There’s more than just cheesecake at Charles Farriér’s new bakery
Charles Farriér opened the first location of his Oakland bakery, Crumble & Whisk, in December. He also considered closing the shop shortly thereafter. Starting in 2013, Farriér built up his cheesecake business at several different Bay Area farmers’ markets. Along with wholesale orders, he was able to sustain Crumble & Whisk for a decade. With the opening of a brick and mortar retail space, it became immediately apparent his income model had changed.
Farriér has had to temporarily stop attending farmers’ markets, where he developed name recognition and a customer base. Crumble & Whisk has also put a halt to distributing their products at various satellite food halls. When he ran out of money at the end of last year, Farriér decided that he’d keep his Laurel District doors open to see what would happen.
He reported that “so far, it’s been really good.” Farriér’s innovative cheesecakes are available at the MacArthur Boulevard storefront, but he wanted to introduce new ideas there as well. “Technically, the only new things we brought were the soups and sandwiches,” he said. “We were already doing vegetarian and chicken pot pies at the farmers’ markets.” Customers can take them home or eat the pot pies in the store. “We heat them up, and you have it with a side salad,” the chef said.
“I wanted to give people an experience, something more than just cheesecakes,” Farriér explained. Thinking about a long-term business plan, he understood that Crumble & Whisk would need to carry a variety of products. “When the pandemic hit, we had to expand. That’s why we made banana pudding, brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, things like that. We had to learn to adapt,” he said.
Having said that, his cheesecakes contain unusual flavor profiles. The best-selling one combines beets and berries. He’s been consistently making them since 2013. Throughout the year, he experiments with flavors like roasted pineapple, sage and peach crumble, or roasted corn and blackberry. For Valentine’s Day, he’s planning to make a chocolate, raspberry and red wine cheesecake.
Farriér started his career working in the culinary industry, but left it for several years to work at a corporate job. When his coworkers held a potluck, he brought a cheesecake. He adapted a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and made a vanilla bourbon cheesecake. Everyone at the party loved it. After that, one of his friends suggested that he start a business selling baked goods. He came up with the name Crumble & Whisk when he joined the Bay Area incubator organization La Cocina.
While he was at La Cocina, he learned about the practical aspects of running a business. From permits and licensing to food and labor costs. “You’re never going to be a perfect business owner—there’s always going to be something that you don’t know—but you’re always trying to learn and improve,” he said. “I’m always trying to do better.”
The chef grew up in Oakland. Farriér recalled that when he first started his business, before Planet Fitness moved in across the street from Crumble & Whisk, he used to walk up and down MacArthur Boulevard selling cheesecakes door to door. “It kind of feels like coming 360,” he said.
Farriér is still adjusting to the idea that there are busy weeks followed by slow ones. And he’s in the process of figuring out how to return to the farmers’ markets. “The problem is, it’s really hard to stretch yourself back and forth,” he explained. Another part of the process has been finding the time for training staff with enough baking skills to master the recipes.
When I visited Crumble & Whisk, Farriér’s pot pies hadn’t yet made it onto the menu. I tried an egg salad tartine, briny with capers, and a side of pickled vegetables. For dessert, I watched him uncover a large tray of cinnamon rolls smothered in a cream cheese frosting. Each roll is the size of a baby elephant’s ear, completely decadent. And, I will confess, I did polish off a brownie too.
Crumble & Whisk, open Tuesday to Sunday 8am–6pm. 4104 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 415.237.3318. crumbleandwhiskstore.com.