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Lia Weber

A visit to Cortex’s AB Mauri, where they’re passionate about baking

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

After CWEnder Meredith Ramm won tickets to a Savor Saint Louis Food Tour offered on this blog, I noticed on her winning email that she works for AB Mauri, located in the @4240 building in the Cortex Innovation Community. As many times as I’ve been to that building I had never noticed the company’s entry, which is located on the first floor. What really caught my eye in her response was the company’s tagline, “Passionate about Baking,” because I too am passionate about baking.

More than curious about what the company does and why a business that’s associated with baking would be located at Cortex, I set up a meeting with AB Mauri’s Vice President of Marketing Rick Oleshak, to learn more. The first thing Oleshak asked, when I mentioned that I loved to bake bread, was what brand of yeast I used. Luckily my response, Fleischmann’s, was the correct answer as that brand is AB Mauri’s largest consumer product. I also learned that 2018 is a banner year for the company, as Fleischmann’s Yeast is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

AB Mauri moved from West County to Cortex a little over 3 years ago after Australian Mark Prendergast became president. Prendergast, a biking enthusiast, lived at The Chase Park Plaza for a while and would bike around the Central West End after work. When he discovered Cortex, he decided to move AB Mauri’s North American headquarters to a 23,000 s.f. space (which includes 8,000 s.f. of lab space called the bakingHUB) at @4240, Duncan and Boyle.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

photo courtesy of AB Mauri

Rick Oleshak, photographed in the bakingHUB above, said the change in location has also changed the attitude of the company’s 80 employees. The West County location didn’t have the personality Cortex has, and employees now enjoy interaction with other tech company innovators @4240.

AB Mauri is a baking technology company that delivers service, yeast and bakery ingredient solutions to large industrialized bakeries, local grocery chains and many restaurants as well.  The company also has artisanal partners around the country including several in the St. Louis  area.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

CWEnder Meredith Ramm, above, became AB Mauri’s Financial Planning & Analysis Manager in March of 2017. “I own forecasting, budgeting, etc. on the financial side,” she said.  “My husband and I love living in the Central West End and I couldn’t imagine turning down a job offer in the neighborhood too.” Ramm added that the work environment is fabulous. It’s easy to appreciate, once you step inside the handsome space, why AB Mauri was named one of the coolest working spaces by the St. Louis Business Journal and one of the top workplaces in a 2017 St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

A row of flags along a north wall represents 15 countries of origin for the 80 employees at AB Mauri North America.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

Fleischmann’s Yeast was founded in 1868 by two brothers in Cincinnati, and quickly became a staple in American pantries. Note the charming cover of a 1917 cookbook above, which hangs on a wall in the company’s dining area. When Fleischmann’s was acquired by Associated British Foods (ABF) in 2004, AB Mauri was formed as an operating division. From the website: “Around the world, AB Mauri operates in more than 50 locations in 32 countries (and employs 7,000 people) with global headquarters located in Peterborough, United Kingdom.”

With 1700+ strains of yeast in its fermentation lab, AB Mauri North America makes yeast for the production of many products including bread, beer, wine, spirits and nutrition. The company recently expanded its yeast production to include biofuel.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

The 8,000 s.f. bakingHUB is the largest lab in the area. Technicians have 500 ingredients available in the AB Mauri system to assist clients in creating a unique bakery mix so their product will stand out from the competition.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

photo courtesy of AB Mauri

The bakingHUB is also used to help bakeries find solutions to problems. Technicians at AB Mauri can program the HUB’s equipment to mimic conditions at a bakery’s factory and figure out what’s wrong. It could be as simple as a conveyor belt being out of whack.

The photo above shows AB Mauri North America Innovation Manager Paul Bright, and Technical Sales Manager Ed Livesey, evaluating a finished yellow cake during a recent baking session.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

Americans’ tastes have broadened with exposure to foods from different cultures. With that in mind, meet Oscar Carreon, above, technical service manager for AB Mauri North America. Carreon moved to St. Louis from AB Mauri Mexico to work expressly on the tortilla segment for North America.  In Rick Oleshak’s opinion, “Carreon is outstanding and is regarded as one of the top technical bakers for tortillas in the industry.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink Web/Tech  Savor Saint Louis Food Tour Rick Oleshak Oscar Carreon Mark Prendergast Made.by Lia Lia Weber Fleischmann's yeast Cortex Innovation Community AB Mauri North America

photo courtesy of AB Mauri

The photo above shows another example of the variety of activity going on in the bakingHUB.  AB Mauri technicians are shown practicing cake decorating skills led by Lia Weber Holter, far right, who uses the facility for her wedding cake business, Made. by Lia (found on The Knot). Lia, who travels to trade shows as an AB Mauri representative, was the winner of TLC’s Next Great Baker.

Thank you to Rick Oleshak for the wonderful visit—and for his patient responses as I tried to make sense of my copious notes—and to Meredith Ramm for acting as the catalyst for letting us explore a company I never expected was headquartered in the neighborhood.  It all started with a Savor Saint Louis Food Tour.

AB Mauri North America, 4240 Duncan.

Photos from Friday’s “A Taste of Fiction” at Central Library

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

Friday night's A Taste of Fiction, A Must-Read, Must-Eat Event, to benefit culinary programming and the culinary collection of the St. Louis Public Library featured pastries from 16 local pastry chefs and their assistants, shown above. A Taste of Fiction took place at Central Library, downtown.

425 guests attended the second annual fundraiser featuring confections inspired by literary works chosen by A Taste of Fiction's committee. Following is a sampling of some of the show-stopping creations that were on display.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

Lia Weber and Martin Lopez of Made. by Lia, located in Florissant, created a spectacular interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Lia, who earned an associate's degree in baking and pastry arts from Forest Park Community College was the winner of TLC's Cake Boss "Next Great Baker," Season 4.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

Julie Weldele, Executive Pastry Chef of the CWE's Crepes, etc. and  Scape American Bistro was assigned Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Bite-size samples of the cake, labeled "Eat Me," were striped like the Cheshire Cat. Julie said  the cake would be on display at Crepes, etc. following the event, should you wish to see it up close – it's really special.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

As Executive Pastry Chef for both Lumiere Place Casino & Hotels and River City Casino, Stephen Schubert, above, oversees more than 30 bakers and pastry chefs. He took time out of his busy schedule to create an interpretation of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

Simone Faure, right, Pastry Chef of the fabulous La Patisserie Chouquette, had just returned from a trip to France the day of the party. She said it took just four hours to create her interpretation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, shown above. Jet lagged? Mais oui.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

The Kakao Production Team, led by Kakao Chocolate founder Brian Pelletier, includes Jenny Bazzetta, Tracy Kodner, Emily Czarnecki, Sarah McConkey, Monica Tirre, and Natalie Zivnuska. They created an interpretation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

The fur on George (Skip) Gunthier's Winnie the Pooh had party goers asking if it was really icing, it was so "plush-like." Gunthier, a long-time pastry chef, is currently Baking and Pastry Instructor at L'Ecole Culinaire.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

Annie Gunn's Pastry Chef Danielle Luisi attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She interpreted Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, another fantastic creation.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings Food and Drink  Tim Brennan Stephen Schubert Simone Faure Saul Juarez Sandia Hoorman Melissa Cusumano Martin Lopez Lia Weber Laura Barton Kakao Production Team Julie Wedele George Gunthier Darlene Fahrig-Markovich Danielle Luisi Central Library Casey Shiller Brielle Fratellone Anne Croy A Taste of Fiction

Laura Barton and Melissa Cusumano, pastry chefs at Jilly's Cupcake Bar and Cafe, were having as much fun at the party as they did creating an interpretation of Judi Barrett's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, above.

Other pastry chefs who participated in A Taste of Fiction were Tim Brennan of Cravings, Anne Croy of Pastaria, Darlene Fahrig-Markovich of Schnucks Des Peres, Brielle Fratellone of The Ritz Carlton, Sandia Hoormann of Piccione Pastry, Saul Juarez of The Four Seasons Hotel, Amanda Pinkstaff of Le Cordon Bleu, and Casey Shiller of St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Chef Shiller has trained many of the pastry chefs in St. Louis and beyond. Current students were at A Taste of Fiction handing out their delicious chocolate chip cookies. 

A Taste of Fiction is an event everyone seems to love, so let's hope it continues for years to come.