Kindred Spirits

December 2018 View more

Katie McCall with son Liam and mother/business partner, Susan Kritzberg

Creativity and innovation are key at this family-run bakery in St. Charles

When Katie McCall thinks back on her childhood, food is ever-present—whether it be the scent of freshly baked zucchini bread filling her home after school, the tang of jam made from black raspberries grown in her family’s Yorkville backyard, or the memory of helping prepare the table for many a food-focused gathering.

Decades later, those experiences constitute the essence of Two Wild Seeds, the downtown St. Charles bakery McCall and her mother, Susan Kritzberg, run together. “Our dream all along was to have a family-run bakery,” says McCall.

Sweet Beginnings
Kritzberg pinpoints older daughter Leslie Sabella’s wedding as a career-defining moment. Sabella wasn’t interested in a pricey wedding cake, so she asked her mom to make one. Shortly afterward, Kritzberg’s son Brian got married. He followed suit, tapping Kritzberg and McCall (who was at the time honing her skills at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) to create a sweets table.

Things snowballed from there, with friends—and friends of friends—requesting wedding sweets. Soon the duo was maxing out the oven at McCall’s Lincoln Park apartment.

Come 2013, both women found themselves in transition. McCall had left Le Cordon Bleu and moved back to her childhood home. Kritzberg, an artist, gallery owner, and art teacher for more than 25 years, was contemplating her next career steps. When McCall happened upon a co-op kitchen in Geneva, the mother-daughter team decided to tie on aprons and begin baking there, ready for their first real taste of the business.

The kitchen had a retail component, and as the women worked, they overheard numerous customers requesting gluten-free treats. Coincidentally, McCall was in the midst of an elimination diet and had recently parted ways with gluten. The path seemed clear: Gluten-free baking was to become their niche.

Never mind that neither woman had any experience baking without gluten. They drew on McCall’s culinary training. “We found a good, basic rice flour recipe and had success right off the bat,” Kritzberg recalls. Reception was excellent and again, they outgrew their ovens. This time, they decided it was time to go all in.

A Family Endeavor
“Our vibe is home baking with an upscale twist,” says McCall of the shop, which opened in 2016. The space houses an open kitchen, where bakers create dozens of small-batch goodies including oatmeal cream pies, decadent frosted brownies, and nuanced chai snickerdoodles. It’s all made without a trace of gluten—but you could easily indulge without ever knowing. “We are a good bakery that just happens to be gluten-free,” McCall explains.

It’s a deeply meaningful endeavor, and one that goes beyond pretty pastries. The cheery pastel space also stocks a curated selection of retail items, including greeting cards created by Sabella—a successful artist in her own right. Sisters McCall and Sabella inspired the “Two Wild Seeds” moniker, and though the elder Sabella moved to California, she remains heavily involved.

The bakery employs nine, including Kritzberg’s daughter-in-law, Rebecca. Stop by and you’re likely to meet two future staffers, McCall’s 7-month-old son, Liam, and Rebecca’s 8-month-old son, Jude. “We come from a long line of entrepreneurs,” McCall notes. “Leslie ran a boutique [before she moved]. And she and I basically grew up in the basement of Mom’s art studio.” She adds, “I want Liam to have that experience.”

“By nature, I’m go, go, go all the time,” she continues. “One of the most beautiful things about motherhood is that it’s forced me to slow down.” Perhaps she has, but she’s still churning out ideas, filling notebooks with recipes and plans. “I want to get our blog back up and running, and we hope to write a cookbook,” she says.

Gluten-free thumbprint cookies

Holiday Traditions
“We used to make a ton of cookies and sweets during the holidays and give them as gifts,” Kritzberg recalls, mentioning sugar cookies, thumbprints, rum balls, spiced pecans, and delicate chocolate chip crescents. To honor that memory, Two Wild Seeds will recreate many of those recipes and offer build-your-own treat boxes this holiday season.

The family plans to carve out time to celebrate together. Inevitably, Kritzberg and McCall will be asked to bring sweets. “We consider baking an expression of love,” McCall says. “It’s nice to be able to share that—both at home and at the bakery.”