Meet the Seattle man behind the world’s most prestigious espresso machines. The handmade espresso machines produced by La Marzocco have received worldwide praise since the Florentine company was founded in 1927.
More than 30 years ago, a Seattle entrepreneur named Kent Bakke traveled to Italy to glean a little firsthand wisdom about espresso machine production and distribution. Today he is the CEO of La Marzocco, a position that allows him to share his company’s sophisticated products with espresso connoisseurs around the world.
What initially brought you to Seattle?
I came to Seattle in 1970 to go to Seattle Pacific College. My older brother and sister had also attended Seattle Pacific University. I came from a small town in central California, so the big city of Seattle was appealing.
What are some of the fondest memories from your days as owner of Pioneer Square eatery Hibble and Hyde’s?
[Laughs, then furrows brow trying to think] The people I met. Because of Hibble and Hyde’s I got interested in espresso machines and coffee. As a result, I met my first lifelong coffee friends there.
When did you begin working with espresso machines?
The first espresso machine I ever saw was at Hibble and Hyde’s. It worked. Sort of. It was a Victoria Arduino – a vertical boiler, two-group espresso machine. It had a grinder with it that did work. We did serve coffee on it: espresso for 25 cents, cappuccino for 35 cents. On a busy day I’m sure we served at least five beverages.
The steam valves were leaking so that was probably my first foray into figuring out how it worked. I probably called my friend John Blackwell, who is still one of my business partners, to have him help me fix the machine.
Is it true that you taught yourself to repair and maintain espresso machines?
I was self-taught because there was no one else who knew more than I did in the Seattle area – at least that I was aware of. There were just a handful of espresso machines in Seattle, including the one at my restaurant. I was very curious about how the machines worked. Espresso machines were certainly simpler back then, but there were also fewer ways to learn about them. There was no Internet, no instruction manuals, no repair manuals, nothing to tell me how the thing worked. But the systems were easy enough to generally figure out.
Today all of those resources are online and there are lots of highly skilled technicians, and trainings (La Marzocco offers technical training to customers). The machines are more complex, but a lot of the basic designs – the theory – are still intact and consistent among major manufacturers.
Excerpted from Seattleite Magazine
us-espresso-machines in a story by Brad Nehring posted on June 27, 2013 – See more at: www.seattleite.com