This is the first in a series of spotlights on owners of the shops and restaurants coming to the Village at Rancharrah Spring 2021.
There is nothing conventional about the owners of Perenn Bakery, Aubrey and Tyler O’Laskey. The bakery opened in 2018 and is the culinary stop for baked goods — bread, croissants and pastries.
At first meeting Aubrey and Tyler, it’s immediately obvious how nice they are and also how young. It makes one wonder: How do they make this all happen? That thought is magnified when we realize that Aubrey is pregnant with her third child. Yes, you read that correctly…third. Also, it’s Monday morning at 8 a.m. and they both have already been up for four hours.
Tyler and Aubrey met in 2011 at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., after Tyler’s first couple of days of school. The Culinary Institute of America is an American private college and culinary school specializing in culinary, baking, and pastry arts education. The school's primary campus is located in Hyde Park, N.Y., with branch campuses in St. Helena and Napa, Calif., San Antonio, Texas, and Singapore.
Aubrey started at CIA in 2009, Tyler in 2011. After they both completed internships and additional culinary training, they made Reno their home.
Let’s get to know the owners of Perenn Bakery, your newest neighborhood bakers.
Q: Thank for speaking with us, we can’t wait to share your story with our readers.
Aubrey: Thank you! We are thrilled to be opening our flagship store in the Village at Rancharrah. I was obsessed with getting into that place.
Tyler: Yes, she was!
Aubrey: Well, when we saw that it was opening, I called the landlord of our current location in Midtown and said “I have to be in there. What do we do?” We started by touring the grounds that were completely under construction. We understood the vision of the place, and I knew this could be a good fit for what we want to do with Perenn in the future.
Q: How did you meet and how did you find your love of food?
Tyler: I am from Florida, and Aubrey is from Gardnervillle … two coasts meet! I started at CIA much later than her. She had started her bachelor’s and I was just starting my associates which is a one-and-a-half-year program. I had already done some schooling in Florida and had jumped around from engineering to law. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. I was trying it all. In the meantime, I ended working in a restaurant as a server while I was taking the summer off in Florida, and I fell in love with it immediately. I grew up in a little beachside town called Bradenton, Fla. Although there wasn’t a huge restaurant scene, the one restaurant that was “cool” was the one I started working at. It had live music, and I got to see the emotion that people have when they dine well and experience real hospitality and quality food … and it felt really good to be a part of that. That’s where the spark ignited, although I did like to cook as a kid. I grew up on “Pennsylvania Dutch Food,” nothing fancy, popovers and stuff. But I remember at 6 or 7 cooking scallops that I’d begged my grandma to buy for me. I never connected it because no one in my family was a professional cook. We were very hospitality oriented, all of our gatherings were centered around food, but it wasn’t anything fancy. And then once I realized “Wow, food is the connecting element here,” I was fully committed. That’s when I started looking at schools in New York. And I landed on the Culinary Institute of America. People joke and call it the Hogwarts of the Culinary Industry…
Aubrey: it’s the Harvard of Culinary Schools.
Tyler: Yes. And it looks like it as well. It’s an old castle, in a Jesuit seminary and looks like it was built in either the late 1800s, early 1900s. And there’s stained glass everywhere on this giant hill along the Hudson River.
Aubrey: It’s beautiful. I’ll rewind a bit: My freshman year I started as a nutrition dietetics major until I realized the only thing I liked about the whole program was the food. I switched to education for three weeks, then business management and thought, “This is going nowhere. My real passion is cooking.” I didn’t grow up in a family that cooks, but I would go home every day after school and experiment. I used to watch a show called Zoom and Great Chefs of America. Food Network was not around when I was in 3rd grade. And that’s where it all started. I watched friendships develop in these commercial kitchens while cooking. My mom was supportive and said “if you want to cook dinner, just let us know what you want and we’ll get it from the grocery store.”
Q: How old would you say you were you then?
Aubrey: Probably 5th grade.
Tyler: Tell them about the contract.
Aubrey: My mom and dad ran a law firm. They were always super busy, and we never ate dinner together. So I wrote a contract saying “From this day forward, I want to eat dinner every night together.” That was when I was about 14. But I started cooking in fifth grade because I cooked dinner for my teacher in sixth grade for she and her husband. I cooked risotto, asparagus and salmon. And then as I got older, when driving, I used to get my mom’s debit card and I did all the grocery shopping. I cooked all the dinners every night. Sometimes I’d make menus. I feel really fortunate that they allowed me to do that. I never thought I could be that because I come from a family of lawyers and very highly educated people. I couldn’t be the black sheep. But I told my Dad and he said “I totally support you as long as you go to the best school you can find.” And so even though I’m still paying for it, it was definitely worth it!
Tyler: I agree. People ask us that all the time, “Was culinary school worth it?” and my answer is yes, for the right individual. It’s better if you have skin in the game. It makes a big difference when you appreciate it. Neither one of us got any financial help from our families, we just got student loans and that was a driving factor for sure.
So yes, we met in school and sparks ignited immediately and we found ourselves dating. We had to go out on an extern – basically an internship where you go and work in the industry for four months or longer, you decide the time frame. Some people don’t come back, but I don’t recommend it. I was adamant about finishing. I did my internship at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, N.Y. It’s an 80-acre estate 30 miles north of Manhattan. (Chef’s table with Dan Barber, head chef of Blue Hill).
Farm-to-table doesn’t even really do it justice. It’s literally on a farm. Part of your work week you are responsible for spending a day out in the fields. It was very inspiring … still today. I ended up staying there for six months, working 80-hour weeks. It was very intensive, yet rewarding.
Q: Are you mainly in the kitchen for most of that?
Tyler: Yes. You’d spend like four or five hours working on the farm on a Thursday. And the rest in the kitchen getting to see Dan Barber, the owner and head chef of the school, in his element. We’d start at 10 and work til 2 a.m. Having the opportunity to work under someone like that was so cool. They are rated like 10th or 11th best restaurant in the world now, and at the time they had no accolades, but you felt like it was going there. He’s working on reverse-breeding wheat to be what it used to be in like in Old Europe for its digestive properties. And to tie it in to Perenn – we are very oriented towards our sourcing. It all began at Butter and Salt, the catering company that we started after school. We are using all organic flours – you actually know where they come from. Wheat is sold as a commodity in the U.S., so all of your big millers and grain producers are buying it off the exchange. You lose a lot of where it comes from, how it’s grown. The company that we purchase from is Central Milling. They have boycotted the exchange process and have removed themselves from it. They own the mills and work directly with their farmers in mostly Utah. They know where the grains come from — they source, select and mill them how they deserve to be milled. The pride they take in their product, and the scale they are doing it at, is impactful. And that ties into the philosophy I learned at Blue Hill and that we have at Perenn. We compost all of our produce and try to reduce our waste as much as possible. It’s never going to be 100 percent but we strive for that. That’s the direction we want to go in with this new location.
Q: That’s so great. Aubrey, where, timeline-wise, does your externship come in?
Aubrey: It was technically two years before Tyler’s. You start school, get your basics and about six months later they throw you out to do your externship. I had not had much restaurant experience. Gardnerville is not a very big city, but I worked at one of the best restaurants there called Baroni & Reed. It was great, it was under a Swiss chef named Chris Jones, and I did get a lot of basic restaurant experience which you have to have to get into CIA. So, when I went on my extern, I kind of regretted not going somewhere like Blue Hill, but it all worked out because I wanted something on the West Coast, something with nicer weather. I also wanted really good produce. I don’t think I had enough time at CIA to realize that the Hudson Valley is like the best place for produce in the country. California is known for that, too. I was also getting into wine, so I chose Sonoma. I knew I wanted the Wine Country area and also somewhere French because I love French food. I also wanted high volume because I’d never worked on a busy line – quick expediting, 400 covers. So, I chose The Girl and the Fig, which is still there. It’s been there for 20 years (I think) and it’s women-owned. Sandra Berstein is “the girl” and she has maintained her menu. She goes to France every year and has an extensive French wine list which is really rare for Sonoma and classic French food. I lived two blocks from the square and went to all of the farmers markets. I could only work 40 hours, five days a week. So, on my off days I would go in and work in the catering facility that was off site. I didn’t have a car so all I did was work and run. I got to do pop-up dinners. I did the Kendall Jackson tomato festival; it was like 600 farmers that have all these different kinds of tomatoes and each restaurant came up with a dish. I think these moments really impacted me ultimately with the catering for Butter and Salt and for sure with Perenn.
Tyler: Ultimately, we both graduated after doing our extra internships and were discussing what we were going to do next. I thought I’d go back to Blue Hill to do front of house…
Aubrey: Yes, because when I graduated, I actually worked at CIA doing front of the house while Tyler finished school. The program is called “manager in training” where you do three weeks in the back of house and you cook for actual paying customers and then the final three weeks you serve for three weeks in the five restaurants open to the public. So that was a big influence. Also to back track - just so you know why we have so much French influence in our product: I did a food, wine and agriculture trip. The CIA has amazing connections, so 18 of us in the bachelor’s program went around France for three weeks to wineries, farms and Michelin-starred restaurants and private places…Russian caves, cheese-and-mushroom caves with bats, oyster farms where you get private tours. Tyler and I later went to France and I took him to all the places we went to.
Q: Was the plan starting to coalesce around Aubrey, you being interested in “front of house,” and Tyler, you more “back of house”?
Aubrey: Yes, I did all front of house for eight months until Tyler graduated. I think a lot of bachelor students aren’t in the kitchen very much for two years. I took an advanced cooking class and advanced wine course, but it’s mostly accounting, economics. I think once you pay additional $50,000 or so for that portion of the program you start thinking you want to do front of house because classically you make more money especially in fine dining. In NYC you can make $120,000 a year which is not a lot for NYC but compared to $15 an hour as a cook…you start thinking front of house. So, when we graduated, I started thinking maybe I’ll do front of house at Blue Hill because we knew we would never see each other unless we worked at the same restaurant. We would go into the City a lot on the weekends to the Brooklyn Fair, which is like the candy dance but cooler and bigger, and we’d eat and walk and we’d see these families pushing kids around in strollers.
Tyler: I had worked in the summers previously to go to culinary school in Yellowstone National Park volunteering as a Park Ranger and was geared towards moving west eventually. We’re both very outdoor-oriented people. It’s where we like to spend most of our time now with our family when we are not in the kitchen cooking. We didn’t see that as a real possibility when we were thinking of going the Blue Hill route because we would be so deep into it, family wasn’t an option.
Aubrey: I don’t know if your (Tyler's) chef said it as much as mine said, “You will never have a stable relationship, and you will never make money.” And we both were like “Why am I here?” Tyler and I talked about that and discussed fighting that. We were not going to let that happen. We really wanted a dog, but we couldn’t have a dog because we wouldn’t have the time to take care of the dog. We decided in that moment that Blue Hill was not the route we wanted to take.
Q: So did you decide to forge your own lifestyle where you could have it both ways?
Tyler: Yes, 100% forging our own lifestyle where we could be on top of our culinary game and also have a dog…or a family.
Aubrey: I will give my parents credit, they provided huge emotional support in regards to our dreams of doing that and said, “You can do it, you will succeed.” They really believed in us. So we ended up moving to Nevada in 2013. We moved into my parent’s little guest house in Gardnerville, thinking we would eventually move to the West Coast, maybe at a restaurant here but have more of a West Coast lifestyle. We had a lot of opportunity to go to Tahoe and we just fell in love with the area.
Tyler: Midtown the neighborhood in Reno had just been coined and we saw the potential to start something and wanted to start something in this area. So, Aubrey started Butter and Salt in 2013.
Q: Had you ever done any catering before that?
Aubrey: We did one event in NYC right before we were ready to leave. A really sweet family from Canada contacted CIA randomly asking if they would recommend someone to cook for their family of 10 for three days because their son was getting married. They asked me because I was still very involved in the school and that was our first job. It was the first time Tyler and I had cooked together. We didn’t charge them barely anything. It was great. I will never forget them. They we’re so nice and had this beautiful house. We did all the shopping, we made cookies. They gave us all their leftover groceries because they were going back to Canada. I was so appreciative because I used to make $120 a week. And I thought, maybe we could do this somewhere else, but I had no experience. My uncle was a private chef for Rod Stewart. That was my idea of it. Fast forward, and we thought maybe we don’t go to California, we just cook for people here. We coined the name Butter & Salt. My Dad showed me how to get a business license. I got really creative and hustled and contacted luxury real estate companies that rent a lot of homes around the lake and sold the idea of us offering our services. We would cook for people visiting Tahoe. We didn’t have a commercial kitchen, we cooked onsite and we did it all out of my Subaru Impreza. We’d take the money that we made from jobs and we’d turn around and buy equipment so the next job we would do better. We did that for six months until the Thunderbird Lodge heard of us. It’s a private estate on the East Shore of Tahoe. They have one chef that they hire to cook for their own members, so they brought Tyler and I on and we started getting busy. Tyler worked at a coffee roasting company, and I worked at a bridal salon on the side because we couldn’t afford to start a business and pay our student loans. A key moment was we had someone who is a designer in LA, getting married in Gardnerville, who was looking for caterers and she found us on Instagram and said, “I know you are private chefs, but would you ever consider catering?” And long story short…we decided to do it. We took the jump. We were 24.
Q:Were you married at this point?
Aubrey: Not yet but around that time, February 2015, we got married. And my dad encouraged us to take the leap, and we freaked out and did it.
Tyler: We found a kitchen and it immediately took off. Catering is another ballgame. You prepare everything ahead of time and go through the health department. The legality is big. We were so busy we never hired a marketing company or did any advertising. It was all word of mouth. We booked 20 weddings that year.
Q: So where in the evolution does Perenn come in from Butter and Salt?
Tyler: Once we started doing large gatherings, we realized bread is always a key feature of any event. We took some bread courses in school. However it was just a bleep on the radar, but it was enough that I wanted to learn more, so I started reading Chad Robertson’s book “Tartine Bread,” a staple in the bread community and I dissected it. We started cooking loaves of bread in our New York apartment and that’s where it really started. When we started catering big events, we weren’t finding the bread that we wanted to serve in Reno. So we started doing it all in house. We didn’t have any of the equipment. I was doing it all in cast-iron pans. Forty loaves took literally all day. One day we had two weddings. We needed 60 loaves, and I started in the middle of the night. It was a nightmare. And people were like “This bread is so much better than anything we are accustomed to! Where can we get this bread?” and that really ignited the spark.
Aubrey: I will give Tyler credit…he was like, “We should open a bakery.”
Tyler: It was July 2018 around the time that Pine Street Biscuits (in Reno) started to take off and I saw these outside companies moving into Reno like Sizzle Pie … all investments from Portland. I realized Reno was taking off and all these companies were moving in and thought “if we don’t do this now someone is going to come in and do it.” I think a bakery needs to have the soul of someone who lives in the community.
Aubrey: It was insane because we had 33 weddings this summer and every single wedding takes a lot because we put everything into making each one special. In the meantime, you were also teaching yourself to make croissants and laminating, because croissants are the biggest part of our business.
Aubrey: So July 2018 I texted Greg (our broker) and said “Maybe we can get a tiny spot in Midtown (Reno’s newest up and coming neighborhood), maybe just a window that we opened three days a week and sell some bread…”
Tyler: If it breaks even, it’s fine. I’ll just do it a couple days a week. It’s fine.
Q: There seems to be a theme throughout your story when you talk about having these visions of being bigger along the way and it seemed every step, in the beginning, was pared down. For instance, we’ll be private chefs on a small scale and inevitably it grows organically and it would lead you to the next level. Do you agree with that?
Aubrey: Oh for sure. It’s definitely something that is innately in us. We love projects. Like right now, we are renovating our house. We gutted our house we just bought. We don’t even have a kitchen right now. I always joke we either have a baby or create something.
Q: We did some research to prepare for this interview and were already impressed with you both and then gasped when we saw you were pregnant and have two toddlers. We were like “how are they doing all this”?
Tyler: The answer is I don’t know.
Aubrey: I should probably answer we have it all together but that’s not true...it’s really stressful. We both have our low points.
Q: From your story, it sounds like you were raised to have an innate drive to be successful entrepreneurs?
Tyler: Yes, my dad ran his own business for a long time. My dad had his own carpentry business for a long time.
Aubrey: My grandpa actually started Travelodge which was a hotel chain.
Aubrey: Yep, and we just sold it and I’m really pissed about it because I could have been a Travelodge sister...
Aubrey: All my family is from LA and was very successful. So there is this innate personal want to be successful and also prove that you can do it. Prove that you can make money and have a family, kids. We are constantly proving that to ourselves that we aren’t going to be the norm. So we found this place and took all the money we had made from catering weddings and put it into this place (Perenn). We opened in November of 2018 within one week of when I said I wanted to open.
Tyler: Not surprising.
Aubrey: We ordered all of our ovens from Italy and received it one week before we opened. We didn’t have an espresso machine because we couldn’t afford one. We were still doing all the catering, and I was pregnant at the time. We had our second baby in April of 2018 so had to bring the baby with me here. I would put her in the Bumbo seat and give her a croissant. People would ask, “Whose baby is this?” She was the bakery mascot. We are insane.
Tyler: Fast forward. You can talk about the Universe and the direction our lives were going. I said, “I think it’s time we transition into our next step. I don’t want to be working midnight every weekend every summer while our kids are growing up.” We revisited that original Brooklyn Faire moment where family and lifestyle have to be a part of this or else we’ll burn out.
Aubrey: Also all of our clients were in NYC, LA and San Francisco so we didn’t have a sense of community. We just lived here and weren’t involved. We didn’t do cross marketing with Butter & Salt and some people didn’t know and others did and they were excited we were opening Perenn. A brick and mortar felt so good to have to see our customers. And when we opened, we had really dedicated customers.
Tyler: So we made the decision to close Butter & Salt in 2019 before COVID hit. Thank god we had a plan already in process…
Aubrey: Perenn floated everything during COVID, catering is expensive…
Tyler: And now we are excited to transition to The Village at Rancharrah and move to the next level of this journey.
Aubrey: People that have worked with me know that I want what I want until I get it. And when Rancharrah was available I said, “This is the place I want to be”. One of our customers who would come in daily — you never know who people are — he came in one day and said “If you ever want capital to branch out just let me know.” That’s how it happens, and we are so happy. And we were working Sonoma and I said, “We can’t do this anymore. We have to do Reno full time.” And it feels right because we have a company culture where we make sure the people that work with us also experience what we experience: A balance of life. We pay for healthcare. We don’t accept tips here. We raised our prices 10 percent to be able to pay for everyone’s health care, front and back of house, because typically in restaurants the front of the house makes all the money which we don’t think is fair.
Tyler: That’s the direction we are going to try to go. People talk about sustainability and if you can’t sustain your staff you can’t have a sustainable restaurant. So that’s our goal with this project is to become more sustainable as a company both personally, with employees and waste and sourcing. We’ll be able to do that more with the equipment and infrastructure we’ll have in that facility.
Aubrey: Also everything isn’t done here at Perenn in Midtown so in this new, bigger location we’ll be able to move production there and we’ll have giant windows where our customers will be able to see the bread making on one side and the lamination on the other. And I can’t imagine how amazing it’s going to smell there now that we’ll be baking there.
Q: Inquiring minds want to know how you make it all happen?
Aubrey: We are lucky that when we announced we were having our first baby Tyler's mom moved here to help. Also, his sister Jordan, is another part of our success. She moved here and started to help with Butter & Salt and she’s such a hard worker and so smart. We are lucky to have her. So once she came the grandparents came and my parents moved up here from Gardnerville so we have a lot of family support and the kids go to daycare three days a week.
Tyler: So right now we don’t have a traditional weekend, we work every other weekend and have a day with our family.
Q: How old are your kids?
Tyler: One almost 4, 2 and any day now I’m having this one…all girls.
Aubrey: Also, one thing I want my girls to learn as women is to go for something and to work hard and to work. I’m not the kind of mom that stays home with kids. I respect those that do. I just don’t have the patience and I don’t feel productive and for a while I felt guilty. Then I thought I’m not going to feel sorry. I’m going to teach them that it’s OK to be a mother, and to work, have drive and set goals and maybe not be there every single day for them but that’s OK.
Q: How did you get to the point where that was OK?
Aubrey: A lot of reflections this past winter of feeling like, “Where am I going? Do I want to stay at home?” I realized I didn’t like it. I don’t want to do crafts. I would get frustrated cause I’d want to do work and come up with creative things and ideas. I felt guilty.
Tyler: To interject, there’s a norm where I feel like moms (and dads) feel like the women are the ones to stay home and teach the kids to read and solely take care of them. It’s an amazing way to raise a family. But it’s not the only way to raise a family. And I think Aubrey leading by example and having our children look up to her as a role model, they are going to learn amazing things from that as well.
Aubrey: Also people always ask me “Does Tyler help you with the kids?” and I’m like, “Yes we are a team. Tyler reads to them every single night and puts them down every single night”
Tyler: It’s not helping Aubrey … we split responsibilities.
Aubrey: I also think it’s very important for us raising girls to have him be a big part of their life. And trust me, we are still learning a lot.
Tyler: A lot. Every day.
Q: Thank you for your time. And welcome to the Village family. We can’t wait to see the new space and eat more yummy croissants and bread.
Perenn Bakery will open Spring 2021 in the Village at Rancharrah.. In the meantime, they will be hosting pop-ups in the Village so please visit thevillageatrancharrah.com and subscribe to stay up to date on openings and special events.