The beginning of Suisse Chalet Bakery began when Marie-Anne Krebs (Mari) started baking at a young age of 13 years old in her native country of Germany.
Mari grew up with a mother from Switzerland, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, so her baking repertoire consisted of quiches and tarts, that were savory and sweet. She also had a birthday cake and fruit cake, but that was the extent of it.
In their German community it was tradition to bake on Saturday so there would be fresh baked goods available for the weekend. Krebs’ friends would come to school on Monday with leftover cakes, including Black Forest tortes and cheesecakes.
When she asked her mother to bake those kinds of treats, her mother told her, “If you want them, you will have to bake them.” And bake, she did. Learning from the classic German cookbook, “Backen Macht Freude” (translation: baking makes joy), she started her culinary journey.
Her father was her biggest fan, and bragged to his friends that, “My daughter makes the best tortes!”
By the time she turned 16, Krebs was taking orders and selling her cakes for special occasions.
Later, when she married her husband, Bernd, and moved to the United States, she became the mother of three busy boys. During those hectic times she would order a special cake from a local bakery when it was time to have a celebration. When one of her sons developed food allergies, Krebs donned her apron once again and started baking homemade joy – from scratch.
Using her old cookbook, she baked German yeast sheet cakes and Bee Sting Cakes (Bienenstich) for birthdays and holidays.
In 2014, with her boys grown, she started baking pecan cinnamon rolls and Bee Sting Cakes for a local group that had weekly morning meetings. Her offerings were devoured with appreciation. It was that group’s encouragement that planted the seed for a bigger operation.
The whole family participated in the planning, testing and logistics of establishing a presence at the Benton Harbor Farmers Market, and then in the fall of 2015, the St. Joseph Farmers Market, where Suisse Chalet’s expanded menu of European pastries and cakes, with free coffee, attracted a steady stream of customers.
Baking operations do not stop with the conclusion of the farmer’s market season. The off-season is filled custom orders for Suisse Chalet’s standard items, plus some new creations, which are available with advance notice. On the Suisse Chalet’s Facebook page, there are regularly announced dates for special bake days around holidays.
The focus of Krebs’ baking is authentic European pastries and cakes. Her menu includes specialties not generally available in mainstream establishments. There is the Prasselkuchen of Germany, Kouign Amann and Canneles Bordelais from France, along with Portugese Cream Tartlets, all with shapes and flavors that match their beautiful names and places of origin.
We can offer the quiches and tarts and everything as custom orders, for holiday gatherings, parties, baby showers, graduations and now even weddings. Prospective brides can choose from a vanilla raspberry cake with real butter cream, or carrot or English cake with white chocolate frosting.
The gluten-free crowd is getting bigger,” Krebs says, “so I have been experimenting with some of our menu items. Now we have a spinach gruyere quiche that is made with a very thin zucchini crust. Totally gluten free. As is our gluten-free Swedish Almond Torte.” Krebs’ success is a reflection of her devotion to detail and her love of cooking.
What fuels Marie-Anne to do better and to do more, are my customers. She love when people enjoy things, plus I enjoy good flavor, too. I have always been fascinated by how things taste. Marie-Anne is supported by her family, including her husband – who designed the commercial kitchen in their basement to accommodate the bakery’s growth – and her two sons, Björn and Lars, who are always eager to help staff the farmers market booth or assist in the packaging of pastries when their schedules allow. And no arm-twisting is required when it’s time to taste test. The Krebs’ oldest son, Eike, was an integral part of the launch, and subsequent success, of Suisse Chalet Bakery. His death in November 2015 has been difficult. Eike was very much into food and he enjoyed the interaction with people at the farmers markets. He had a very good palate and was also a good cook. I feel that he would’ve wanted us to keep doing this, too.”