"I'm a little tired right now," Ben Woods, head baker of Fluffy Duck Cafe (10001 Chester Ave., 216-218-9447, fluffyduckcafe.com) laments just after 10 a.m. following a full morning of baking and running deliveries to the west side. He'll have to adjust to the 6 a.m. start time, Monday through Friday. The people, after all, need their morning pick-me-up.
On the ground floor of the newly constructed Innova luxury apartment building on the Cleveland Clinic campus, Fluffy Duck hopes to draw a crowd from the busy University Circle area. Their space is pristine, totaling 2,500 square feet, with two-thirds of it taken up by a state-of-the-art baking kitchen.
Pastries, muffins, cookies, scones and quiche rest on a long slab of pale marble behind a sturdy glass divider. Large windows let the smells, sights and sounds drift from the kitchen into the open seating area. A La Marzocco espresso machine steams away, while Grand Rapids-roasted MadCap coffee steeps near the register.
Woods has a quiet, down-to-earth demeanor, but he's classically trained. "I started cooking in bars and minimum wage places where I could get a job," he says of his early years in Painesville. "I went to the Culinary Institute of America, checked it out and liked the baking program. Baking is a lot of repetition but you can change things, do more with the same ingredients."
From there he moved to Portland and then Savannah, where he met Emily Cain, head barista and director of the coffee program at Fluffy Duck. The two moved to Cleveland, holding down jobs at Local Sol and Six Shooter Coffee, respectively, while they prepared to open the cafe.
This week they launch a new sandwich menu. "The favorite so far, which I did not expect, is the caramelized onion and pumpkin rye," Woods says. The rye bread is paired with Ohio City Provision's pastrami, Dijon mustard, caraway aioli, and sauerkraut to create one of three hot pressed sandwiches on their menu. Another takes his signature pickled walnut and white cheddar whole wheat bread and fits in Brie, sliced apples, and walnuts.
Fluffy Duck partnered with Fresh Fork Market for its produce, eggs and dairy, used in everything from cold salads to cakes and tarts. After mentioning his new venture to Trevor Clatterbuck, co-founder of Fresh Fork and partner in Ohio City Provisions, Clatterbuck brought Fluffy Duck breads into the shop, even incorporating them into offerings as part of the new butcher's lunch series.
"That's what it's all about," says Woods, proving the network of artisan chefs and bakers in Cleveland remains strong.