Jacques Johnson Brings Danish Spin to Baked Goods at Brooklyn’s Meyers Bageri

In addition to his new restaurant Agern and Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Terminal, Danish Culinary Entrepreneur Claus Meyer (and our August cover story) has opened Meyers Bageri in Brooklyn, New York. Led by Head Baker Jacques Johnson, the small & intimate space will be serving up Danish breads and pastries including Ølandbrød, a native speciality made from heirloom whole wheat flour which they will mill in house.

Jacques and his team will also be rotating their menu seasonally using as many organic and local ingredients as possible. All of this embraces the New Nordic Food Manifesto that Claus wrote and has worked tirelessly to advance.

Jacques, how did you get into the baking profession and what brought you to this point?

I started working mornings in a bagel shop one summer when I was about fifteen. Later that summer I was also working nights doing prep in one of the restaurants down the street. I was hooked from there. I kept my kitchen job through the rest of high school and moved into doing pastry in college and graduate school.

I spent two years out of a kitchen shortly after I left school and moved out east from Los Angeles. I missed it. It turned out I was already doing what I wanted to do while I was in school studying something else.

Has anyone inspired or mentored you along the way?

My good friend Chef Eric Dorian, who passed away a few years back, was always very supportive of my choice to do kitchen work. I am also very lucky to work alongside a good friend and mentor Rhonda Croon who happens to be our corporate Head Baker.

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What are some of the signature items available at Meyers Bageri?

Bread wise our signature will absolutely be our Danish Rye Bread or Rugbrød. Also our Ølandbrød which is made from our house milled heirloom whole week flour. It is a very high  hydration similar to a wet ciabatta but with a high percentage of whole wheat and sourdough.

The ÿlandshvedebolle. Photo by Anders Schønnemann.
The ÿlandshvedebolle at Meyers Bageri. Photo by Anders Schønnemann.

Pastry wise our Spandauer, or as Americans call them, Danishes, are pretty iconic. However my favorite is the Kanelsnurre that is a more mature version of the cinnamon roll.

The Kanelsnurre at Meyers Bageri. Photo by Anders Schønnemann
The kanelsnurre. Photo by Anders Schønnemann

Are you planning to go beyond just pastries and into sandwiches or other breakfast foods?

We will have a breakfast menu including hot and cold sandwiches. We will also serve porridges for the winter.

What will be the biggest challenge for Meyers Bageri?

I think getting Americans accustomed to another type of baking other than Italian or French will be a little tricky at first. But I think peoples’ growing interest in organic and wholegrain products will help them want to give us a chance.

Will the menu change seasonally as we move to the cooler months?

Yes it will! Fall flavors and fruits are among my favorite so I’m really looking forward to the change of season.

Will the gluten free eating trend affect your business at all?

No more than any other bakery I imagine. Gluten free when done well can be delicious but often times it involves the use of emulsifiers and a level of processed ingredients I’m personally not interested in using.

Speaking of organic and wholegrain, are you sourcing your ingredients from local or organic sources?

Yes! We are working with area farmers and vendors to source locally and organic. Though not 100% organic for all products yet, we are chipping away at it and we are adding more organic vendors to our roster each week. We even have test plots with a few grain farmers in the ti-state area and Maine to grow our Nordic heirloom varieties of organic wheat and rye to mill into our flours. Right now we are still using Danish imported organic wheat and rye.

The Rye Bread. Photo by Anders Schønnemann.
The rye bread or Rugbrød. Photo by Anders Schønnemann.

Is that an important part of your identity at Meyers Bageri?

Affordable, local and wholesome food is the corner stone of Claus Meyer’s New Nordic Food Manifesto and remains a guiding principle behind any product or purchasing decision we make. New Nordic to me has much more to do with ensuring that our customers and community benefit from our presence in the area than the fact that we specialize in Nordic inspired food. We as a company have tasked ourselves with being the change we want to see. We choose to buy local and organic and we educate & encourage our customers to do the same.

Is that a part of your marketing strategy?

It is, but more so from an education and discussion stand point. I think if you believe in your product and mission, the two should not be mutually exclusive.

What do you expect your market to be?

For Williamsburg and New York City I would say we are mid-priced for a bakery and café

Will you be supplying wholesale or just to individual customers?

Meyers Bageri will be supplying local restaurants and food vendors with wholesale items on a pickup only basis to start.

What is going to set Meyers Bageri apart from other bakeries in New York City?

I think our commitment to local and organic products and our lesser-known style of bread and pastries will both help insure we stand apart from other bakeries without resorting to rainbow or portmanteau baked goods.