Post SCAA 2005 Part One - Kent Bakke
Posted May 4, 2005 6:50pm
The SCAA 2005 event is over now, and I'm still recovering. Let me give you a solid warning - don't party with the Aussies too much. Cuz they party. I'm my own worst enemy though - see, I can't quit. I can't be the one to fall down or collapse first. Or go home first. Because of this, I tended to out drink many aussies, get by with less sleep, and basically walk around looking like death on wheels. But I digress.
I will hopefully be doing some updates post SCAA style - depends on if anyone leaves comments or not. I was waiting for ONE PERSON to leave a comment on the last article before writing a new one, but some 4 months later, no comments :(
One of the Founding Fathers of Espresso in the PNW
Not many people outside the biz of espresso know who Kent Bakke is. Well, let me tell you. He's one of the founding fathers, as it were, of espresso in the PNW. Kent goes way back, back to the late 1970s in fact, when it comes to espresso in Seattle. He sold Starbucks some of their first ever espresso machines. He's the guiding force behind Espresso Specialists Inc., and a co-owner in La Marzocco.
And he's one helluva nice guy.
I was first introduced to Kent back in 2001, when another co-owner in La Marzocco, Joe Monaghan, invited me to Seattle to have a meeting with ESI and LM to discuss the viability and ideas for design of a consumer machine by La Marzocco. I knew Joe already and got along great with him. Joe told me I'd be meeting one of the principals in ESI and majority stock holder in LM at the meeting, and I was a bit afraid. I had a lot of reverence for LM and knew they were a successful company, so I was a bit wary of meeting "Mr. Bakke" and handling myself well. I knew a bit about him already, and that made me even more nervous.
My nerves and fear were unfounded. There's very few people in this industry who are more approachable, more likable and more intriguing than Kent. He immediately puts you at ease, and makes you feel like *you* are the one worth a million bucks.
Since that early introduction, I've had many opportunities to kvetch with Kent. I think he respects me and what I do (probably unfounded! ;)), because he always values hearing my opinions on things, even if he disagrees with them.
Probably the best time I've ever spent with him was on a flight back from Atlanta to Seattle after last year's SCAA show. For four hours, Kent and I had a wide ranging and engaging talk across an aisle, talking about everything from the founding of espresso culture in Seattle to the current (then) status of the LM consumer machine project. Kent also asked me about how the La Marzocco in my house is doing.
Those four hours were pure bliss for this coffee afficionado, let me tell you.
This year, I got many chances to chat with Kent, though not as many as I would have liked. We talked again about the LM Consumer machine that will be rolling out soon, and I got a chance to say to Kent (and also to Ron Cooke, the guy running La Marzocco) my sincere thanks, not only for what they do for the world of espresso, but for the parties they hosted, the involvement they have in the WBC and USBC, and for their unequaled passion in the world of coffee and espresso. I also thanked Kent personally for his role in espresso, and that I'm thrilled to see him continue in the biz, and hoped he'd be involved for a long time coming.
And I think he will be. He's had a tough few years for personal reasons, but seems to be on the rebound big time. I've never seen him so enthusiastic or juiced up about the world of coffee and espresso as I did the SCAA Seattle weekend. Kent is pretty much the only principal in ESI or La Marzocco that was 100% behind Bill Crossland's dream about bringing a consumer / catering / testing espresso machine to the market (Bill is the genius behind the machine, but Kent is the backer)... where others were hemming and hawing, Kent was always the cheerleader. Now that the machine was unveiled, and so many people in the industry (not to mention consumers) were jazzed about it, all of LM is on board - but Kent was there from the beginning.
Because of this, I see in Kent a spark that shows he's not yet done with this biz, even though he's been involved in it for almost 30 years now. And I for one am very happy about that.