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Full Circle After 32 Years

In 1989, I returned to Madison after four years of Pastry Training in Germany. My parents owned Clasen’s Bakery and Clasen Quality Chocolates. It was my job to bring new ideas and a new vision to the bakery. 

My parents allowed me to build up the bakery using my vision and education, giving me gentle advice combined with praise and encouragement. Over the years, I added new breads, rolls, cakes, desserts, pastries, chocolates and Quiche. My parents’ bakery already had several very good items that we still sell: Coconut Macaroons, Black Forest Tortes, Petit Fours, Sourdough Farmers Bread, Sourdough Rye, Broetchen, just to name a few.

Thirty-two years later, we have everything they had, plus all the new things I added over the years. There are too many to mention.

Hence Quiche...

At Cafe Fassbender, I learned to make the most amazing Quiche Lorraine. We have done multiple spin offs on the Quiche Lorraine: Quiche Provence, Ham and Green Onion, Broccoli Cheddar, Asparagus Bacon Quiche. And last year. we added Hashbrown Crust as a variant.

Our Quiche is known for being fresh and healthy, with simple, pure ingredients. We use Wisconsin eggs, cheese and cream. And when local vegetables are in season, they are always featured in our Quiches.

Fast forward 32 years.

I am in Hyde Park, New York, moving my son Tony back to Madison. Tony graduated in April and will be joining the Clasen Team. He has spent the past four years at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The CIA was established in 1946 and is situated on the Hudson River. It is known industry wide as being the best culinary school in the world.

When you visit the CIA, you immediately have a sense that this institution is for “Serious Food Enthusiasts.”  Students and instructors walk along campus with chef coats, toques, white aprons, black-and-white checked pants. It has a military, disciplined feel throughout. The CIA offers a variety of Culinary degrees, including Baking and Pastry, integrated with a Bachelor in Business.

While Tony and I were sitting on the patio in Hyde Park the other night discussing food, a topic my family talks about 75% of the time, he said to me, “Mom, you are the only place that I know of that puts dill on top of your Quiche Lorraine.” I explained to him that “I was taught to do it that way.” I could see him mulling over that explanation as he said that it makes the Quiche Lorraine much better and that “we” will never change it.  He had even told his French instructors at school about the dill.

That was the moment I realized that this is Tony’s next step in life: To bring back his knowledge and ideas to Clasen’s and run with them -- just as I did 32 years ago.

My job is to take a little step back (maybe a half-step) and enjoy watching things come full circle.

 - Michelle Clasen