Faith, Family, and Fruitcake.  A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti Part 2

Faith, Family, and Fruitcake. A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti Part 2

Faith, Family, and Fruitcake. A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti Part 2

Mike Cinotti and his wife Doodle have worked hard to build their business into the renowned fixture that it is today.  In this week’s post, we’re talking with Mike about his life in the bakery he loves so much.

Describe your typical day.

Mike Cinotti, Legends Interview, Hait, Mission, Carries

Mike at the school he and his wife, Doodle helped build in Plaisance, Haiti

My alarm goes off about 3:00 a.m.  I get here about 3:25 a.m. and unless I have something pressing, I use the early morning for my quiet time, my prayer time.  About 4:00 a.m. I get in there and get rolling.  My primary job in the morning is baking the numerous racks of breads and cookies and pies and cakes that the other guys are producing at the other end of the shop. I enjoy it because it’s a challenge because of the hundreds of pans that must be baked.  Some are breads that have to be proofed, some don’t and there’s two different ovens back here, so it’s a lot. I enjoy it because it challenges my mind and that’s important to me.  I still enjoy seeing the product when it comes out.  And smelling it too.

My afternoons, I spend a lot of time doing things at our church or missions trips.  We leave in a few days to go back to Haiti on our first trip of this year.  We missed getting over there in February, so I’m looking forward to next week.  One of these days, I wanna do some fishing again.

Please note: At the time of this posting, Mike and Doodle had just returned from their Haiti trip where they rebuilt homes and spread God’s message to those in the village of Carries, Haiti. Mike often preaches a sermon or two to the congregation.

Was there ever a technique you wish you’d mastered?

Let me tell you about that. I remember as a young kid, watching my dad bagging out eclairs. His were perfect- like everyone of them! He just ‘zoom’ ‘zoom’ ‘zoomed’, everyone of them-perfect.  And, when I tried to do it, mine looked like- well, I can’t even describe. They looked like they’d been in an accident.  But, then after about thirty years, something clicked. And, for the past twenty years, mine look nearly perfect like his.

I’ve been doing this a long time and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on most things by now.  There is one item, I’ve been trying recently.  That’s the Lobster tail.  My wife loves them, and I’ve never made them. So, for her, it’s an item I’m working on.

How do you stay abreast to current trends?

That’s what my daughters are for!  Staying involved in organizations, attending workshops are a great way to connect. Social media and TV shows have really enhanced the craft of the baker.

What are the advantages of running your own place as opposed to the bigger stores?

We can create something special for our customers that bigger companies cannot.  Some of these stores have such strict corporate rules that don’t allow tweaking. If the product doesn’t come out of the box the way the customer wants it, they can’t make it.  We can do whatever we want within our moral and legal code.

What are the disadvantages?

Employee benefits, I wish I could provide our staff with all the bells and whistles bigger companies offer.  Buying power, we certainly buy a lot, however, we pay more for ingredients than bigger companies.  Traffic flow is another disadvantage because we are more of a destination than a convenience. Facilities maintenance is another big one.

Mike Cinotti, Legends Interview, vintage Cinotti's Bakery, Jacksonville Beach

Mike and his wife, Doodle in the bakery in the 90’s

In terms of running your business, what aspects are most rewarding?

We have built up a very good name in this community.  Part of that is our product, part of that is how we run our business.  When I hear of the impact this business is making on the community or meet people I would never have met outside this bakery, it fills my heart.

We’re able to provide livings for over 30 employees working here.  We’re able to pay our staff a decent salary.  The financial impact we have on people’s lives is healthy.

With our younger staff, we’re able to mold them into great workers later in life. The work ethic we instill in them here is helpful in so many aspects of their future.

How would you say the baking industry has changed over the course of your life?

Back in the day, breads didn’t last a week. It used to be, early in the morning, ladies would come to the bakery, get product, and head back home to their families. Now, our speed of life is so busy, everything is fast food. Because of this, some people say our industry is dying, I’m here to say, no, I don’t think so. On the upside, however, social media and TV shows have put such a spotlight on our industry and craft, they see what goes into making a cake.  It allows people to appreciate what we do more.

“Some people say our industry is dying, I’m here to say, no, I don’t think so.”

What period of your life has been your favorite?

The past 20 years, absolutely. I enjoyed my childhood and got to spend quality time with my parents. Life is hard, but it’s good. When you’ve got your eternity wrapped up, it makes this pain of life a little easier. When  God got a hold of me 20 years ago, I became a different person.

I’ve fallen deeper in love with my wife. I work with my kids every day. I see my grandchildren. I love my church. I go on mission’s trips Haiti multiple times a year. Twenty years ago, I was hard; more of a vocal corrector rather than a loving corrector. Now, I’m a better listener, I live my life right.  My relationship with Jesus has changed me.

“Life is hard, but it’s good.  When you’ve got your eternity wrapped up, it makes this pain of life a little easier.”

Was there a time you wanted to give it all up?

There’s been a couple times when I wasn’t sure this was what I’m supposed to do.  It’ll wear you down, you get tired, but I don’t know that I ever wanted to give it up.

If you didn’t bake, what would you do?

Well, if I had the money, I’d be doing full time ministry.

If you could go back in time to give yourself advice, what would it be?

I’d tell myself to get in the bible earlier.  I’ve made wiser decisions when I seek God’s word first.

Do you have any knowledgeable nuggets for newcomers to the industry?

My dad used to tell me, ‘A good baker with a solid skill set can get a job anywhere in the world.’ I encourage those looking to get into this industry to work for several different places to learn different techniques and procedures.  Listen to others. You never know what little nuggets you’ll pick up.

“A good baker with a solid skill set can get a job anywhere in the world.”

Mike is clearly a man in love with his wife, family, faith, and business. Getting a deeper look into the man who’s worked hard for over 50 years has been such a treat. In part 3 of this Legend’s interview, we’ll take a look into the bakery’s most popular items and what inspired Mike and his team to create them.

If you’d like to inquire about Mike and Doodle’s efforts in Carries, Haiti or would like to donate goods to their cause, you can find information here:


Faith, Family, and Fruitcake. A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti Part 1

Faith, Family, and Fruitcake. A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti Part 1

Faith, Family, and Fruitcake. A Closer Walk with Mike Cinotti part 1

Mike Cinotti is a man revered both professionally and privately. His devotion to faith, family, and business is widely known. He responsible for so many elements of his successful bakery. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit with him this month to learn more about the various aspects of his life. In Part 1 of this interview, sitting in his small office at the bakery on Penman Road, Mike, opens up about his early years.

How old were you when you first started baking?

Up until I was about nine, I really just played around and ate the food. Then my dad started letting me help at the table. I can remember as a 10-year-old, my dad let me make a batch of rye bread.

How’d that turn out?

It actually turned out pretty well. But, at the age of 12, I was able to make cheesecake.  And I mean; I scaled it, mixed it, baked it and dumped it all by myself.  That was pretty cool. There I was, an eighth grader making cheesecake after school.

Why did you become a baker?

I have enjoyed this since my earliest memories.  If you’re gonna do something your entire life, there should be a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in it. This is what I do.  It’s what I enjoy… You know they say sometimes things are in your blood. I’m not sure about flour being in our veins, but it’s what our family does. It’s what we know. The Lord has blessed our hands and I enjoy it.  I especially love the aroma.  When I leave the bakery and come back, the aroma even from the parking lot is enjoyable.

If you’re gonna do something your entire life, there should be a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in it.

Were there any influential people in your life that helped propel your baking career?

My dad, of course.  But there also was a man, Mr. Draper, who was a flavor salesman for a company.  He had extensive knowledge of baking and consulted for many different companies. I was fortunate to know him and learn from him every time he and my dad got together.

We did get an opportunity to meet some bakers from around the country that were quite incredible. Gene Wilson in Georgia; Hanz Nadler in Texas; and Carl Poppingay over at Edgewood Bakery were very influential. And, when I was in Minnesota for a year in school, I worked for Cliff Meyers who added to my love of baking.

Did you go to school to learn the trade or are you self-taught?

Ninety-nine percent of what I learned from my father and from other bakers around the country. I did get the chance to go to Minnesota, to Dunwoody Baking School. It’s funny, I knew how to do almost everything they did there. What I didn’t know was the reasons behind some of the ingredient changes and the effects some of the ingredients had on each other and to the final product.  It was a great learning experience from the book side of it.  And, I got to make friends with other bakers, some of whom I keep up with even 40 years later.  But mostly, it was a great compliment to my father and those I grew up with, having taught me as much as they taught me when I got there at 17 ½ years old, to already have an incredible base for my industry.

Mike Cinotti, Legends Interview, Fruitcake,Cinotti's Bakery, Jacksonville BeachIf you could pick one product that you love to make start to finish, what would it be?

Well, it wouldn’t be fruitcake, that’s for sure!  I don’t think there’s one product in particular, but I really like the holiday special items we put out in November and December.  Rainbow Bars, that we don’t make every day.  They’re very colorful and tasteful.  I still enjoy making breads, but that’s because I like eating it too. You know, I do love apple strudel and making them.

So, I take it fruitcake is something you dislike making?

Not necessarily, fruitcake brings back so many memories from the late 60’s when my dad would let me help. Gosh, I never got to make the topping because that was the special part.  And I never got to do the packing part. But there was so much comradery involved in the process. Fruitcake, for me, brings back so many memories.  But, no, it’s not my favorite product to make. For me, it’s a personal thing. It has a different meaning.

Are there any elements of the craft of baking drive you crazy?

To be a successful bakery, you have to be more than just a successful baker. One of the things that bothers me is the abundance of pre-made baked goods readily available to those that call themselves bakers.  When all a person has to do is pull an item from the freezer, bake it and it’s done, that’s a big pet peeve of mine. What does that person do when the truck doesn’t arrive?  Or if a customer wants a variation of that product? Most people out there today are not trained to make these items from scratch.  While I understand the need for consistency, but heating up pre-made items is not an art.

To be a successful bakery, you have to be more than just a successful baker.”

What’s the main thing you want people to take from your product or business?

We try to create an environment that’s loving and enjoyable.  We have generations of families that come in.  The other day, a lady who wanted a picture of me holding her baby because she came in here as a little girl… That’s impactful.


In the world of prefabbed meals, it’s easy to see why people flock to the homemade works of art put out by Mike and his staff each day. Cinotti values quality over quantity in each item he and his team create. The love and respect he has for people and his community echoes through his family and staff. In part 2 of this Legends Interview, Mike brings us forward in time to discuss current issues facing his bakery and industry. For more information on Mike Cinotti and his team, head over to 1523 Penman Road in Jacksonville Beach, FL.  Once you taste the love from these pastries, you’ll understand why there’s a line out the door every day.