Culinary Combo grows as mother-and-daughter duo Jodie Polk and Jessica Barris open their first brick-and-mortar bakery in Southfield.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Barris
Mother-and-daughter duo Jodie Polk, 56, of Commerce Township and Jessica Barris, 26, of Berkley hope you’ll stop into their new bakery for something sweet as the family that founded the online baking company Culinary Combo is set to open their first brick-and-mortar bakery in early 2020.
Its new home will be within the Claymoor Apartments near the corner of Northwest Highway and Franklin Road in Southfield.
This new venture in part is in tribute to their husband and father, Jim Polk, a longtime pastry and executive chef, most recently executive chef at the Clawson Steak House. Jim died of pancreatic cancer at age 53 in September 2018.
After Jim died, Jodie she said she did not know what she was going to do. But some support from friends and family in the real estate business is helping her dream come true and helping her cope with the grief. Polk said her late husband’s presence will be felt in the bakery. Her friends and regular customers of the longtime online venture Culinary Combo know Jim’s story. His chef’s hat is the bakery’s logo.
“Our cousins (in commercial real estate) said they wanted to see our dream of opening a bakery come true,” Polk said. “This venture is the result of my whole family and good friends coming together. I do believe Jim has a hand in this from above. He is our inspiration.”
After completing a degree in finance from Walsh College, Polk enrolled in culinary school at Oakland College for Culinary Arts. There she met Jim, who was a corporate pastry chef. After a few years of marriage, they started Culinary Combo in 1989 and juggled the business with taking care of their family. Originally concentrating on catering and pastries, the company soon expanded the business to include gift baskets.
As Culinary Combo grew, Barris baked beside her parents, especially during the busiest times of the year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, fulfilling online orders to local customers as well as those in New York and Chicago.
For Barris, watching her parents run a business together is all she knows; she is excited to pick up the reins with this new venture.
“People ask me all the time, do I like to bake?” said Barris, a trained product photographer who will also incorporate her marketing and social media savvy into promoting the business. “It truly is all I’ve ever known. When my dad died, I did not want the family business to die. I watched my parents work like this my entire life. Now, at 26, I love our family business and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Getting down to baking, Polk and Barris will be offering their most requested items from their online efforts. This includes cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, rugelach, s’more bars, biscotti or “mandel bread,” butter horns, cheesecakes, pies and tortes. Though the bakery is not certified kosher, menu offerings will change with special gift basket offerings during Purim, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah. There will be some gluten-free and sugar-free offerings upon request. All items can be given as gifts in decorative baskets.
But the favorite and most-asked-for item in Culinary Combo’s wheelhouse has got to be its brownie, Barris said.
“It is by far the fudgiest brownie you’ll ever eat.”
When Culinary Combo opens, there will be about five tables set up so those lured by the aroma can stop in for a scone or muffin and a hot cup of coffee. Eventually, they hope to offer baking classes on the premises.