Meaders Ozarow, Owner
Meaders Moore Ozarow, an Abilene native has always loved food. “We were into food as a family,” says Meaders. She describes her mother as a “health-food nut” in the ’60s and remembers her father’s fascination with Julia Child and her cooking shows.
Meaders started Empire Baking Company in 1992 with her husband Robert. At the time, the Ozarows both had successful careers, Meaders was in furniture sales and Robert an investment banker, but food was their passion. They cooked and entertained a lot, and both were raised to appreciate quality food.
When Empire Baking Company opened there were few alternatives for buying fresh-baked bread in Dallas. “If you bought bread, it was at the grocery store,” Meaders says. Meaders decided to bring this artisan bread to Dallas. Eventually, both she and Robert quit their jobs to devote themselves to the company.
Empire was the first in the region to bake with King Arthur unbleached and unbromated flour, which had been milled at Morrison’s Milling Company in Denton using King Arthur’s patented process. Bakemart was the supplier.
“We started out like a rocket ship,” Meaders says. “The minute we opened our doors in November of 1992, there were people waiting.” The original location was in Oak Lawn. Robert focused on strategic planning and Meaders concentrated on sales and marketing, while a team of craft bakers manned the kitchen. Six months after Empire’s inception, Chris Cutshall, a Houston chef who wanted to be a part of their cutting-edge process, joined the team.
Empire now has approximately 45 employees, many of whom have been with the company since its early years. They staff the operation around the clock at its manufacturing facility near Greenville Avenue and at the flagship store at Inwood Road and Lovers Lane. Eighty percent of its business is wholesale to area restaurants, coffee shops and bars, including The Mansion on Turtle Creek, The Hyatt Regency, The Four Seasons, Jasper’s and Lee Harvey’s.
When she is not breaking bread, she is cooking food for her family, driving and raising money for Meals on Wheels and giving her time and resources to the arts. She also enjoys shepherding her two boys 16 and 20.
Chris Cutshall, Head Baker
Chris Cutshall, a chef in Houston at the time of Empire Baking Company’s inception, understood the importance of bread. Chris is the son of an engineer and a foodie mother with 50 tomato plants growing in her back yard. A brief stint in bread making sparked Chris’ curiosity and prompted him to approach Empire Baking about his interest in bread. According to Meaders and Robert, “Chris has a natural curiosity for learning, that’s why he’s so good at it- he’s intrigued by it and he’s constantly learning about this complex product.”Chris came on board shortly after Empire Baking Company began and within five years they had amassed a team that is still roughly in place today. Chris says, “Loading baguettes in the oven becomes like a dance between two people. I’ve been working with some of these guys for 18 years and what makes a difference is the knowledge and experience that comes from skill and repetition, it’s almost meditative- slinging flour, shaping dough, and slicing the tops of loaves before they get shoveled in and out of the oven.”