Third-generation Clasen graduates culinary school, joins the family bakery

MIDDLETON, Wis.– 24-year-old Tony Wuesthofen doesn’t bear the family name, but he’s certainly inherited the family talent.

The new culinary school graduate is starting his professional career as Clasen’s European Bakery‘s newest employee, joining his mother and grandfather’s namesake business.

“I didn’t just go to school for baking, I went for hospitality,” Tony said. “And hospitality means caring for the people around you.”

It’s the Clasen family way, and the business style Tony’s grandpa, Ralph, established, when he founded the bakery in 1959. At the time, he was Tony’s age.

Ralph’s daughter, Michelle, joined the business in her twenties, too, and sees a lot of herself in her son.

“He’s determined,” said Michelle. “He has an eye for quality. He’s a hard worker. And he’s ambitious.”

Tony is happy to be home in the place he grew up making memories, jokingly recalling the times he and his brother would get on the loudspeaker, or race shopping carts and crash into unsuspecting customers around the store.

“I remember coming in here a lot,” said Tony, adding this time, he’s a little more focused.

“It’s not just me on the line with this,” he explained. “There are 40 employees.”

After growing up in a bloodline of bakers, you may think: ‘What else would Tony be?’

But after Michelle’s older son and daughter passed on the family business, she seriously considered selling.

“I always told my kids: you have to do what you love and the money will come later,” she said, noting she’s proud Tony’s passion aligned with her and her father’s.

At 82-years young, Ralph still reports to Clasen’s five days a week, often serving as ‘quality control manager,’ taste testing the coffee cakes, breads, and quiches he created, while encouraging Tony to dream up his own.

“The biggest piece of advice I would give Tony is to continue what we have and add to it,” Ralph said, proudly gesturing to his youngest grandson. “He has a lot of good ideas. Some may work and some may not.”

Now, it’s up to Tony to add his name to the family legacy.

“I’ve always felt like a Clasen,” he said, with a smile. “Maybe in 30 years, we’ll be getting ready for a fourth-generation to join.”

READ MORE: ‘This is for the future’: How Michelle Clasen rebuilt her family-owned bakery during the pandemic