It might be easy to miss a particular white concrete building along Elliot Avenue among the worn down buildings in this industrial part of Queen Anne. But look closely for the painted red sign that spells out “Fuji Bakery.”
“Fuji Bakery is a location where professionals get together to achieve the highest standard of pastries and desserts,” said owner Akihiro Nakamura.
Though it’s my first time at this location, I am no stranger to the smaller shop in Chinatown/International District. But this is Nakamura’s headquarters, where the kitchen is located, and where his chefs churn out the sweet and savory baked goods on a daily basis.
Nakamura told me that although he is not a baker, he hires passionate people. Next to him are two of his trusted—and passionate—chefs: Boulangerie, or head of breads, Takanobu Ogisu, and patisserie, or head of desserts, Yushi Osawa.
The three conversed a bit in Japanese when I asked how they all met, and Nakamura helped translate. Osawa met Nakamura through one of his friends who was working at the bakery. Ogisu was doing pastry work in France when he applied for the job. It was his first time coming to the United States and he said Nakamura gave him a chance to work at the bakery.
Holding themselves to the high standard Nakamura mentioned, everything is made daily. That means Fuji Bakery never sells second day goods. This also means that because of that, both Ogisu and Osawa start work early every morning.
“For bread, [Ogisu] starts 3:00 in the morning,” Nakamura said. “His typical day is mixing the flours and start making the breads until 10:00. Then he prepares for the next day until probably 1:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon.”
Osawa told me that he starts work at around 6:00 a.m., and that it isn’t the same every day. However, it still involves preparations, baking, assortments of pastries, and creating decorations.
The bakery sells a wide variety of baked goods and desserts. There are more familiar items like baguettes, quiches, and tarts, among many others. But there are also more unique items that are worth trying.
Ogisu likes the Crunchy Cream. It’s a light and fluffy deep fried donut filled with a custard cream. The outside is coated with granulated sugar and corn flakes.
For Osawa, he enjoys the macaroons, especially the matcha green tea flavored one.
The Milk Stick is another one worth trying. It’s a small, soft baguette filled with a milk cream filling.
One of my own favorites is the Fraise. It’s light and flaky puff pastry topped with a vanilla custard and fresh sliced strawberries. It’s all dusted off with powdered sugar.
For something more savory, there’s the Curry Bread, which is a deep fried bun filled with in-house curry and the outside is coated with bread crumbs. These are just a small sample of what Fuji Bakery offers.
“The inspiration for baking comes from everywhere—Portuguese, Spanish,” Nakamura said. “Of course there’s a lot of French, but we have German influence. We take everything that tastes good.”
There’s also a number of different—but yummy—goods that the chefs get to experiment with.
In fact, I met Nakamura’s other trusted and passionate chef, Amanda Burchett, as she brought out a peanut butter ganache for them to sample. It’s a new recipe she experimented with to improve one of their existing pastries.
Burchett, who manages the bakery, enjoys what she called an unlimited opportunity of creative freedom they have at Fuji Bakery. Ogisu also noted he likes creating the menus. And because they pull flavor inspiration from all over the world, they are able to appeal to a wide range of customers.
“I’ve seen every culture come through here,” Burchett said.
She enjoys the moments when “people who bite into [a pastry] and say, ‘It’s like I’m back in France.’” Burchett continued, saying, “Another great moment that I’ve had is when the 80 and 90-year-old Japanese women come in and take a bite out of the milk stick and say, ‘Just like mom’s’ or ‘Just like grandma’s.’”
Burchett, who is a culinary school drop-out, also enjoys working with Ogisu and Osawa.
“[Ogisu] is very creative. He is a bread magician,” Burchett said. “Yushi is extremely talented. Dropping out of school, I did leave behind just a few classes like an advanced patisserie class. Now Yushi is my advanced patisserie instructor … I learn something new from both of them everyday.”
Though both Ogisu and Osawa are modest in their work, they both have won awards for their culinary skills. Ogisu won Fuji Bakery second place at the Darigold Best Baguette Contest in March, and Osawa won first place in the Washington State Cake Show and Competition for a cake he made out of chocolate.
Nakamura is pleased with his staff.
“I feel really confident with my chefs,” Nakamura said. “I think that these young and talented people are doing the best they can, which is far superior than anyone else.”
For Nakamura, he enjoys bringing Seattle quality baked goods and pastries, supporting the talent of young chefs, and will leave the future of the bakery to be created how they see it.
In the meantime, Nakamura said it best when he suggested, “Try everything. I’m pretty sure there’s something that you will taste and say, ‘Wow.’”