by Ethan Peller, Theodore Younkin and Emma Zhang
graphic by Julie Wang
Bettina Scemama and Naun Rivera first met at Haley House Bakery in Roxbury, and in 2021, they opened Bettina’s Bakery together as business partners. Both are trained pastry chefs.
Although Scemama had the idea for a while, she said the COVID-19 pandemic made them realize that it was the perfect time to start a business of their own, especially one that brought people together in a cozy environment.
“During the pandemic, we both decided it was just now or never to open a business. It seemed crazy, but it was the right time,” she said. “We have a very high-end product, but it’s also in a very accessible, casual and warm setting.”
The bakery’s menu offers a variety of foods, ranging from sandwiches to Thanksgiving pies. Scemama said that the diverse flavors reflect her and Rivera’s different cultural backgrounds and experiences.
“Originally, I’m from Germany, [and Rivera] from Honduras. We both wanted to do some foods from our cultural backgrounds,” she said. “I grew up in England and South America, so I’ve been exposed to the foods of all different cultures, and I’ve always really been into food. Growing up with my mother, it’s a big German traditional thing to bake stuff at home. Everything came together and then the minute I started culinary school.”
Since Upper Falls has an age-diverse community, Scemama said that she enjoys interacting with customers from all walks of life.
“I have little kid customers. I have young singles. I have couples who have just had their first baby, and older people that have lived there for a long time,” said Scemama. “A lot of places are more anonymous. It is a very personal place, and I don’t think there’s a lot of places left where middle schoolers get off the bus and grab their chocolate chip cookie, and we know them.”
Since their founding in 2020, co-owners Kope Kharuharat and Jenny Kiangkaew have worked closely together, combining their unique skill sets to run Newton Highlands’ Lakon Paris Patisserie. Kharuharat serves as the manager, and Kiangkaew brings her talents as an accomplished pastry chef.
“We work together, and you need a great team to be able to put out what we’re doing. Especially since it’s a place where we bake handcrafted and top-quality products,” Kharuharat said. “There are high expectations, and that’s [Kiangkaew’s] personality reflecting on how she produces all these outstanding baked goods.”
Kharuharat said they founded the store through their shared love of food.
“Food has always been something that she loves and is passionate about, and she’s very particular about, like a perfectionist,” he said.
Croissants, Lakon Paris’s specialty pastry, take skill to make. Kharuharat said that Kiangkaew has years of experience mastering the art, first at Cordon Bleu culinary school and then her bakery in Thailand.
“Making handcrafted croissants takes skill, and it is a three-day process. We use high-quality ingredients and the ability to be able to sense the croissant,” he said. “Temperature, timing and everything else is important. You have to sense it, and you can’t go by the book.”
Although beginning the workday at 4 a.m. may seem absurd to some, SALT Patisserie’s sous chef Leanna Greene loves what she does, and she said that the pride she gets from the end products makes it all worthwhile.
“Every single product is made from scratch, whether it’s a dough, a batter or even the purées,” she said. “I don’t think you can find a lot of specific pastry items like petite gateaus [anywhere else]. We really pride ourselves on having some things that other people wouldn’t.”
Decorated celebrity chef Thiago Silva founded SALT just this year, and it has been the perfect place for Greene to learn new things and gain new experiences, she said.
“At the time, I was kind of in a transition phase, just looking to move on from my last job and find something new,” she said. “I wanted to have more of a mentor to work with. When I came across the opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up after hearing about chef Thiago Silva and his accomplishments.”
Greene said that SALT has big plans for the future.
“We have limited staff, so we can only do so much, but we have so much more we want to do. We want to do savory items and things like sandwiches, and we look forward to doing some events,” she said. “There’s a lot that’s coming in Newton and we just look forward to getting to know this town even better.”
Before Erin Bashllari took over Donut Villa five years ago, the diner only served donuts and breakfast sandwiches. The Malden-based restaurant has since expanded, and opened a third location in Newtonville just this year. With an ever-expanding menu, Bashllari said he is excited about the growth of the business.
“I’ve always been in the restaurant business even through college and always loved going to a good diner and having good brunch food,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to make a full-service brunch.”
Rather than letting leftover donuts go to waste, Bashllari said that he makes an effort to help those in need.
“Whatever doughnuts we have at the end of the day are being donated,” he said “Currently we are working with Brookline Co-Op Food Bank to donate all of our leftover doughnuts.”
Bashllari said he is grateful to have his family running the business alongside him so that he always has a support system.
“One thing about having family is they’ll always be there,” he said. “No matter how tough the day gets, or how hard it gets sometimes, especially in the restaurant industry, they’ll always have each other’s back and just have a solid team and work well together. You know that at the end of the day, you’re always going to be there for each other.”
Bashllari said that although they’ve kept the same doughnut recipe since 1970, they are always experimenting with new creative variations.
“It’s a 50-year-old recipe, and we’ve kept that to the tee. We also work with unique flavors like our Nutella cream, key lime pie and strawberries and cream donuts,” he said. “The only way to find out is to come and taste them.”