Designed to inspire locals and visitors alike to discover hidden gems across the state, the Illinois Office of Tourism’s Illinois Made program has put the spotlight on over 250 innovative small businesses over the past seven years, including popular Starved Rock Country makers like Boggio’s Orchard and Produce, Fine Field Pottery, Illinois Sparkling Co., Star Union Spirits, Starved Rock Hot Glass and Tangled Roots Brewing Co. This year’s honorees include another Starved Rock Country favorite – Millstone Bakery in La Salle.
Millstone Bakery, on downtown La Salle’s First Street, is an artisan shop specializing in handcrafted breads and pastries. An ever-growing selection of baked-from-scratch goods, use of high-quality ingredients and a small-town hangout atmosphere have earned Millstone rave reviews and devoted customers since it opened in June 2022. Now, it officially is being recognized with the prestigious award from the Illinois Office of Tourism.
“This year’s class of Illinois Makers is one of our most diverse; in every corner of our state, people from all walks of life are creating delicious food and sharing expert craftsmanship,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “Illinois is sending out the message loud and clear that our state is open for business, and it’s the perfect place for businesses big and small to call home.”
The 2023 Illinois Makers class represents the largest group since the start of the program, bringing the Maker total to 276. This year’s inductees offer products ranging from locally sourced and fermented kombucha to handmade, custom golf clubs. Millstone’s collaborative ethos and quality products make it an obvious addition to the initiative.
Owned and operated by Kent and Erin Maze, Millstone was born out of a passion to do something for downtown La Salle. They loved visiting bakeries while traveling, but noticed there weren’t many places to get fresh, from-scratch bread and pastries in the region – they knew they could restore a local bakery tradition to the area and infuse the process with flavors and techniques from around the world.
The breads and pastries at Millstone are a labor of love and can take 26 hours to make from the time they are begun with scratch ingredients to when they’re pulled out of their showcased, double-decker, European-style stone oven. The bakery’s core line of pastries includes chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pain au chocolat croissants made with semi-dark chocolate, ham and cheese croissants, almond croissants and classic butter croissants. You’ll also find an expansive selection of artisan breads, including their popular sourdough loaves.
Neither Kent nor Erin were bakers by trade, so early on in their bakery journey, they started seeking experts. They reached out and found a team of local bakers who were looking for an opportunity like this – a chance to turn their passion for artisan baked goods into a career. One such collaborator is Anna Harmon, who recently was selected as a finalist in the Greatest Baker competition, an event featuring the best bakers from across the United States.
Customers of Millstone Bakery know Harmon’s skills well – she and the baking team create innovative, fun flavors that rotate daily, along with new treats and pastries that become immediate crowd favorites. Harmon and the baking team are excited for the Christmas season because they just finished perfecting a tempting array of holiday pastries and cookies that will be ready to pre-order.
“Anna is an incredible baker who develops absolutely delicious pastries and flavor combinations,” said co-owner Erin Maze. “She is always innovating with new ideas. Her dedication and creativity have played a crucial role in establishing Millstone as a go-to destination and community gathering space.”
The winner of the Greatest Baker competition receives $10,000, and will be featured in Bake From Scratch magazine, a global artisan food and cooking magazine that celebrates the world of baking. Winners also will meet Buddy Valastro Jr., known as the “Cake Boss,” a beloved pastry chef and TV personality, and can attend an exclusive workshop with the boss himself.
In 2024, Millstone intends to add more specialty sandwiches and bread bowls to the menu, and to experiment with new rotating breads and pastries. After this year’s successful addition of fresh salads (featuring a house-made avocado, cilantro and lime dressing and fresh breadsticks), along with a new coffee program using locally roasted Starved Rock Coffee beans, it seems Millstone’s menu is both growing and fine-tuning by the day.
“There really hadn’t been anything like this in the area before, so it was a little bit of a risk. But, the community has really shown up and supported us from day one,” Kent Maze said. “A lot of people might not know they have an artisan bakery right down the street from them. It’s a different kind of experience because everything is made from scratch using the best quality ingredients, but it was very important to us that Millstone always feels friendly and approachable to everyone.”
Kent and Erin Maze are proud of the recent accolades for Millstone and their bakers, and encourage the community to cast their votes for Anna Harmon in the Greatest Baker competition.
To cast your vote for her, visit tinyurl.com/MillstoneVote.
To learn more about Illinois Makers and the Illinois Office of Tourism’s Illinois Made list, and to see a full list of the 2023 honorees, visit enjoyillinois.com/illinois-made.