General Bakeshop, opening soon in Brewster, is anything but general
Chefs David Carmichael and Michelle Quintana had been working together at Michelin-starred restaurants in Manhattan for the past six years but were both growing restless. In their respective careers, they had proven themselves in what is arguably the toughest restaurant city in the world and were ready for a new challenge. They wanted to build and run something entirely their own. And it wouldn’t hurt if what they created had a little more breathing room than the tiny New York City kitchens they had been toiling in for years.
Quintana, who lives in Brewster, and Carmichael, who lives in Bedford Hills, spent their long rides on the Metro-North Railroad to and from Manhattan talking about the kind of business they’d like to open one day. Carmichael grew up in East Hampton, New York and had fond memories of the town’s Springs General Store. Quintana, who grew up in the Bay Area, was ready to leave the corporate restaurant world behind and apply her own vision and talents to a new enterprise.
When COVID-19 brought the restaurant world to a standstill, Quintana and Carmichael had the opportunity to accelerate their plans. Majorelle, the restaurant where they had been working in midtown Manhattan, closed. Suddenly the chefs had nothing but time: time to apply for a business loan, time to search for the perfect location, and time to settle on a name.
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When Quintana and Carmichael first began scouting for a location, they looked in Mount Kisco, but were quickly discouraged by Westchester County’s high rental costs. They next turned to Putnam County, where they could get more space for their money. They came close on the 4,000 square foot warehouse space that is now the Brewster Baseball Garage, but worried that they would run into challenges as the space wasn’t zoned for food.
Soon after, Quintana and Carmichael learned that the site of the former Norm’s bar in Brewster was available (locals may recall that before it was Norm's it was the site of the Borden Condensed Milk factory). “I always thought it was a cool building, but I never saw a ‘for sale’ or ‘for rent’ sign,” recalled Quintana, who had regularly driven past the building in her four years living in Brewster.
Norm’s, which been closed since 2014, had seen better days. “No one thought we would like it,” Carmichael said, noting how the building had been virtually untouched since the previous owner abruptly closed. To get it back into shape would require extensive renovations. Carmichael and Quintana decided that they were up to the challenge.
Building the dream
Together, Carmichael and Quintana sketched out their vision for a dream chef’s kitchen, down to the windows, tables, fridges and sinks. After 30 years as a chef in Manhattan, Carmichael declared “no more dungeons” and sought to add as many windows as possible. “It’s a space designed by chefs; people who actually work in and understand a kitchen,” Carmichael said.
They hired professionals to draw up architectural plans and complete major structural work, but Carmichael and Quintana themselves put in plenty of their own sweat equity to bring their dream to life. On a recent warm summer day, Carmichael could be found atop a ladder at the exterior of the building, putting finishing touches on a window.
The building that was Norm’s is now General Bakeshop, a nod to the idea of a general store that serves the most delicious food and pastries around. “I feel like most cafes and pastry shops try to personify the European vibe. And I don’t see a lot of the good ol’ USA in those places,” Carmichael explained. The eatery will serve pastries and savory dishes made with passion and a commitment to quality.
“We’re going to have breads, cakes, frozen, desserts, really out of the norm kind of pastries,” Carmichael said. “But yet we’re going to have the most wonderful soups, salads, sandwiches and take-home dinners. We want you to be able to have a healthy, clean meal that is tasty and seasoned properly and cared about. That’s so important to us. It’s a lot more than about money. It’s about making the community happy and fulfilled.”
Quintana added that General Bakeshop will be committed to using the highest quality ingredients in all their recipes. They plan to use organic flours, avoid artificial dyes or flavors and rely on honeys and maple syrup in place of white sugar. All chicken stock will be made on site. A smoker will regularly turn out barbecued meats and pastrami for sandwiches. Coffees will be brewed through a reverse osmosis water system.
Growing the team
Despite their pedigree working alongside such acclaimed chefs as Ina Garten and Daniel Boulud, and in New York City restaurants like Le Bernardin and Oceana, Carmichael and Quintana will still need the help of many capable hands to make General Bakeshop a success. The pair is committed to building and training a team of people as passionate about food as they are.
In early August, General Bakeshop posted job openings on their Instagram account, saying, “if you are ready to participate in an inspiring culinary adventure surrounded by fun, cleanliness and professional organization then you will be applying to the right place.” Available positions included sous chefs, bread bakers, cake decorators, pastry cooks, butchers, and other kitchen support staff.
“You’re at work so much. Work should be more fun than being out of work,” Carmichael said. “That’s our motto here. You get more passionate people, the food becomes better. We’re going to make this an adventure. We like to have fun, but we’re also very, very serious and passionate about our food.”
Carmichael said that General Bakeshop’s selection will grow as the shop grows and adds staff. “Whatever we do, we’re going to do it right. But as we build, the diversity of food and surprises are never going to end.”
The first deliveries have arrived, the ovens have been fired up, and the test pastries have been set to cool on the butcher block counters. Carmichael and Quintana are putting the finishing touches on what they are confident will be an exciting and unique addition to the village of Brewster, with plans to open mid-September.
“When people walk in, I want them to feel like they’re home,” Quintana said. Carmichael added, “The local community has always been our first consideration. Brewster is growing by leaps and bounds and they have so many plans for the future. I just feel like they’ll be proud to say that Brewster is the town that General Bakeshop is in.”