The Pratzels

Barb and Mike Pratzel began Manna Cafe and Bakery as a fourth labor of love.  Here is the short version of the story:

Barb's journey to Manna began in the New York suburbs, where gourmet cooking and a love of food pervaded the household.  As early as 2 years old, Barb learned to cook oatmeal (spiked with cognac and topped with vanilla ice cream). To this day, the joy that spreads across the faces of those who tasted her family's cooking lingers as an influential memory. 

Mike was born into the third generation of a family-owned and operated, famous kosher Jewish bakery in St. Louis (Pratzel's Bakery!). 


And while he did not exactly knead thousands of corn tzitzels, or frost wedding cakes, Mike's high school years were spent delivering his family's great bakery to numerous St. Louis restaurants and delis.

(Switch to the first person!)

In 1974, we found ourselves together as freshman at UW-Madison, cooking for friends in the old Ogg Hall dorms, and savoring exciting new food ideas and creations from cutting edge restaurants such as Ovens of Britanny, Lysistrata, and Andrea's.  How wonderful it was to have been a part of the early renditions of the food scene that blossomed into the more modern, sustainable, locavore, from-scratch movement that currently colors our world.  We fell in love with Madison (and each other), and began pursuit of a life of food, friends, puppies, racquetball, softball, volleyball, reading, writing, New York Times crosswords, and Cardinal baseball.

With a degree in Journalism, a background in the sciences, and a love of writing, I began a career as a writer and editor in the sciences, researching mass spectrometry by day, and compulsively baking by night.  Coworkers and friends began encouraging a future profession in the food world, but I had no idea what that might be.

Mike, meantime, settled into life in the world of market research and statistical analysis for an advertising and consulting firm.  Yet the pull at his entreprenurial heartstrings ran deep, and the idea of running his own business, that was in some way connected to food and bakery, was never far from his mind.

In 1980, on a belated honeymoon to San Francisco, and before bed and breakfasts were especially well-recognized, we stayed at our first B&B, the Union Street Inn.  The experience was an epiphany:  we were greeted at the door by a big bouncy Golden Retriever; treated to delicious breakfasts by the local, San Franciso-loving innkeepers; and ushered into plush, warm guest rooms that overlooked a garden.  At last, we had discovered the perfect confluence of our interests -- serving great food, sharing our love of Madison, and being in our own business together.  The rest, as they say, is history.

So began our first "labor of love"....