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The warmth and good food that are the soul of Macrina Bakery & Cafe owe their origins to owner-chef Leslie Mackie - one of the most esteemed figures on the national artisan baking scene. She is happiest when watching customers dig into one of her mouth-watering breads, buttery pastries, or tender, cardamom-scented coffee cakes.

Mackie picked up her kitchen skills at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. But baking was her true love, and she was soon creating pastry for acclaimed chefs Lydia Shire and Susan Regis at Biba in Boston. Later, while working as a restaurant consultant in Los Angeles, she found herself more and more interested in bread, drawn by the combination of science and intuition required when baking. She was among the first wave of Americans experimenting with recipes from European master bakers and a long, slow fermentation process. Mackie rediscovered the craft's traditional, almost spiritual importance. "To me, making bread is being an artist," Mackie says. "In France, bakers are revered because bread is such a central part of the family and the community."

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