Table Talk

For the Love of Food

By Karen Ott Mayer  |  Photography by Adam Mitchell

Bazar’s Bakery in Hernando mixes the right ingredients of family and fun to bring specialized keto menus and comfort foods during hard times.

The name says it all: Love. When walking into Bazar’s Bakery in Hernando, Miss., owned by Bill and Brenda Love, it’s hard to tell where family stops and business begins because the entire restaurant revolves around family.

Originally from Greenville, Miss., the Loves found Hernando, and eventually the restaurant, because of their daughter’s disability.

“One of our children, our daughter, is disabled and needs care,” says Brenda Love. “We found a school here with nurses. It’s been a Godsend.”

Bazar’s was first opened by Laura Bostain and Donna Azar in May 2019 and acquired by the Loves in January 2020. Working for herself allows Love to take care of both her family and her customers. Love describes the menu as “comfort food” and wants Bazar’s to be as family friendly as possible. In fact, there’s a playroom for her daughter when she’s on-site.

While the name might imply baked goods only, Bazar’s is a full-service restaurant with a bakery serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Originally from Indiana, Bazar’s Chef Michael Stotler trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif. His wife and four children chose Hernando four years ago to be closer to family.

Stotler came about his second career after his initial 13-year career in the Army.

“I didn’t cook at all,” he said. “I actually got interested watching my wife’s mother who would cook Sunday dinner from scratch. When I was discharged, I decided I’d like to study cooking so we moved from Colorado to California.”

Love and Stotler have worked closely together throughout the year to keep the doors open. Even before the pandemic, Love had re-organized the restaurant and revisited the large menu Stotler helped create. Able to seat about 100 people, Bazar’s faced the same challenges as most other restaurants when the spread of COVID-19 dictated social distancing measures.

“We immediately started doing take-out casseroles and they were really popular,” she says. “In fact, Michael continues to make them today although the restaurant dining area reopened. He creates a keto and regular version for every casserole.”

Many customers come to Bazar’s for the keto dishes. Ketogenic diets focus on low carbs, no sugars, and are gluten-free. “It’s probably 70-to-75 percent of what we serve,” Love says. “With our clientele, it’s keto, keto, and keto.”

At Bazar’s, menu items may have some dairy. “We are conscious of our diabetics and those who have celiac disease,” she adds.

The extensive menu, however, offers something for everyone. Even favorite dishes like the French toast or creme brûlée, that were taken off the main menu, return as specialty items.

“The Avocado Smash Toast and the Monte Cristo sandwich are two of our favorites,” Love says. “And the Bazar Classic breakfast with eggs, meat, grits or hash browns is still popular with guests.”

Other popular items are the homemade pimento cheese with crispy bacon, omelets, and breakfast burritos. But the real giant? “The Bazar Bowl is a mix of grits, hash browns, eggs, and all smothered with sausage gravy. Guests love it.”

At the opposite end of the day, guests can enjoy a steak, whether a filet, ribeye, or strip. Love says they’re also known for their crab cakes and homemade sauces like remoulade. “People love our crawfish dip which is served hot with crostini bread,” she enthuses.

Likewise, Stotler enjoys Friday and Saturday night dishes. “I spend a lot of time frying eggs so I like to get a chance to cook a signature steak or dinner,” he says. He also makes something called a chaffle, a cheese-and-egg-based dish. “We have chicken Rotel and cheeseburger chaffles.”

On Sundays, guests line up for the crepes or steak and eggs.

Stotler makes a different soup every day, and he believes it’s an overlooked choice. Soups are available for carry-out and sold in pints or gallons. “I change with the seasons so now we’re making chili and stews, something hearty during the colder months,” Stotler says. “It’s (the carry-out) a great way to stock the freezer.”

Delicious dishes aside, Love’s business philosophy is believing first in people. “I surround myself with people who are capable. When Michael came, I handed him the keys to the restaurant and said you’re in charge of the kitchen and he runs it.” Bottom line, she adds, “I really want mom and dad to come eat, and I want it to be affordable for families.”

As for pandemic restrictions, indoor dining is currently the only option other than take-out. Guests can choose to wear masks and social distance. Stotler says it’s been tough but safety comes first.

“Our prized possessions are our customers,” she says. “We have tailored our services and listen to our customers, especially now.”

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