q&a with bridget thibeault of luna bakery

The first time we stopped in Luna Bakery was for Sunday breakfast a few months ago. It was a picture-perfect August morning in Cleveland Heights (at Cedar-Fairmount) and people were out. The small patio in front was lined with bikers and strollers and inside the tiny café was equally as packed with people hovering for a table or waiting  to order while watching the crepes come to life (luckily for us, we quickly snagged a four-top in less than 5 mins). The place was hopping, but no one – staff nor customer – seemed to mind the wait or cramped quarters. Perhaps that was due to the nature of being a lazy weekend morning. Or maybe because everyone knew what was in store.

We’ve been several times since then. Place continues to draw crowds, though not much sitting around outside these days. And luckily we still continue to have luck and quickly grab a table (there’s about 8 tables total I’d guess). My daughter would tell you there’s nothing better than the Nutella crepe with bananas (I’d likely concur based on the bites mommy has to “test” first). I like the roasted portabella with goat cheese and artichoke pesto; Jamie’s a fan of the various paninis.

For Olivia’s baptism, we used Luna for the cake – a giant tiramisu cake to be exact. I think I gave out their number to at least 6 people. I am not a cake person, never have been. This cake would be the exception to the rule. I was also quite impressed with their biscotti – something I never, ever buy because I always find others’ to be too dry or over flavored, so it’s easier to make my own. I don’t have to do that anymore.

Luna was started by pastry chef Bridget Thibeault of Flour Girl and the duo behind Stone Oven.

What are the top 5 spices that should be in everyone’s pantry? I like to use fresh herbs for cooking but there are a few spices I consistently use: cinnamon, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin and ginger.

When did you decide to become a pastry chef? Why? In 2001 I was bored at my corporate advertising job in Chicago and decided to take a few classes at a local culinary school.  I loved it and quit my job to finish the degree with hopes of becoming a caterer or personal chef. I ended up moving to NYC to become a food stylist and culinary consultant because of my marketing background. But I loved the artistry and pace of baking, creating and decorating so I started a side business called Flour Girl, focusing on wedding cakes and custom pastries.

Where did you grow up? Cleveland Heights, a few streets away from Luna!

Favorite meal from your childhood? Homemade macaroni and cheese and rum cake for dessert (looking back, I’m not so sure I should have been eating rum cake!)

What can people do starting now to instantly improving their baking skills? Read and practice. Baking is science and I am constantly learning to this day. I think too many bakers don’t understand the reason things work or completely fail. A cake can bake perfectly one day and end up a flat mess the next. There are lots of environmental factors and ingredients need to be measured exactly.  At Luna, we are one of the few bakeries in Cleveland baking from scratch because it takes lots of trial and error and is generally more expensive.

What TV show do you never miss? I don’t have much time for TV these days, so it’s got to be good. Most recently, we watched all 5 seasons of The Wire, and I’m bummed it’s over.

If you could trade places for the day with one person, who would it be? Right now, I would love to trade places with my 2-year-old son and experience life the way he does. He is overly excited about every simple, basic thing and has so much energy! The 2 hour nap every day is appealing.

You’re mayor of Cleveland for the day. What are you changing or what law are you implementing? Wow, that’s tough. I’m passionate about a lot of issues and can’t imagine being in that position. I know the mayor can’t control this, but I’d love to see a Cleveland sports team win a championship.

Signature dish? Probably caramel nut bars (“crack bars” to some).

What do you love about Cleveland and what drives you nuts? I love the culture, food scene, friendly people and affordable housing. I lived in Chicago and NYC so I do miss the buzz of living downtown and I think the shopping could be improve.

Future plans for Luna? Expand! We only have 25 seats inside and we need to have additional seating for our busy lunch rush and weekends.  Plus we hope more people come check us out and become regular customers.

Biggest obstacle as a local, small business owner? Advice for someone looking to open their own business? The biggest obstacle is keeping sales up everyday. The weather and seasons play a big part as to when people go out in Cleveland. We are hoping to increase our bakery and gift box sales to counter that. Advice for a chef looking to open their own business: Be sure to get some management experience under your belt. I have over 20 people on my staff and it’s a big change from working out of my house. You just need to take it one day at a time and find some great people you can trust to work for you.

Disclosure: Cleveland Foodie worked in trade with Luna Bakery (ad space for cake; meals were all paid for by us). Thoughts on cake truly aren’t altered based on agreement – it was simply that good. Just ask Natalie (or guests!).

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