture at Macrina and found a home in Seattle’s vibrant community.

Shrimp & Crab Salad Sliders for the Big Game

Macrina’s slider rolls, either brioche or potato, are the perfect bun for sliders. Of course, there are many great fillings. But for the big game, you want to bring your A-game. These Shrimp and Crab Salad Sliders are a guaranteed winner, especially with fresh Dungeness coming in from Washington’s Pacific coast. You can make the salad in advance and refrigerate it. Before serving, butter the insides of the rolls and sauté them to caramelize the bread and warm it through.

Makes 12 sliders

Shrimp & Crap Sliders for the Big Game

6 cups water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, divided
1 lb frozen shrimp, 16–20 size, (deveined, shell on)
8 oz fresh crab meat, cooked
2 ribs celery, medium dice
2 tsp capers, chopped
3 tsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
3 tsp shallots, finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
12 Macrina Brioche Sliders or Rustic Potato Sliders
Butter, softened

In a medium saucepan, add the water, salt and 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Add the frozen shrimp and return to a boil, cooking for 3–4 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked through.

Strain the shrimp and transfer to a bowl. Quickly cover with ice cubes to stop the cooking process. Toss and let cool for 10 minutes.

Peel the shrimp and coarsely chop them in ½-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, add the diced celery, capers, tarragon, shallots, remaining ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the crab and chopped shrimp. Stir to combine.

Cut the slider rolls in half horizontally and brush with butter. Pan sauté the interiors to caramelize the bread and warm it through. Divide the shrimp and crab salad between the slider roll bottoms and add a top each one. Serve with your favorite chips or green salad.

Enjoy!

 

Recipe of the Month: Hazelnut Raspberry Linzer Cookies

This is our Valentine’s Day version of the beloved Linzer cookie, made with ground hazelnuts rather than almonds. These shortbread cookies are great just as they are — tender, delicately sweet, with a subtle, nutty flavor and a hint of cinnamon — but with the raspberry, they’re divine. We cut these into heart shapes and make them into beautiful window cookies. In addition to the raspberry hearts, you’ll also wind up with smaller, chocolate-rimmed hearts. We like heart-shaped cookies all year long but feel free to adapt the shapes to any occasion or even enjoy the hazelnut shortbread in its pure, unadorned form. At the Macrina cafés, we are selling a Hazelnut Shortbread Cookie Mix, which is very similar and will make it quick and easy for you to make this impressive cookie.

Printable PDF of this recipe here.
Makes nine 3 1/2 inch cookies + nine smaller cookies.

Hazelnut Raspberry Linzer Cookies

½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cornstarch
1¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or substitute Bob’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and finely ground
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup raspberry jam
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup red and white crystal sugar

Line 3 rimmed baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine brown sugar and cornstarch on low speed for about 1 minute to remove lumps. Add flour, cinnamon, salt, and ground hazelnuts. Mix until combined.

With the mixer running, gradually add cubed butter and blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the vanilla extract and mix for another minute to allow the dough to come together.

On a lightly floured surface, press the dough into a 10-inch square. Divide in half and roll out each half to a 1/4-inch thickness, ensuring evenness. Cut out 9 large hearts from the first half for the bases and place them on one prepared baking pan.

From the second rolled-out half, cut out an equal number of large hearts. Then, using a smaller heart cutter, remove the centers to create heart frames. Place these frames on the second baking pan, and the small heart cutouts on the third pan.*

Chill the baking pans in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake cookies for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

To assemble the cookies, spread raspberry jam on the heart bases. Lightly dust the heart frames with powdered sugar and place one on top of each jam-covered base.

Melt chocolate chips in a water bath, double boiler or microwave. Dip the edge of smaller heart cookies in the chocolate and then in the crystal sugar. Allow them to set up on parchment paper.

Enjoy making someone feel special with these delicious cookies for Valentine’s Day — or any day!

*Note: Any dough scraps can be brought together in a ball, re-chilled, and rolled out again for extra cookies!