Many people don’t “choose” a career path, it just sort of happens. Work long enough in a job or profession, and there’s your path.
For others, like Sally Latimer, owner of Monday Bakery, a career can be born of an epiphany – a single moment or event that puts their whole life’s work into focus.
For Latimer, that epiphany was Rice Krispie Treats.
“I used to make Rice Krispie Treats and cupcakes in the kitchen on our floor in the dormitory, and everybody loved them,” she said.
Her treats weren’t anything unusual. She baked them according to the instructions on the cereal package, and her cupcakes came out of a box. Still – Latimer loved the process of baking, and her dorm mates loved the results.
She was into her third year as a music major at Gonzaga University, but her career path was set in a different direction.
“I knew I wanted to be a baker,” she said.
Latimer was supposed to study abroad her junior year in college, but that fell apart.
“Classes weren’t my top priority,” she said with a laugh.
During one of her regular trips to the farmers market, she met a successful chocolatier who owned “Hot Cakes Confections” in Seattle. Latimer spent eight months at the pastry shop as an unpaid intern.
“There was no formal training, I just sort of followed the owner around,” she said.
Latimer is an accomplished singer and piano player and decided to complete her music degree.
But with her diploma in hand, she went back to Hot Cakes Confections and spent a year on staff. She loved it, but wanted more.
“I knew the look and feel of pastry, but I wanted to go deeper.” With that, she enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone.
“I studied harder there than I did getting my undergraduate degree, because it wasn’t my ‘college experience.’ I’d already done that. This was my career choice.”
She had a valuable and informative externship at One Market in San Francisco, but learned that she wasn’t interested in working in a high-volume restaurant.
“I loved the pastry chef there, but by design, large, busy restaurants that turn out that many meals every day are formulaic. I prefer a smaller, rustic, artisan environment.”
Following One Market, she spent a year at the Thomas & Fagiani’s, where she was promoted to pastry chef, and then a year at Ad Hoc.
By 2016, she was ready to do her own thing.
“I eventually wanted a shop, but following my mentor from Hot Cakes Confections, I started selling pastries at the farmers markets in Napa and St. Helena, in order to build a following.”
After three years, Latimer decided it was time for bricks and mortar.
Monday Bakery opened in January, and it marries Latimer’s love for classic desserts with her creativity. She is passionate about and committed to using local purveyors and ingredients.
“We serve Drool Dog cookies, Ohm Coffee, Paulie’s Bagels and use Clif Family wines for our red wine red velvet cupcakes. It wouldn’t make sense for us to re-create what they all do so well.”
And while many people say they serve only seasonal food, Latimer means it.
“We get requests for blueberry muffins all the time, but they won’t be in season until summer. When they are available at the farmers market, we’ll start making them.”
Latimer sees a distinct difference between “cooking” and “baking.”
“’Cooking’ is feeling, ‘baking’ is exact,” she said.
Cooks can always taste as they go, and add whatever is needed. However, once a cake or other pastry is in the oven, nothing can change. That doesn’t mean that Latimer doesn’t experiment.
“One of the early cookbooks I used was ‘Cake Doctor,’ which takes boxed cake mixes and tweaks them.”
The Cake Doctor might be surprised by how far Latimer has gone in experimenting.
She credits her Pastry Chef and former CIA classmate, Lindsay Devaul, with much of that.
“Lindsay was in the sister culinary class while I was at CIA. I studied sweets, and she studied savory. She is an amazing chef who helps me every day with her creativity and menu concepts.”
An example is Monday Bakery’s Lemon Ricotta Poppy Muffins.
“Ricotta is traditionally a savory ingredient, which I wouldn’t have thought to mix into a classic lemon poppy seed muffin. Lindsay did, and the muffins are amazing.”
Latimer is thankful for her entire staff.
“People talk about how hard it is to find high-quality people, but our staff came together quickly, and they are exceptional.”
She said the business is called Monday Bakery because they give people something to look forward to on Mondays – and every other day.
Having a following from the farmers markets has paid off. From the day Latimer opened the shop, people were there looking for brown butter cinnamon rolls, sour cream coffee cakes, muffins, biscuits and almond cake.
Those looking for savory offerings can enjoy a seasonal salad or sandwich, breakfast sandwich, quiche or frittata.
Savvy diners know to leave room for dessert; or to order something to go from the many sweet offerings, including cupcakes, cookies, cake by the slice or triple citrus meringue bars.
Her biggest fan may be her dad, who came to Napa for the grand opening, and spent the entire day at the shop.
“He brought a bouquet of balloons, which I still have in my car.”
Strict adherence to using local ingredients apparently extends to Latimer’s love life.
Three years ago, she began dating Napa native Matt Geftakys, known as Goof, a nickname his Napa Saints football coach gave him.
The couple lives with their two dogs, Obi Wan Kenobi and Prince. Last year, Latimer and Geftakys visited Hawaii with some friends.
“The plane had barely landed and they insisted that we go for a hike. It was pretty hard, but the view at the top was amazing.”
Latimer turned to Geftakys to share her appreciation, only to find that he had dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. As soon as she got over the shock, she said ‘yes.’
The wedding is in October.
Monday Bakery is open daily from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays (vlosed on Wednesdays) at 1412 Second St., between the post office and Grace’s Table. Check out the menu at mondaybakery.com.
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