Danny Klecko likes to view himself as an upbeat guy, a guy who not only sees the cup half full, but freshens up that drink while he's at it. But I guess even clowns are prone to experiencing hard days.
My afternoon started off pretty good. I went to the Highland Grill and exchanged Christmas gifts with Kim Ode (Food Critic StarTribune), and while we were doing our deal....Chef Joan Ida surfaced from the back and joined our table. Most of the times when food industry people get together, they don't spend a lot of time talking about food, today Ida and I discussed a campy detective series we've been reading called Bangkok 8. The detective is 1/2 Asian and 1/2 Caucasian. It's cool reading trashy stories and thoughts that are acted out on different parts of the globe.
After my "Elvis Burger" arrived I was glad to see that Kim Ode showed me her love through the gift of alcohol.
She gave me a bottle of Ginger Cognac, Pomegranate Juice (you mix 1 part of each) and then finally a bottle of prosecco which you use to top them off.
But on my way home the bread truck ran out of windshield wiper juice, and the roads were all slushy, and that's when the plates of the Klecko fault must have started their shifting.
Next I picked up Sue McGleno and asked her if she wanted to "date" at Super Target.
I had to go in and get my vision checked and pick up some product, while Sue McGleno had a list of cleaning supplies that had to be dealt with.
On the way there, I mentioned that not all dates had to be concluded with a "romantic liaison", and perhaps after we finished pouring Drano down our drains and Windexing every sheet of glass at 1311 Hartford, maybe we could just celebrate intimacy with silence.
"BAM" out of nowhere came "that" Sue McGleno look.........it made me laugh, which irritated her all the more.
So the cart is full, and we are selecting a check out lane. Sue McGleno is ahead of me pulling the cart. Now if you've ever been to a Super Target you know they have like 36 or 38 check outs. Sue McGleno picked aisle 8.
Of course this was the only aisle that had a one armed cashier.
The guy was acting robotic and asked her how she was doing today, but when he asked, he was looking down at the items and never bothered to look at her. It cracked me up, I mentioned that Sue McGleno was suffering from a disease, and it was called depression. Dude didn't have a clue,but even though I was attempting to lighten the tension with my boyish charm..... Sue McGleno came close and mumbled into my ear "you might want to be careful, even you can't negotiate against PMS!"
As I loaded the purchased items into the back of the bread truck I noticed that my huge bundle of paper towels didn't have that piece of "Target Tape" that they put across it so it's easier for you to carry.
I pointed this out to Sue McGleno and asked.....
"Do you think I should cut one arm slack for not Target taping a handle on my paper towels? I'm sure the guy deals with one arm issues, but come on, that's bull****, don't you think? If a guy can't Target Tape your paper towel bundle they should either fire him or send him to the glue factory."
As much as she didn't want to.....Sue McGleno laughed, she hates to encourage me when I say terrible things, but deep down I think she realizes that insanity reduces tension.
At that point I realized tension was defused so I decided to leave her alone. As we drove home I realized I wasn't as angry as I was feeling...oh I don't know, raw?
You see last week was pretty disturbing to me. One of the wholesale bakeries in the Twin Cities shut their doors last week. They didn't contact many of the accounts and throughout the last few days of the week I continued getting phone calls from panic strickened people who needed specific items to keep their concepts afloat.
You might say "Hey Klecko, isn't that good though, couldn't you pick up their accounts?"
Well....yeah I can, but first off, there just isn't many scratch bakeries left in town. Even when a "rival" closes their doors, it still weakens the baking guild. Even if I make a couple of bucks, it isn't glorious if it is at the cost of the next generation being able to have a corner retail shop.
The Twin Cities are small but yet big enough for each bakery to have a niche. Where I work, we are kinda like a Lexus, possibly the highest end of the middle of the road breads on our metro's market.
Then there is my friend Solveig Tofte (you know her as the Turtle Bread baker) who bakes Rolls Royce's. She appeals to concepts with the highest price point, but to a retail customer..
In all reality there are numerous levels of food consumption in any city, the shop that closed down was the Honda Accord (with dents and a rusty quarter panel) of the Twin City bakery scene.
Nobody was certain what went on, or if the struggling bakery was going to reopen. I called and left the owner a message to call me if I could help out, but he never did. The product that this place produced was fine, but conceptually it was antiquated.
To help some of these folks out, I had to dig through my baking formulas that were popular from the 1950's - 1970's. Much of what these people were using was enriched white breads, Italian loaves with huge percentages of shortening.
Breads that stale quickly.
For 72 hours my cell phone rang off the hook, our office staff became flummoxed because the people on the other end of their lines didn't know what kind of products they had been ordering. They didn't know the baking vernacular that was attached to it, the piece size or even the dimensions.
The problem fixing process was surreal, I ran over to one guys restaurant to see what his perception of a "torpedo" bun was, and when I got there, the first thing he did was show me a chart of how many sales that had walked off his site during the last 2 lunches because he didn't have his required bread.
Then out of frustration he said that he had heard a rumor that the FDA had forced the bakery in trouble to shut down and commence with a bleach bath.
If you haven't heard that phrase before, it is urban legend that the FDA or any food inspector can force you to dump all your products and all your ingredients into a huge dumpster, then they'll stand there and photograph you pouring jugs of bleach on the pile so you won't dumpster dive to reclaim your goods the moment they pull out of your driveway.
I've heard of bleach baths for years, but like I said......I have never talked to anybody who actually was present at one.
After spending a few days problem solving, I really began to feel blessed that. for the most part, most of the accounts that I deal with are framed with people who are knowledgeable.
Most of the people who were dealing with the "Honda Accord" of bakeries were a sub culture all to themselves.
Many of the people I talked to owned concepts but didn't have a clue about the products they ordered, others knew little about the products their concept produced.
Pizza Parlors,Gas Stations and Spaghetti Houses are just a few examples of concepts that are in this demographic I've just mentioned.
If you talk to their cooks (and you sometimes use that term loosely) most of the time these people were doing anything but culinary at their previous jobs.
Landscapers, construction workers, fresh out of drug rehab.....you get the idea.
If I sound like I am mocking this, I swear to Polish Jesus I'm not, these people were beautiful, they let you know how grateful they were.They work like dogs to scratch out a modest existence.
My roots came from environments like these, sure I went to baking school, but let's face it, Danny Klecko dropped on the scene designing gas station loaves for the Super America chain LOL, but as I digress.....I think that's why I have felt on edge lately.
I have been blessed. I have moved up the ladder, I have obtained knowledge. I am in a position to place my ear on the pulse of an entire cities dining needs.
So when you kids go to bed tonight, please say prayers for the little guys.
With this huge fricken monster which I like to call the GLOBAL FEEDING SYSTEM (U.S. Foods / Sysco etc) competing against them, crushing them, and I hate to say it.....humiliating them. I think a lot of options, tradition, and future memories are simply going to get flushed because they just don't have purchasing power to compete when producing the one thing that is dearest to all of us....food!
Alright, that's it for now, I'm off to follow up on another rumor, some of the boys have told me that Kansas City Bob (dude who filled parfait cups at Kaufman Union for years) just got a Buffy the Vampire Tattoo on the opposite arm of his Hillary 08 tat. I am going on Facebook to verify this.
Thanks for checking in, I love most of you....Klecko