Southern restaurant Olamaie’s upcoming neighborhood diner and bakery Mignette is getting that much closer to making its debut in South Austin within the forthcoming St. Elmo Public Market. The restaurant team added a new head baker straight from Alaska: James Beard semifinalist baker Carlyle Watt.
Before moving to Austin with his family in February 2020, Watt was the head baker of Anchorage bakery Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop. During his tenure, he nabbed that semifinalist nod in the James Beard Awards’s Outstanding Baker category in 2017.
Watt and Olamaie owner/chef Michael Fojtasek attended the Culinary Institute of America together, during which they became friends while working at the school’s vegetable farm. “When [Fojtasek] asked me if I wanted to move down here and open a bakery with him, there was no hesitation,” Watt tells Eater. Moving to Austin was an easy decision: “I think Alaska and Texas are very similar in that they are both fiercely independent, while also incredibly hospitable,” he explains.
Watt grew up in South Carolina and moved to Alaska in 2009 to work as a personal chef. Then he took a break to perform in a folk band with his wife, Super Saturated Sugar String, and then he began working at Fire Island in 2012. He does plan on performing in Austin at some point.
As part of Watt’s role at Mignette, he will work on bread and pastries (including croissants) using Texas produce and French techniques, with a focus on sourdough products. He has been enjoying the availability and access to ingredients in Texas versus Alaska so far: “In Alaska, procuring a special grain meant a shipment to Washington before a seven-day barge ride up the Inside Passage [a shipping route in Alaska]. Here, it means driving ten minutes from my house to Barton Springs Mill, where I can grab some of the best flour and grains in the country right off of the shelf.”
Mignette will offer an all-day Texas menu with Watt’s baked goods, served alongside entrees, vegetables, side dishes, sandwiches, and desserts for dine-in and takeout services. The restaurant’s cocktail bar, overseen by beverage director Erin Ashford, will serve as St. Elmo Public Market’s only liquor option.
Mignette’s future St. Elmo neighbors include a third location of butcher shop and restaurant Salt & Time with a larger wine bar, a third location of Greater Goods Coffee Co., and others. Since the mixed-use development was announced back in 2015, two intended tenants have already dropped out: the second location of Dripping Springs brewery Family Business Beer Company and a new project from Lick Honest Ice Creams. The long-delayed market is aiming to open sometime this year.
In order to run all of the Olamaie ventures, the restaurant formed a new hospitality group: MaieB Hospitality. Jules Stoddart, who had been the executive pastry chef of Olamaie the restaurant, is now executive pastry chef of the entire company.
While MaieB Hospitality works on Mignette, the company is also working on opening the first physical location of fast-casual cafe Little Ola’s Biscuits up in Wells Branch sometime this summer, and it’s gearing up to reopen Olamae’s dining room for on-site services. Recently, the group opened a cafe at the Butler Pitch & Putt public golf course in April.