Carissa’s Bakery began with a simple idea of baking bread, but quickly evolved into a hub in the Hamptons community. Their restaurant has grown over the years and become so impressive that they won the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurant Design Award in 2020. Carissa’s offers a varied menu with wholesome ingredients at their counter-service all-day bakery. They have two locations in East Hampton on Pantigo Road and Newtown Lane (the Newtown Lane location will reopen in the spring of 2022), and they have an exciting new location coming to Sag Harbor in 2022!
At Carissa’s Bakery, they are all about living sustainably and minimizing waste and use of plastic. They are local through and through and make it a priority to support community growers and producers, which as a result creates more delicious and healthy food!
Carissa Waechter, co-founder, pastry chef, and baker, and Lori Chemla, co-founder and creative director, spoke about the bakery’s mission, how they got their start in the Hamptons community, and how they have found success as a small business.
What is Carissa’s Bakery all about?
Our current aim is to operate in a more sustainable way and reduce waste throughout our business practices. Overall, we are committed to neighborhood hospitality. Cooking for and giving back to our community and operating thoughtfully. We really just try to keep everything simple, sustainable, and most importantly, satisfying. If we had to pick a few words that we think about in everything we do, the ones that come up most often are thoughtfulness, sustainability, hospitality, community. It also distills down to this—are we making people happy? If so, we’re doing it right.
What are some of the must try menu items? What are your favorites?
We are most known for our Salted Soured Pickled Rye Bread—it has a unique flavor profile that people find addicting. We’re also really proud of our viennoiserie program, a lot of love goes into making our croissants. From our kitchen, the Beet Kimchi Reuben on our sourdough is a cravable CARISSA’S classic that you can’t find anywhere else.
You must be busy creating for many different events throughout the year. Do you have a favorite custom creation or occasion?
Although a smaller arm of our business, creating custom wedding cakes brings us great joy. It means so much that our clients want us to be a part of their special day and we love the creative aspect of designing something one of a kind for them.
How did you get started with your business? When did you decide to start it and why?
It was a fortuitous accident. We were looking for production space to grow Carissa’s wholesale business and when the space at 68 Newtown Lane became available, a retail bakery was formed. Our current flagship on Pantigo road was born out of the need for more production space, as we quickly outgrew 68. Having the opportunity to showcase our bread through a savory menu was exciting.
How does the East End of Long Island play a role in Carissa’s Bakery? Do you create any menu items or custom cakes with a specific location in mind?
Our East End roots run deep, beginning with our sourdough starter, which was first fermented in Amagansett in 1965. It is the foundation of our bread program. Our Salted Soured Pickled Rye came to be when our local farmer friends were growing rye. This rye combined with pickles from our former farm stand neighbors, Backyard Brine came together with a Southampton rye starter from 1999 to create our most loved bread.
What’s your favorite pastime or favorite part about being in the Hamptons?
We are fortunate to live in one of, if not the most beautiful, beach landscapes in the country and do our best to find time to enjoy it throughout the year.
To run a restaurant, you must have to juggle a lot of responsibilities and wear many different hats. What were your strategies for keeping up with a growing business? Were there any challenges you have faced that stood out?
We are a year-round business in a seasonal community, so staffing and housing for our staff is always a challenge.
How do you define success?
By the number of familiar faces that return to our stores each year. We are eternally grateful for the support from our community and are humbled by all the new faces that join us each year.
What is the top quality or value that you feel helped you become successful at running this business and in the restaurant industry as a whole?
Creating relationships with others in our industry, networking, and supporting fellow small businesses is always a good practice.
What has been your greatest accomplishment working in this industry to-date?
Curating an incredible team of hardworking, kind, and talented people. Winning the James Beard Award for our Pantigo location in 2020 was also a highlight for us.
To learn more about Carissa’s Bakery and check out their incredible menu, visit them at www.carissasthebakery.com.
They can be contacted for custom cakes, shipped goods and gift sets, as well as gift cards. They have three locations in the Hamptons, all of which will be up and running by 2022! Visit them at their Pantigo Road location today, and welcome Carissa’s to Sag Harbor next year!