Why pastry chef Matt Tinder left world-renowned California restaurants to open a space shared with a pole-dancing studio in Bremerton.
Matt Tinder’s baked goods taste like genius. But even before you bite into a piece of his work, the scent will get you. Stick your nose in the bag and just breathe: His breads and pastries smell so good, you might forget that eating exists for a moment, in a reverie of huffing.
He claims that he doesn’t emphasize appearances in his baking. “I don’t beautify it,” he says, lest his stuff look “too shiny.” It’s all still gorgeous, and beautiful in terms of texture, too. His burnished, puffy curves of croissants, for example, shatter messily, revealing tender, pale, yielding whorls.
He uses whole wheat in his croissants, a radical (and some would say blasphemous) aberration from the French tradition. He does this because, he explains, “It just gives it more flavor. It’s different … it’s just a little deeper.” At the holidays, Tinder makes panettone, a notoriously painstaking Italian favorite. Eating his panettone is like eating a cloud; he’s had people show up at his house looking for it. His loaves of bread, like the one made with the ancient wheat einkorn, cost $10 each. He says he’s made fans of some local Filipino and Russian women, ones who narrowed their eyes when they first learned the price; he could practically hear them thinking, “This better be worth it.” Then they came back the next week and bought two.
245 Fourth St., Bremerton (360-627-7869 or saboteurbakery.com). 5:30 a.m.- 1 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday (or while supplies last).
Matt Tinder bakes as if he has access to a different periodic table of the elements. His creative mind moves ceaselessly — he’ll devote himself to croissants, then bagels, then meat pies, no sooner getting one thing better than it’s ever been than moving on to something new. He always looks tired, but he always talks about baking with intensity, almost urgency.
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Tinder’s restless perfectionism makes sense in light of his background. He was the pastry chef of Coi and The Restaurant at Meadowood for a combined total of five and a half years. At these Michelin-starred California restaurants, he collaborated with world-renowned chefs Daniel Patterson and Christopher Kostow, respectively (both very much perfectionists in their own right).
So why is his new Saboteur Bakery in Bremerton — a town an hour by ferry from Seattle, best known for its Navy shipyard?
Saboteur shares space with Envy Fit, a pole-dancing studio; Tinder sometimes tells customers it’s a firefighter-training facility, just to see how long it takes them to catch on. A few floors above in the Art Deco building is a typewriter-repair shop. But the bakery’s eventual home is about 10 blocks away, in a Quonset hut that Tinder ran across on Craigslist. He was originally looking at Seattle spots for his new venture; he and his fiancé and business partner, Kate Giuggio, love the area, but the Quonset hut was the draw. They’re ideal for bakeries, Tinder says, just empty shells with plenty of space. It was also cheap — “Your money goes a lot further here,” Tinder notes — and, in a move worthy of the Saboteur name, they didn’t want to be beholden to investors.
Tinder talked to the Quonset hut’s owner, who, he says, “called me out — he kind of dared me.” He flew up to look the next day. Now, eight months later, construction inside the Quonset is beginning, while Saboteur on Fourth Street flourishes, gaining local fans by word of happy mouth and regularly selling out.
In a fortuitous turn of events, Tinder and Giuggio recently met Gerry Betz and Larry Lowary of Whidbey Island bakery Tree-Top. After nine years, Betz and Lowary are retiring, selling a full bakery’s worth of gear that Tinder finds better than new. “Boy, they took good care of their equipment. It’s nice,” he says. “I love the old stuff.” He and Giuggio plan to buy it, with the help of an Indiegogo campaign launching soon.
When the equipment’s installed in the Quonset hut, Saboteur’s retail will move in, too. Tinder walks through the building and the untended yard, describing his vision: The hurricane fence will come down soon, and there’ll be outdoor seating here, across from Evergreen Rotary Park, right on an inlet of the Sound. “Orcas come through here!” he says, still astonished. He envisions a beer garden like Zeitgeist in San Francisco, talks about making Neapolitan pizzas. With the increased capacity of the new facility, Saboteur’s work will start making daily ferry trips to be sold in Seattle. He can’t wait to bake pastries with Pacific Northwest fruit. “I’ve got a bag of tricks I haven’t even started on,” he says.
Back down toward the ferry at the Drift Inn, Tinder gets a noontime beer — given the hours he works, it’s 5 o’clock his time.
“Are you the new baker?” the bartender asks.
“Yep,” Tinder says. (“And I’m the candlestick maker!” a guy playing pool chimes in.)
“I had one of your doughnuts,” the bartender says. Tinder doesn’t make doughnuts; the bartender means his brioche sucrée. Tinder does not correct him. (“No one wants to feel stupid,” he explains later.)
“They’re pretty damn good,” the bartender says. “It tasted like real lemon!”
“It is real lemon!” Tinder simply replies.