Chefs Erika Chan and Sieger Bayer are two pedigreed chefs who have worked at popular restaurants like Chicago’s pioneering Publican in West Loop. The pair left fine dining to open Brite, a new bakery inside Metric Coffee’s cafe in West Town. Metric co-founders Darko Arandjelovic and Xavier Alexander are also partners in the business which sells doughnuts, croissants, pies, and more.
Chan was the Publican’s pastry chef and Bayer worked the savory side as chef de cuisine. They enjoyed collaborating. “We just wanted to share our kooky, weird ideas in doughnut and baked good form,” says Bayer. “It’s been a really smooth, awesome transition.”
Chan professes a love of breakfast pastries in particular, as opposed to the restrictions of “restaurant pastry land.” Her preference is apparent on Brite’s opening menu. Morning-friendly offerings include a soft-yeasted swirl bun with caramel coconut glaze and crema Earl Grey tea from Ravenswood’s Rare Tea Cellar and a ham, cheese, and tomato jam croissant, which stars the last of the really good tomatoes of the season from Michigan-based Mick Klug Farm.
Bayer is in charge of doughnut duties. He’s focused on balancing seasonality, comfort, and unexpected combinations in offerings like an apple fritter glazed with tepache, a fermented pineapple drink from Mexico, and a pumpkin brown butter hazelnut sage doughnut. He and Chan hope to strike a sweet spot of familiarity and surprise. They hope to bring some happiness and stability in the midst of pandemic uncertainty, yet open customers’ minds to different flavors and keep themselves engaged with the work.
Chan also recently consulted with Surge Coffee Bar & Billiards, a new family-friendly pool hall in Logan Square. Surge owner Wahib Merchant sought Chan out to help prepare the kitchen and start a dessert menu, but the week they were scheduled to start serving, Chicago issued an indoor dining ban. Despite logistical and safety challenges, Chan found says she found the experience delightful and wants to use Brite for more collaborations. Seeing how fellow West Town bakery Aya Pastry has expanded to provided pastries to coffeeshops across the city, that seems like a niche for Chan.
During tough economic times, “pastry departments are often the first to go,” Chan says, so she and Bayer see an opportunity to fill a dessert-shaped void with partnerships and pop-ups. They held their first event at Maplewood Brewery’s lounge in November in Logan Square with beer and bakery pairings. “We’re in the stage of trying to find wholesale accounts and people to do fun things with — where we believe in what they do, and hopefully they believe in what we do.”
Though the partners would be willing to consider moving to a storefront location should the right opportunity present itself, they’re happy with their current positioning inside Metric. Customers can order for pickup online and either Bayer or Chan will scamper out car to hand off their treats. “We like our weird little home where we’re at right now,” Bayer says.
Brite is open for Thanksgiving pre-orders with options including double crust caramel apple pie, chocolate pecan pie, and sweet potato gooey butter cake. Patrons can anticipate some winter holiday-themed items later this year — “gingerbread, pumpkin spice, peppermint everything,” Chan promises.