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Bad Wolf Coffee Owner Selling Cafe, But Hopes Pastries Will Stick Around

By Janet Rausa Fuller | April 21, 2015 3:27pm | Updated on April 22, 2015 10:57am
 Chef Jonathan Ory is selling Bad Wolf Coffee, his small Lakeview coffee shop.
Bad Wolf Coffee
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LAKEVIEW — Bad Wolf Coffee's Jonathan Ory is looking for a buyer — not for his already popular pastries and bold Four Barrel coffee, but for his business.

Ory, the chef and owner of the bare-bones cafe that CNN last year declared one of the nation's "5 hottest new coffee spots," said Monday he is selling the shop and all its recipes and leaving Chicago.

He, his wife and their two young children are moving back to their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina to be closer to family. They will be out of Chicago by September at the latest, he said.

This leaves Bad Wolf's future up in the air. Ory's goal is to keep the cafe and the business going — customers will still be able to get their kouign amman fix this summer — but he said much depends on whether he can negotiate the right partnership.

He is looking for a buyer to expand into wholesale production of his pastries, which are much Instagrammed and revered by customers. He's had a few offers already.

Building a wholesale presence with a commissary kitchen has "always been the direction I've wanted to go. If I had the money and the time, that's all I would be doing," Ory, 32, said. "I'd like to see Bad Wolf pastries everywhere."

A partnership that would allow him to step away physically from Bad Wolf but remain involved with menu development, training and other matters would be ideal, he said.

"I'd be willing to stick around for some period of time to help train and work out those issues," he said.

Bad Wolf Coffee has become known for its pastries, in particular the canele (center). [Bad Wolf Coffee/Facebook]

Ory opened the cafe at 3422 N. Lincoln Ave. in July of 2013. He quickly became known as much for his no-Wi-Fi, no-chairs policy — customers take their espresso and pastry standing up at a long, communal table — as for his labor-intensive, decadent French pastries such as kouign amann, Paris-Brest and that small, fluted-edged cake called canele.

He bakes his caneles 18 at a time the traditional way, in individual copper molds brushed with beeswax.

Here-today, gone-tomorrow specials have included Buche de Noel, Cheddar biscuits and sheet-pan pizza. The goods, set on a tiered metal rack behind the counter, sell out — often in few hours on the weekends.

Until he hired a part-time baker six months ago, Ory was doing it alone, commuting from his northwest suburban home in the wee hours, while most of humanity is in REM sleep.

He arrives at the shop at 4 a.m. to start baking and closes at 3 p.m. In his free moments, he chats with visitors on a freewheeling array of topics — cooking techniques, Korean food, cities he wants to visit, job interviews his customers want to ace.

Ory said he has started a job search for a chef position in Charleston that would return him to his savory food roots. He's worked at Heat and Schwa in Chicago and at Momofuku Ko in New York.

Charleston's small size and burgeoning food scene appeal greatly to him, as does the prospect of having relatives nearby for his kids, who are 1 and 3.

"It'll be nice to have help with the kids, for them to be able to play with their cousins," he said.

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