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Janelle Nicolay's From-Scratch Culinary CreationsStory: Amber Galusha Photos: Betsy Erickson
It’s after hours at J Nicolay Bakery and customers are still trying the locked door, hoping to get their hands on one of Janelle Nicolay’s made-from-scratch goodies. A young man peers past the posted hours at Nicolay, who’s perched with one leg crossed under the other at a cafe table in her minimalist-inspired dining area. She looks at him and politely mouths, “Sorry.” He dawdles away and will have to wait another day to enjoy his treat of choice.
Before she opened the bakery, Nicolay worked for a cardiologist managing a weight loss center. Today, she spends her days baking buttery cinnamon rolls, stuffed bagels and cheesy quiche. The irony doesn’t escape her. “People who were once patients are very surprised when they walk in. They feel like they’re caught,” she says with a smile.
Baking isn’t new to Nicolay. Before working in the medical field, she apprenticed under Andrea Charroin of Rene Joule Patisserie in downtown Redding for three years. Taking a sip from her both-hands-required cup of coffee, she says, “Andrea is the one I learned the most from.”
Though Charroin’s tutelage stirred Nicolay’s interest, she didn’t give professional baking a second thought until years later while teaching exercise and nutrition, and cooking for patients who reached their weight loss goals. “I taught them how to cook soups and healthy options. That’s really where my passion for baking started,” she says.
Rather than spend years in formal training, Nicolay decided to carve her own culinary path. Drawing from her creativity and the knowledge she gained while working with Charroin, she opened Redding’s newest bakery.
From Tuesday through Saturday, while North State residents slumber, Nicolay is busy pulling chewy cookies out of the oven, assembling Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole and dreaming up new recipes in her scratch kitchen. “I start between 2 and 3 in the morning and I still can’t keep anything in stock for the next day. If I bake it, it sells. It’s a good problem to have,” says Nicolay.
The hours she keeps are a testament to the quality of her product. When she opened in October 2012, Nicolay operated with a skeleton crew: herself and her sidekick Sam Moss, a retired engineer. “Sam is a very good friend who I met at a restaurant here in town ... he offered me a bite of his dessert and we’ve been friends since.”
While Moss chopped fruits and vegetables with an accuracy that would make a cutting machine envious, Nicolay constructed crusts for her sweet or savory pies. She thought the two could handle operations for the first six months, but once Reddingites got a taste of her from-scratch cooking, business picked up. By December, Nicolay had hired three employees.
Her specialties are unlike anything you will find around town, although she is quick to point out that her stuffed bagels are similar to those once served at the original Bagel Den on Lake Boulevard. “My best friend, Dustin, and I went to Buckeye School. Our parents would drop us off at the Bagel Den every morning where we would have a chocolate-stuffed bagel with powdered sugar and butter. Then we’d walk to school. We loved it.” This childhood memory inspired her signature chocolate- and bacon-stuffed bagel.
Other popular items are Nicolay’s pies, scones, cookies and Marathon Bar, one of Charroin’s original recipes. “Andrea asked me to put it on my menu,” says Nicolay. She has since added her own version, the Monkey Bar.
J Nicolay isn’t just a sweet retreat. Open for breakfast and lunch, the bakery offers Breakfast Bagel Sandwiches and a selection of quiches. Fresh soups like tomato bisque, flatbread pizzas, seasonal salads and sandwiches like tri-tip and blue cheese served on freshly baked sourdough are big hits.
Because the bakery is sometimes standing room only at lunchtime, it’s a good idea to text your order. “It really makes ordering convenient,” says Nicolay. As a bonus, “Customers get free cookies with all text-in orders.”
Whatever she decides to whip up, Nicolay aims to please. “I want to make sure people are happy,” she says. Done.
www.jnicolay.com • 200 Hartnell Ave, Ste B Tuesday - Saturday, 7 am - 2:30 pm Counter: (530) 953-2750 • Text: (530) 605-6989