It’s not clear what pulses through the veins of Michael Bruno ’85 more — a love of the Marine Corps or a passion for baking. Much like his ingredients, his passions are divided into equal parts.
Michael owns Blue Door Cafe and Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls. What started with one employee and $50 in daily gross sales is now a $1.5 million enterprise with 30 employees. The cafe has been voted the top brunch spot in Ohio by the New York Times and consistently wins best brunch and bakery in local publications.
Specializing in European-style breakfast pastries (think banana bread and flaky croissants), Blue Door bakes four European breads daily, along with artisanal coffees and full-service breakfast and lunch. Everything at Blue Door is made from scratch, including the pasta and baked goods. The restaurant also makes its own sausage and smokes its own meats.
Michael developed an interest in cooking and baking as a student at Marquette University, where he found himself calling home for recipes. After Marquette, he was commissioned in the Marine Corps. When he returned home on weekends, he spent his time baking. It became his hobby, then his focus.
“About halfway through my career, I was an infantry officer on recruiting duty in Harrisburg, Pa. and had time to reflect,” he recalls. “I realized that I liked baking and thought I should take it seriously.”
Fluent in German, he began contacting pastry chefs in Germany and the U.S., asking for techniques and recipes. He then enrolled in the pastry arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md. In growing his business, he recalls making croissant dough with his Kitchen Aid mixer and laminating (layering) the dough himself. At first, he baked during off hours in a restaurant owned by his mother-in-law. After two years, he bought the restaurant from her and made it his own.
Step by step, he has relied on the skills he developed in the Marines. Signs in Blue Door’s kitchen reference the value he has found in supervision, communication and teamwork. His advice for others starting a restaurant is rooted in a tip from Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential:” “You need to have a vision and stick with it. It will take time, but if it’s a sound vision, it will work.”