By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers
Talking with Emily and Sam Lauer of Minneapolis’ Fruit & Grain bakery raises an age-old question.
What’s the origin of our passions: genetics or environment?
Hard to say in the case of Emily and Sam—the siblings who bring delectable pop tarts, savory hand pies, crave-worthy Zhug sauce, and rotating pop up meals through their direct and wholesale bakery Fruit & Grain.
Food was definitely the love language growing up in the Lauer household.
Their dad was the long-time manager of Coastal Seafood and also a classical French restaurant chef. Their grandmother taught Emily to bake fine pastries. Being in kitchens felt natural. “It’s what we’re comfortable with,” shared Sam. “It’s what we grew up around.”
Emily elaborated, “I tried other careers. They didn’t feel right to me. I do what I grew up admiring in other people. Here I am, feeding people. I love connecting with people over food.”
Within Fruit & Grain Bakery Emily designs the baked goods menus. She produces both sweet and savory flavor combinations in her galettes, hand pies, and locally-famous pop tarts. “I was always drawn to baking,” explained Emily. “I was just a kid with ADD who didn’t know where to channel my energy. I would make big messes in the kitchen and my dad was super tolerant about that. He would always eat the stuff I made and say that it tasted good.”
Fruit & Grain got its start at farmers markets. Emily started selling full pies. Wanting to offer a treat that people could enjoy while wandering the markets, she soon expanded her menu. “Pie crusts are a simple base that you can build on. A pie crust can hold anything. I’ve always thought that was interesting.”
Sam insisted that he gets partial credit for Emily’s love for pies. With Sam having been born on Pi(e) Day (March 14), Emily always made him a pie to celebrate his birthday. Emily laughed in response. She did share that there’s something unique about the versatility of pie. “There’s something about pie crust. I was always taken by crust,” smiled Emily.
Sam worked in restaurant kitchens in both Chicago and Minneapolis before joining forces with Emily on a long-term basis. Sam specializes in developing distinctive menus for special occasional pop ups. Both siblings agree that working together allows them to provide a wider variety to their customers. Sam loves to elevate soup, “a greatly undervalued food in America,” whether it’s celebrating their family’s matzo ball soup recipe or preparing a delicate vichyssoise. He also makes a delightful lasagna, even with an arm in a sling thanks to a broken collarbone.
Customers throughout the Twin Cities appreciate the care with which the Emily and Sam prepare the food that they share. Emily enjoys the opportunities to interact with customers at the Kingfield and Northeast Farmers’ Markets in particular. “Farmers markets give me the chance to be my own brick and mortar store,” reflected Emily. “I get to interact with the customers. That’s where I get their feedback and reactions.”
Customers may not know that the family-aspect of the business goes beyond Emily and Sam. “My dad has helped me since day one,” said Emily. “My mom has started to help too. They’re both retired and they could be spending their time doing anything. It’s so nice to have them as a part of the kitchen.”
Fruit & Grain has another mission that’s foundational to their business. “We’re running a unique, different, family-focused food business,” shared Sam. “In our very small world we’re movers and shakers.” Emily agreed, “We’re trying for ourselves and our employees to make work-life balance beneficial. I pay my employees far above the industry average. That’s a big priority for me. It makes me less profitable, but I don’t have any turnover. I must be doing something right.”
This feature is part of the 2023 MTMM Holiday Gift Guide series. Visit meettheminnesotamakers.com to download the gift guide featuring over 100 of Minnesota’s talented makers. Find Fruit & Grain Bakery on page 18!
Find Fruit & Grain pastries on a daily basis at Makwa Coffeeshop, Curioso Coffeeshop (both locations), & St. Paul Bagelry Roseville.
Catch Fruit & Grain Minneapolis Winter Market at Quincy Hall.
Visit https://fruit-grain-bakery.square.site/ to order from their Christmas menu, including an amazing-looking Yule log.
Follow Emily and Sam’s kitchen adventure through Fruit & Grain Bakery on Facebook and Instagram.
Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover more of the people who make Minnesota an amazing place to be!