Starting Came Naturally to Her

“I’m really excited to have people come in and have the experience of the smells and bubbling sounds of the loaves baking."
With a few final construction tweaks to be resolved, Carissa Waechter still managed to open her new bakery for the holiday weekend. Durell Godfrey

Carissa Waechter’s new shop in East Hampton is the inevitable culmination of something she has been cooking up for quite a while. Carissa’s Breads have been popular at South Fork farmers markets, and now she will bake and sell not only breads but also cakes, pastries, croissants, and pies and jams made with fruit from local farms.

“I’m really excited to have people come in and have the experience of the smells and bubbling sounds of the loaves baking,” she said as she recently surveyed the finishing touches on the shop, which is off Newtown Lane in the former space of East Hampton Gourmet. 

The baking area takes up about 1,000 square feet. A grain mill for wheat, which she obtains in separated, wheatberry form, will be installed at the rear of the building. As for the ovens, Ms. Waechter may expect to have a personal connection with them. One is named Olive, after an olive bread that a customer especially loved; another is named Amber, in keeping with her sister business, Amber Waves Farm, and two stacked ovens are called Figs, for her favorite fruit.

“The previous owners were so helpful and nice. It was meant to be. We had been looking for a space for a while.” The best thing, she said, is that “you get to do what you love and then people take an interest, and it makes me so happy.”

Ms. Waechter said she applies “techniques and methods from the chefs I’ve trained under, but the recipes are my own developments, usually classics adjusted to incorporate something that’s hyperlocal and in season.”

Ms. Waechter, who grew up in Florida, moved to New York City on her 21st birthday to go to culinary school. She then apprenticed with several notable chefs, including David Burke, who is a TV star and author as well as a cook, and Daniel Boulud, who owns dozens of restaurants across the country and around the world, with, at last count, seven in New York City.

Along the way, she “found out it was in my blood: My great-grandmother lived on a wheat farm outside of Chicago and was a famous pie baker. She would pay the men with fried chicken dinners to harvest the wheat.” Her grandmother and great-aunt also went door to door to sell pies.

Referring to the East End, Ms. Waechter said, “I love the barter system and love that fishermen and farmers come to a farm stand, leave fish and vegetables, and get bread and pies in return.”

In 2009, on a rare day off in the city, Ms. Waechter had a roller-skating accident that changed her life. While convalescing, she got a call from Eli Zabar, of the family that owns the eponymous food emporium on the Upper West Side, who was taking over the Amagansett Farmers Market. He asked her to join the staff for the summer to bake bread. There, she met Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin, who had been apprentices at Quail Hill Farm and had just started growing wheat behind the market when they opened Amber Waves Farm, which is now a community supported agriculture organization with acres of crops in production and a farm stand of its own — the former Amagansett Farmers Market.

Among the Amagansetters she met that summer was John de Cuevas, a long­time summer resident who just happened to have a natural yeast culture he had started in 1965. He passed it along. She also got a rye starter, which was begun in 1999 in Southampton, and began baking and selling her breads at farmers markets. Once her business had grown, she began preparing breads at the Amagansett Food Institute’s South Fork Kitchens at Stony Brook Southampton, while helping to organize its use. 

“The financial expenses of starting and building a business from scratch are unreal, which led me to utilizing tools like the small business development center, cofounding the shared kitchen space, etc.” She acted as coordinator there for about two years while operating Carissa’s Breads. She added pies to her roster for Thanksgiving in 2014. 

Asked if she would consider expanding further, Ms. Waechter said, “I’m a serial entrepreneur, planner, and workaholic, but I’m also cautious, always writing new plans and fleshing out new ideas, and I love taking calculated risks. However, I will only commit to new projects when the timing is correct.”

Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that her wholesale bread business now has 52 inns, markets, restaurants, hotels, and beds-and-breakfasts on the North and South Forks as clients, and, with Rustic Roots Delivery, which covers Long Island and Westchester in addition to the city, she plans to send her breads to all five boroughs.