This is part 2 of the Shokunin Series on people dedicated to their craft, which launched a couple of weeks back. If you missed it, you can read about the origins of the project here. Shokunin is about ritual and process and the intent with which we do things.
My subject this week is Nina Brondmo. She is a baker and entrepreneur, originally from Norway, who owns two bakeries in Brooklyn called Bakeri, as well as Sweetwater Restaurant in Williamsburg. The most recent Bakeri opened earlier this year in Greenpoint where these photos were taken. Nina and her baking partner start prepping every morning before sunrise during the quiet, meditative morning. These photos were shot from 5am right up to the opening of the bakery. Hanging out in the kitchen with these two so early in the day was like being let in on secret you want to share with everyone.
Every day they start again – the ritual – beginning with raw ingredients and creating a bounty of sweet, doughy smells and chewy, flakey textures. One of the most beautiful parts of watching Nina bake is seeing her hands get into the work, covered with dough and flour and other ingredients. There is such a close connection between her person and the food she is bringing to the customers. She leaves her imprints literally on their days. Nina has a Madonna like quality about her while she is baking, her energy is calm and generous and she pours that into her food.
This bakery with its open kitchen is a big space, church like in its form with high ceilings — It’s like a temple of worship to the baking gods with Nina bringing her customers divine pleasure. As she starts pulling things out of the oven the neighborhood wakes up with her.
What is so impressive about Nina is her dedication not only to baking and creating, but also her diligence and perseverance as a businesswoman running her own company. She is juggling the ovens as well as the storefronts that are creating people’s livelihoods, catching brief moments between one thing and another to scribble down notes to herself with a sharpie on pieces of wax paper. She is dedicated to her public, and to her people. She is giving back to the community through her work, a sure embodiment of the shokunin spirit.