Only a few years ago, there seemed little chance that Jesus and Manuel Brazon would work together. The former went to New York City's Marymount College and was a product designer, while the latter was a teacher in Venezuela's capital and became a cook after moving to the United States.
As luck would have it, the father and son independently found a passion for sourdough bread, and their disparate paths merged this month at the recently opened Caracas Bakery, where 59-year-old Manuel, who was a fixture at the shaping table at Zak the Baker for the past four years, handles some of the breads and pastries, while 35-year-old Jesus tends to the sourdough.
At the moment, the brief opening menu consists of two sizes of the everyday bread called canilla ($2.25 and 75 cents), which is fat-laden dough without any starter that bakes up soft but not quite as light as Cuban bread. A similar dough is styled into a larger, more rustic cylinder called a campesino ($2.75), which the younger Brazon says are commonly used in Venezuela as sandwich loaves. Finally, there are ciabatta ($2.50) and sourdough country ($5) loaves available Saturday and Sunday.
The Venezuelan spin also carries over to Caracas Bakery's pastry program, which at the moment includes a rich ham-and-cheese-filled cachito ($3), a Danish with a rich, lemony pastry cream ($2), and, on weekends, golfeados ($3.50 each) — sweet Venezuelan-style sticky buns filled with either salty queso rayado or mozzarella-like queso a mano.
The goal here is to combine Doral's Venezuelan community's passion for breads such as ciabatta and baguettes with the sourdough movement that has been growing across the city.
"I want to do more than just sell sourdough," Jesus says. "I want to teach people about it."
The family relocated to the States in 2014, and Manuel went to culinary school before pursuing a career in teaching. He often cooked at nights and sometimes sold various products on weekends as a side business. It wasn't long before he developed a passion for baking.
"It's so simple — it's just flour, salt, and water — but it's also very complex," Manuel explains. "You can combine the same ingredients 20 different times in different ways to get a different result, and eventually you start to feel in your hands how the subtle changes affect the dough."
In 2014, Manuel took at job manning the kitchen and handling the freshly made pitas at NE 79th Street's now-closed Mina's Mediterraneo. All the while, though, he was longing for a job at Zak Stern's Wynwood Bakery but was hesitant because he couldn't speak English.
Eventually, the bakery found a place for him and even ensured there was always another Spanish speaker working during his shifts. To this day, he still thanks Stern, bakery director Ruben Ovalle, and pastry chef Maxime Rossetto for helping him despite the challenges.
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"Unfortunately, at one point, I could only rise so high because of my English, so instead I decided to work every station in the bakery," the elder Brazon says.
The experience paid off, and now, even in its first days, Caracas Bakery is selling out regularly, especially the shiny, crisp ham-and-cheese croissants. They have to refill the cases three times a day, and plan to begin selling Venezuelan sandwich favorites such as mortadella once the country loaves are fine-tuned.
"I know how to make two loaves at home where I can control everything," Jesus says. "But doing 24 at one time on real equipment is a challenge."
Caracas Bakery. 7884 NW 52nd St., Doral; 305-979-6450.