Jordan Weisz, 35, is not exactly a newcomer to Hamilton, but since moving here 17 years ago to attend McMaster University, the Thornhill native has been a Hamiltonian by choice.
Weisz is the owner of Café Baffico, a bakery and pizzeria on King St. E. in Hamilton’s Crown Point neighbourhood that specializes in all things. He established the eatery back in 2018 as a café by day and intimate French-Italian bistro at night, but the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a new direction.
“We had really hit a stride and in March 2020, I took my first vacation in three years and came back and a few days later it was lockdown,” he said. “We put our food in boxes and tried to do the pivot thing. It was going okay but it wasn’t what a lot of my chefs aimed to do.”
His pastries, meanwhile, were doing very well, and Weisz, who had honed his culinary skills over years of internships —including a two-year stint at the former Seven Windows restaurant on Aberdeen — “That was the military of food. It was crazy, but an amazing chef”— and summers in Rome and Sicily, started to get creative.
“I was making croissant cinnamon buns by hand, weird but really good things. Then one day I found this recipe for a sourdough donut from my favourite baker. And I tried it and it was incredible.”
Weisz’s entrepreneurial experiences came about quite organically. It all began during his third year at McMaster when he decided to take a break from his studies and move downtown.
“I would go down to the Farmers’ Market and James North before it was cool and drink coffee, eat pastries, people watch. That’s when I really started connecting with the community.”
He particularly loved the scene at a small café on Locke Street called Johnny’s Coffee.
“Between James North, McMaster, and places like Johnny’s, I just felt this sense of community that I never experienced before. And I loved that this city is really demographically diverse. It was cool. It wasn’t the suburbs. It was gritty at times, but had great coffee, pastry and food ... So I opened a little café on James and Cannon.”
That was Smalls Coffee, which did very well, until his business partnership failed. Undaunted, Weisz went on to manage the coffee and food program at Gore Park’s Redchurch Cafe and spend a year at Berkeley North on King William, before finding a space that “combined everything I knew.”
By January 2022, Café Baffico was solely a bakery, its sourdough donuts and cinnamon buns considered by many five-star Google reviewers to be the best in Hamilton. Weisz finds this amusing, considering that, prior to the pandemic, “I never made a donut in my life, not as a pastry chef, not as a trained baker.”
Last summer, Weisz took another leap of faith by returning Café Baffico to its restaurant roots, serving specialty coffee and sourdough donuts by day and serving up thin crust sourdough pizzas by night. This month, he’ll be adding sourdough Chanukah sufganiyot (jelly donuts) to the menu, which are sure to be a big hit for Hamiltonians of all backgrounds.
Asked to reflect on his journey to success, Weisz gives alot of the credit to his adopted city.
“In Hamilton, it always seemed like there was the opportunity to do something incredible on our own terms ... at least in 2018 when we opened. What’s nice about what we’re doing now is it’s more financially accessible to buy a donut versus to buy a plate of pasta. More people can access it, which I really like. I like being somewhere where, regardless of demographic or financial background, we can serve them something really spectacular that truly is, I would argue, some of the best products around. And unique. No one’s doing it the way we’re doing it. It feels good.”
To pre-order Café Baffico’s Chanukah sufganiyot, call 289-246-9965.