Tehachapi's very own authentic German bakery recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
Kohnen's Country Bakery first opened its doors in 2004, but its traditions, recipes and practices date all the way back to 1683.
It was during that year that a baker in Vienna earned the European guild mark of lions defending and upholding the crown that most bakeries still use today. Unbeknownst to the sleeping citizens of the great city, the Turks had come up with a strategy to invade Vienna by tunneling under its walls during the night. But what they had not planned on was a baker at work in the basement of his shop preparing pretzels and bread for the coming day. It was the baker who heard the faint sounds of tunneling, warned the city and saved Vienna.
After the triumph, Vienna bakers were rewarded with extra rations of flour to bake what has since become one of the most popular pastries in the world — the croissant. It was this same baker who started to form the popular layered pastry into the crescent shape depicted even today on the Turkish flag. It is said the city celebrated its victory by devouring its enemy.
Owners Thomas and Colleen Kohnen carry on the same traditions today. Up well before dawn, it is Thomas and his staff who work through the night to prepare hundreds of baked goods from scratch. They knead, roll, toss and twist each pretzel, loaf and pastry into their iconic shapes while standing guard over Tehachapi.
He first learned these trades at the age of 15 when he took an apprenticeship as a Konditor (confectionist) at the Franz Bergendahl Bacherrei in his homeland of West Germany. After three years as an apprentice, he became a tested and proven journeyman. At the age of 22, Thomas was offered the opportunity to go on a training program in the United States and found himself in Ventura County where he met and married Colleen. Shortly after, they bought the famed Bill Baker Bakery in Ojai and operated it for 15 years before moving to Tehachapi.
The bakery has become a popular favorite of local folks and tourists alike, and has since expanded to include a dining space where patrons can feast on sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread and handcrafted soups served in bowls of bread.
The three top favorite items that Kohnen's struggles to keep in stock are their eclairs, lemon bars and zucchini bread. Currently, Kohnen's employs a staff of 28, including six bakers, and is open seven days a week.
Kohnen's Country Bakery is located at 125 W. Tehachapi Blvd. For more information, call 822-3350 or visit kohnens.com.