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Otisco Bakery & Basics and I were born in the rural settlement of Smyrna Michigan. I was born with a love of wonderful food and bread and the bakery was born to satisfy my desire to provide to others the joy that comes from the combination of wonderful bread, butter and time shared  with family and friends.  If you care to add a bottle of wine, or a beer, fine cheese, and fruit you have the best of all worlds.


My earliest recollections of great food and baking, of course, started with my Grand Mother and Mother, they were wonderful cooks and bakers.  There was not a special meal that did not include bread fresh from the oven. 


With 5 siblings, family dinners out were the utmost special occasion. I still can recall the thrill of having Chef Johnny Senko come out of the City Club kitchen wearing his tall chef’s toque. With each table he visited, he left the diners in smiles and  high spirits.   Even though I was a young child of 5 or 6, I too felt that excitement and joy as he entered the room and I anxiously awaited his visit to our table.  I desired to be the person who brought so much joy.


How would I achieve my heart’s desire?  As a young mother and wife I had the honor to study Culinary Arts with Madame Liane Kuony at The Postilion in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in 1979. It was she who empowered me to recognize my ability to succeed in the culinary world. With her guidance, nurturing and friendship, I was on my way to being the best baker I could be.  My desire to be in the professional culinary world was no longer merely a whim, it was a decision based on the realization that I had the talent, and it was the right decision. It is Madame Kuony whom I will forever owe a debt of gratitude for her time and encouragement.

Along the way I baked for 5 years at the Honey Creek Inn.  Many thanks to the owner and great friend Don Kurylowicz for employing and believing in me.  It was there that I gained the confidence to pursue my personal dream. When the time came for me to open my own bakery and I sought the help of King Arthur Flour, Jeffrey Hamelman and James MacGuire.  Jeffrey is a mentor and great teacher enabling me to hone my skills.  I aspire to his standards of baking and enjoyment of life.  THANK YOU, Jeffrey!


I’ll see you on the corner in Smyrna, where bread meets beer at Otisco Bakery & Basics. 

Karlene Johnson – The Sagacious Baker

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