The Bok is getting a bakery.
Later this spring, Le Bec-Fin alum Emily Riddell and partner-in-flour Katie Lynch will open the Machine Shop Boulangerie on the fourth floor of the building at Ninth and Mifflin in South Philly. The imposing structure, which was formerly Bok Technical High School, has been transformed by development company Scout Ltd. into a hub of artisan businesses.
The Machine Shop Boulangerie, which takes its name from the original use of the schoolroom it occupies, will be Bok’s first food tenant.
“We were blown away by this really cool project,” Lynch said, describing how she and Riddell chose the location. “They were intrigued by our idea to have a bakery there, and we were intrigued by their idea to have this large, communal, repurposed space.”
The two women, both 30, first met working at Art of Bread, the former Narberth bakeshop founded by Georges Perrier. Their paths serendipitously crossed twice more during the course of their career — at The Mildred in Bella Vista and at Le Marais Bakery in San Francisco — and around a year ago the friends made the decision to partner up and go out on their own.
Their decided that their first venture would be a wholesale bakery, not a retail storefront, so don’t expect to be stopping by the Bok for your morning croissant — at least not yet.
Once things are up and running, Riddell and Lynch do intend to take their wares to farmers markets and potentially hold pop-ups, maybe even in the building or near the rooftop bar, although no details have been discussed. To start, Machine Shop Boulangerie products will be sold to other restaurants and cafes around the city.
What kind of products? Everything from natural yeast breads made with Pennsylvania grain to elegant laminated pastries — aka viennoiserie-style treats like croissants, danishes, palmiers and kouign amann. (That last, pronounced “queen a-mann,” is an ultra-dense, folded-in-on-itself, crackly-sugary mini-cake that entirely deserves the trendy renaissance it’s been having.)
Philly native Riddell, who spent the last three years making French desserts at Bistro Barberet & Bakery, the Lancaster shop run by Le Bec-Fin pastry chef Cedric Barberet, is something of a laminated pastry whiz. She’s excited about doing sweets in styles both classic and new. For instance, she’s been playing around with chocolate laminated dough — “Imagine a chocolate croissant that’s actually entirely chocolate!”
On the bread side, everything will be mixed by hand and leavened with natural fermentation (aka no commercial yeast). Both Riddell and Lynch have connections with several Pennsylvania farmers already, and they’re excited to bake with as many PA grains as possible, with the rest coming from nearby states. Two stone-lined hearth ovens and two convection ovens have already been installed in the 750-square-foot Machine Shop space, ready to turn out loaves that vary from sourdough to whole grain to rye.
“I see baguettes in our future,” said Riddell, “and probably some sort of roll or bun.”
The exact lineup of offerings will be determined by what Philly restaurants and cafes need and ask for, Lynch clarified. The partners haven’t notched any official clients yet because it’s still too early in the process. “First we need our health inspection, then our ingredients, then get our recipes dialed in, and then we’ll start spreading croissant love everywhere,” Riddell said.
Both women are thrilled to be rejoining the vibrant Philly food scene.
“We both worked here for so long,” Lynch said. “We’re so excited to be back in the Philadelphia community.”