Sep 24, 2017 Last Updated 9:52 PM, Aug 24, 2017

Dessert Professional’s Top Ten Bread Bakers in North America 2015

Category: 2015 Honors

Dessert Professional magazine proudly presents the Top 10 Bread Bakers in North America for 2015.

Once again, Dessert Professional celebrates the world of artisan bread by naming our list of the Top Ten Bread Bakers in America. This group of distinguished bakers has mastered the art and technique of creating the perfect loaf—that elusive combination of flavor, texture and appearance. Though their backgrounds and approaches to baking may differ, one characteristic was common to all the bakers on our list: their willingness to share recipes and information and to teach others about their craft, with the communal goal of improving the quality of bread in America. Following is a short profile of each of our Top Ten Bread Bakers in America.

 

List of the Top Ten Bread Bakers 2015

 


Richard Bourdon

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Richard BourdonBerkshire Mountain Bakery

Owner: Richard Bourdon
367 Park St., Housatonic, MA
413-274-3412 • www.berkshiremountainbakery.com

 

Business profile: We are a retail wholesale operation established in 1986. 

How it all began: My mother made her own bread and I was her helper. She usually made a month’s supply, so it was a whole day project. Along with bread in all its forms, it was also baked bean day, which inevitably resulted in a festally affair, the fact being that I come from a family of ten.  

What you’re trying to do differently: After realizing that succeeding as a musician was looking grim and that in me lived a growing interest in understanding the correlation between food and well-being, I changed my focus by committing to bringing better food to this world. I was 21 or so years old then, and placed an ad looking for work saying that “I would work either as a farmer or baker, whoever calls first”; the baker called first! The rest is history. My approach to baking has always been to understand the food from the inside out. I live with the question “What is bread, how does it work, and what is it about it that makes it worth doing again?” Looks and taste are important, but digestibility is essential. When properly processed bread is recognized as valuable and welcome inside, then you hear the “tastes and looks great” comments.  

Bread varieties: From all whole grain to all white, some sweet, some savory, we make about 25 varieties. The most recent addition is a Polish rye, which comes in a twelve-pound round which we chunk up and sell by weight.

Favorite type of bread to make: Love them all, but at this time it’s the Polish rye.

Favorite bread to eat: Love them all, and at this time, can’t get enough of the Polish rye!

Bread philosophy: Same as my general philosophy on food, which is that we live on a planet where life feeds on life, yet no life wants to be eaten – now that is a dilemma! I am in agreement with the concept of better for better’s sake, this way whatever or whomever I eat, its life will not have been in vain. I do not go by the saying that “one becomes what it eats”; I go by “what one eats becomes him” – provided of course that it was digestible!! My job is to render grains digestible.

Signature breads: Our sunny flax and ciabatta.

Best compliment ever: That it is the best, and the unspoken smile of satisfaction.

Best part of the business: Satisfied customer and the sight of two thousand loaves of bread disappearing in five hours.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Farming at the Land Institute!

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I would be made of half whole wheat and half white flour, because it is light enough to be fun and heavy enough to be healthy!

What’s next: Through the years I have heard many say that our bread is different, and I know that there are things we do that not many will bother doing, because it is not financially lucrative or too difficult. We just opened our first satellite retail store where we also serve food (the best bread makes the best sandwich and wants the best soup). We are tweaking the model and hope to make it on the road. I started with a commitment to bringing better food, now I want to see lots of it! There is also a book inside of me that is bound to come out at some point in the not too distant future.

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? I am pleased to see lots of young aspiring bakers coming up with lots of good bread. I can see a shift towards more whole grain and there is no doubt that it is the only direction it can go. The 21st century is the one where we return to understanding good nutrition.

 

 


Keith Cohen

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Keith CohenOrwashers Bakery

308 East 78th Street, New York, NY 10075
212-288-6569 • www.orwashers.com

 

Questions answered by Keith Cohen

Business profile: We are an almost 100-year-old artisan bread bakery located on the Upper East Side of New York City. We have been making bread practically the same way since the bakery opened. We are staying true to the breads that the bakery was famous for: Rye, Pumpernickel, Challah etc. I have invigorated new life into the bakery with our Wine Breads and Levain Locale. To me it’s like owning a classic car that has been restored with a modern day engine. 

How it all began: In 1994 I was hired fresh out of college by this great bakery in Tribeca, NY. It was supposedly a sales job. It turned out to be that and a whole lot more. I learned the production end to be better at my sales job. I just never suspected that I would also have to do the overnight deliveries, too. 

What you’re trying to do differently: I am trying to work with local flours and different baking techniques. This is what differentiates me and makes the bread that much more special. We keep trying new starters, fermentation times, hydration and bake times. Any changes in these can create different bread nuances, hopefully.

Bread varieties: We make over 100 different types of bread from 19 different doughs. We use seven different starters/bigas to achieve our goals.

Favorite type of bread to make: I am partial to my Chardonnay Miche. It’s the first new bread that we produced when I took over the business and it really was such a great learning experience. 

Favorite bread to eat: Besides my staple of the Miche, Rustic, and Levain Locale, I enjoy other baker’s breads. I greatly appreciate the art of bread making and enjoy the different flavors they achieve.

Bread philosophy: I think bread really is the staff of life. When made in the traditional artisan way using the right flours, bread is really the cornerstone of a great meal. I think creating that perfect loaf is what inspires bread bakers all across the world.  

Signature products: I am really proud of our Wine Bread collection, Levain Locale, Ultimate 100% Whole Wheat, Morning Spelt, and Rye breads.

Best compliment ever: I get emails all the time from people that have moved out of NYC and ask me to send them loaves. They say it’s one of the biggest things they miss about NYC. When someone is willing to spend $30 on overnight shipping for a $6 loaf of bread, that says something!

Best part of the business: It’s a ton of work, constant vigilance. I would vacillate between creating new bread or doing a large production run of an existing product. The new stuff has all the fun of being new. The large run makes you really hone your skills as a baker and an owner. 

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? One of these days I might be able to take a day or two off. If I could do anything I would probably open a hot-rod shop. I love cars. I think my mechanical ability is what has given me the skills to be a great baker. 

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I might say I am the Levain Locale. I am a native New Yorker (the flour is from NY state). It is a complex blend of White, Rye, and Whole Wheat – kinda like me. It has presence, it’s an 8-pound loaf. 

What’s next: I want to bring my skills and my breads to a bigger audience with more retail shops that bake on-premise. Not the entire line, but select breads with room for experimental stuff. 

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? I think the industry is headed for some rocky times with the gluten-free trend. I think the best way we can counteract this is to produce all natural breads that use the time tested method of starters and sours and long fermentation times.

 

 


Tim Healea

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Tim HealeaLittle T Baker

Owner: Tim Healea
2600 SE Division St. Portland, OR 97202
503-238-3458 • www.littletbaker.com

 

Questions answered by Tim Healea

Business profile: Little T Baker is a modern neighborhood bakery. We specialize in creating innovative breads and pastries while still using traditional, time-honored methods, and we’ve been a favorite in our SE Portland residential neighborhood since opening in 2008. Little T is guided by four elements: “flour, science, hands, and heart.” With these, we bring together everything necessary for a high quality bakery—the best ingredients from as many local growers and purveyors as possible; professional knowledge of the fermentation process and baking science; a mastery of hand shaping skills; and a love and passion for baking. Mirroring the innovative products, both locations are designed around a clean, modern décor. Little T Division is the flagship store and production bakery, with large windows looking out onto SE Division, Portland’s most vibrant foodie street, whereas our new location at Union Way in Portland’s up-and-coming West End offers a slice of the bakery’s selection of bread, pastry and grab-and-go sandwiches.

How it all began: I started baking in 1998, while I was finishing up my culinary education at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE, formerly Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School) in New York City. I picked up a copy of Nancy Silverton’s Breads from La Brea Bakery, followed her instructions and was thrilled that I could make beautiful, handcrafted loaves of bread. I was instantly hooked, and moved to Portland immediately after graduating to pursue an internship at the pioneering Pearl Bakery. I stayed almost 10 years.

What you’re trying to do differently: I don’t know if it’s different, but I made a conscious decision to keep Little T primarily a small retail bakery. We limit the amount of wholesale we can do, and I have no plans to expand beyond our two current retail locations. With our current operation, we employ a total of 20 full-time workers, which is about the maximum number I can interact with personally on an ongoing basis. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to see a number of small businesses, and it seems to me that maintaining a positive, supportive work environment that includes a personal connection to the owner is really important to a smooth operation. When the owner’s not around or visible, I think people tend to feel like their work isn’t as valued, so morale and product quality suffer. It’s probably not the best strategy for financial gain, but it works for me.

How many types of bread do you make? We make about a dozen different types of bread. Besides our own takes on traditional baguettes, focaccia, pretzels and country levain, we rotate daily specials such as anadama bread, coffee rye, and teff sourdough. One of our most popular breads is a 100% whole grain spelt. I also encourage the bread bakers to experiment on the slower days, and they’ve made everything from beet hazelnut rolls to green pea bacon bread.

Favorite type of bread to make: Baguette. I could shape baguettes all day long. It’s so calming.

Favorite bread to eat: I admire all the work that goes into long fermentation breads, but I do have a soft spot for a good pretzel fresh from the oven.

Bread philosophy: As I mentioned above, good bread requires four essential elements: quality flour, a strong knowledge of fermentation and technique, refined hand skills and a lot of love and care.

Signature products: Cold fermentation baguette, whole grain spelt bread, pretzel rolls, croissants, seasonal fruit Danish and cheese brioche tarts.

Best compliment ever: A number of people I respect say we have the best baguette in Portland, and that to me is the highest compliment.

Best part of the business: The family of the bakery, and getting to make something everyday.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? I haven’t thought about it, so I’m not sure. I was working as a magazine editor in New York before I went to culinary school, but the print media isn’t really a great career option anymore. I do love to travel, so probably doing something where I could go around the world.

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I’m probably some kind of brioche, a softie and slightly sweet.

What’s next: I don’t really have a grandiose vision for what’s next. I like the routine of baking, and I like what we’ve built at Little T. We opened our second shop less than a year ago, so right now we’re focused on building our relationships in the new neighborhood and producing a quality product every single day. We are also working on keeping up with new sources of whole grains and alternative grains as local growers continue to plant and harvest them. Even in the past couple of years, we have many more options to choose from, and that’s exciting for us and for our customers looking for something new to try.

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? First, I think whole grain breads will continue to grow in popularity. I really hope so, because they are fun and challenging to work with and ultimately much more nutritious and better for you than the typical gluten-free products. Also, I see direct relationships between bakers and farmers growing deeper, especially in areas such as ours, where wheat and grains are grown so close by. Finally, I think we’re seeing a second (or maybe even third) wave of artisan bakers who are building on the pioneering work of the artisan bakeries that opened in the 80s and 90s. It’s exciting to be a part of the evolution of craft baking in the U.S. and around the world, really. The quality of bakeries in general is getting higher, and I credit the work of The Bread Bakers Guild of America and events such as the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie for spreading baking education around the globe. You can walk into an artisan bakery in Osaka or Beijing or Seoul and get a beautiful handcrafted croissant. That’s pretty cool.

 

 


Eric Kayser

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Eric KayserMaison Kayser

Owner: Eric Kayser
Multiple locations, including
1294 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021
212-744-3100 • www.maison-kayser-usa.com

 

Questions answered by Eric Kayser

Business profile: Maison Kayser now has over 100 shops in 20 different countries. The aim behind this wide network is to bring to the largest amount of people the traditional French bread one can find in our Parisian bakeries. More than simple retail bakeries, our shops are a comprehensive concept where we extend the scope of our activity to pastry, snacking and what is called the “Restaurant du Boulanger”. What I had in mind is a place where people can enjoy bread in all its forms: raw to take away, or as the centerpiece of an inventive and contemporary menu: fougasse, tartine, burgers, croutons in soups and salads…etc. 

How it all began: My father was a baker, my grandfather was a baker… For four generations we have been raised in a bakery with the passion of good bread. Basically I learned how to read in recipe books, and start counting by weighing flour. Since I was three years old I have naturally known I would perpetuate the know-how I inherited.

What you’re trying to do differently: When the first Eric Kayser Bakery was opened in Paris in 1996, the sector of artisanal bakery was going through a rough patch with the emergence of industrial bread. At this moment I was trying to offer a counterpart to the general pattern, to offer something more tasty and healthy with the use of selected flours and natural liquid levain instead of industrial yeast. Ours has a long proofing process rather than a high-productivity and industrial turnover rush.  

I also wanted to shake up the codes of the traditional bakery with more creative breads, new shapes, and new ingredients. The reactions were very positive! Since then Maison Kayser has continued to convey the image of the modern artisanal bakery. In 18 years of business I have never lost focus on these values that made Maison Kayser different and successful! 

Bread types offered: Our range of bread comprises of course the most well known traditional French breads such as the Baguette, the Tourte de Meule, the whole-wheat bread, and the rye bread, but bread is actually an unlimited field for investigation. Sweet or savory, almost every ingredient can be turned into bread. The real challenge is to find the right match. Every month I come up with a new recipe that goes with the tastes and moods of the moment. I easily source my inspiration from the many countries where Maison Kayser is present and try to integrate local culinary elements in our recipes –  Green Tea Ekmek, Marinated Chicken Ciabatta, Curcuma Pain de Mie, for example. Today our range counts over 60 recipes and is a beautiful mix of tastes and cultures. 

Favorite type of bread to make: Each bread we make is like a ritual. It all starts with the culture of the liquid levain. Then the preparation of the dough and the shaping requires the very specific kneading technique of the baker. I like to shape the baguettes, roll them as sticks, and observe how the dough retracts. After comes the time of proofing and baking where other senses like sight and smell come into play.

Favorite bread to eat: I can never say no to a fresh, delicious Baguette Monge, but sometimes I like to switch to something more exotic with the Curcuma Viennois bread, to name one. With whole hazelnuts inside, this soft bread is a subtle balance of texture and sweet and sour flavors. 

Bread philosophy: Three words: Authenticity, Patience and Creativity. Authenticity because I only use natural products, starting with the essence of the bread: The natural liquid levain. It is what makes the difference between common breads made with industrial yeast and ours. It gives the bread its unique texture and develops various flavors that you could not find in industrial breads. Patience, because I always repeat that a good baker must give time. A good bread dough must rest for 12 hours before baking. Many people think that this philosophy is not compatible with today’s rhythm. To me it is simply evidence that people need to return to the values of true taste and to the authentic process. Creativity, finally, because an artisanal bakery does not mean that we have to be stuck in tradition. We have to adapt to today’s tastes, liven up the range and modernize the image of the artisanal bakery. 

Signature products: The Baguette Monge is a best seller in almost every country we are in, and a signature product named after the street in Paris where we opened the first shop. It always brings me back to the first days. The Tourte de Meule is also an emblematic bread. Made of millstone grinded flour and hard levain, it shows the wide scope of our know-how. Besides breads, Maison Kayser is well known for the traditional croissant, for which we have received many awards. As for our breads we use natural liquid levain that gives it this unique puffy texture.

Best compliment ever: I have seen loyal customers coming every day for one, ten, eighteen years, to pick their favorite daily bread as part of a nice routine. Some told me they could not consider going home without stopping by our shop or even consider switching to another bakery. This loyalty and this proximity are a renewed compliment everyday. 

Best part of the business: The artisanal bakery is a business like none other. First, because what we do is giving and sharing pleasure with people. Every day at work I see craftsmen living their passion, and food lovers savoring good products. More than any other product, bread is a daily treat. Thinking that with simple ingredients – flour and water – we bring joy to people’s lives everyday. This feeling is priceless. 

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Traveling is my second passion. For sure if I had taken another direction, it would have somehow brought me around the world. I guess it comes from my very curious nature. But I don’t have any regrets. Today, I combine my passions by traveling from Japan to Chile, and from New York to Senegal and various destinations to follow the global activity and investigate potential new projects.

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I think I would see myself as the Squirrel Baguette: simple and spontaneous, with various contrasts of flavors and textures and special ingredients: sultanas and hazelnuts for the little touch of unexpected. 

What’s next: I am always looking for new challenges! Obviously, we will keep expanding as long as there are places with demand for good bread. Within the next year we will be opening in Mexico and Thailand, two very exciting projects. We will also intensify our snacking and restaurant activity, and continue to develop new recipes around bread. 

I am very glad more and more people in the world can value our know-how by tasting our products, but on the other side I wish more and more people could develop the passion of making bread and acquire the know-how of Maison Kayser. In the coming years I would like to concentrate my efforts on the training of young bakers from all over the world. 

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? I see the future as a strengthening of the trend which has existed since 2000 in the seeking of real taste and texture by the customers, and a return to the artisanal process and natural ingredients by the professionals. In 2014, everyone must face what is at stake regarding global nutrition and sustainable agriculture. The first Eric Kayser shop devoted to organic bread first opened in 1998. Last year we opened our first gluten-free bakery. I believe we will be the witness of significant changes in the coming years. Even the baking industry will have to follow the example of the artisanal bakery and integrate those new challenges and the commitments that come with them.

 

 


Keith Kouris

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Keith KourisBlue Duck Bakery Café

Owners: Keith & Nancy Kouris
30 Hampton Rd., Southampton, NY 11968
631-204-1701 • www.blueduckbakerycafe.com

 

Business profile: It’s an artisan bakery café, specializing in European-style artisan breads.

How it all began: I started making bread in 1985 as a young baker in a supermarket bakery; very basic and by artisan standards, very boring. I started making real bread in 1997. After reading Dan Leader’s book Bread Alone, I used all my accumulated vacation and sick time and enrolled in the European artisan bread course at the French Culinary in NYC. I was the only professional among 8 or 9 students, and was at first disappointed. However, the instructor was amazing and the curriculum was even better, and the experience inspired me to pursue my newfound passion of artisan bread making.

What you’re trying to do differently: The one thing I’ve learned is that I am always learning. There are very basic rules in creating artisan bread. Flour, water, fermentation and manipulation will create bread….any bread really. It is the manipulation of these “ingredients” that differentiate and define the artist. So we experiment with percentages and temperatures and variations of the ingredients to produce a consistent, successful loaf.

For Blue Duck Bakery, our challenge is to maintain our artisan standards while growing from a few hundred loaves daily to several thousand loaves daily. It is not only the end result we pursue, but the sense of pride we find on this daily journey.   

Bread varieties: Like most bread bakers, I have dozens of formulas I’ve created over the years. In our daily production we produce about two dozen different doughs, adding another dozen seasonal doughs throughout the year.

Favorite type of bread to make: I do love the baguette. It is the classic French bread and mastering its technique is the foundation of any good bread maker. My favorite, however, is rye bread. Working with rye flour is challenging. Incorporating different grains and using various hydrations keeps me on my game. 

Favorite bread to eat: While attending FCI in New York, I used to stop in Sullivan Street bakery every morning and buy two raisin walnut levain rolls. I would eat them as I walked from the subway to the school. I now make my own and when I have one, it takes me back to that moment and inspires me all over again.

Bread philosophy: I think bread might predate philosophy. It is very humbling in its simplicity. I just try to do it justice, not adulterate it with the concept of making it better. When you make it right, there is nothing better. 

Signature products: You can’t ask a baker that question….all my breads are signature products! However, based on sales, our various baguette products are most well-known.  

Best compliment ever: Well, there certainly are no bad compliments, so I enjoy them all. It is most satisfying when I have Europeans come and tell me our bread is better than home. Another was observing a young boy, maybe nine or 10 years old, buy a baguette at one of our farmer’s markets, walk over to a curb, sit and rip a chunk of baguette off and proceed to eat the entire loaf. I’m not sure an iPad could have distracted him.

Best part of the business: I spend a lot of time in the office and I appreciate seeing our business grow. But the best part is making the bread. I love to formulate. You can’t re-invent bread, but experimenting with hydrations, various sours, grains and add-ins is fun.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Spending time with my beautiful wife, Nancy, who has transitioned herself from a successful fitness career to managing our retail stores. She also handles our marketing and is responsible for naming our business, the Blue Duck Bakery Café. P.S.: she is also president. I also have three great children and two of the cutest grandkids ever! Golf, once in while, is nice too!

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I would be some kind of peasant bread….maybe a Pain de Campagne. It has a complex profile and very resilient. A dark textured exterior, but a creamy, well balanced crumb.

What’s next: We are looking to expand our production into a larger facility. It is critical we maintain our standards while we grow, so every decision regarding location, equipment, layout and personnel will be made based solely on quality. Our current facility will then be used to introduce a gluten-free line of breads for our current clients looking for additional options.

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? There are so many passionate artisans out there. Many illustrated by your amazing ‘Top Ten’ issues, past and present. But I do worry about the future of artisan bread baking. It is not an easy business. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work. It requires education and the patience to learn. Baking bread at home is far different than the business of baking bread or sweets. Even the most passionate artisan can succumb to the pressures of business. We need to educate our young passionate artisans about the reality of business. We don’t need to convince them about the joy of creating a successful loaf. They get that already. We need to harness their passion and prepare them for the journey. To appreciate the “ups” and overcome the “downs”…and yes, there will be both. If we fail in educating our aspiring artisans, I think we will see larger “artisan” facilities making frozen par-baked breads and distributing to supermarkets and discount food warehouses. Gloomy, right? Not all is gloomy, though. There will always be that passionate, local artisan creating wonderful, aromatic loaves and selling them in our local villages. When you find him or her, support them, talk with them. Listen to their passion and don’t forget to buy fresh and frequent, while they are still there.

 

 


Aileen Semenetz

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Aileen SemenetzHot Bread Kitchen

1590 Park Avenue, New York, NY
212-369-3330 • www.hotbreadkitchen.org

 

How it all began:  I was always interested in baking, which was the reason why I attended culinary school. My interest became more focused while working in the office of a well-known New York City bakery. I later transitioned to working with pastries and bread. Bread has been all-consuming ever since.

What you’re trying to do differently: At Hot Bread Kitchen we are gathering knowledge and sharing about bread from around the world. Many of our breads are based on recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. We put the process in writing and teach it to others. We are both learning established techniques from around the globe and preserving them.

Favorite bread to make: I enjoy working with Middle Eastern flatbreads. The possibilities are endless with bread types and ingredient combinations.

Favorite bread to eat? A brioche a tête straight from the oven with a coffee is near the top of my list.

Bread philosophy: Keep it simple. Try to source quality ingredients. Use natural starters whenever possible.

Signature products:  Hot Bread Kitchen is best known for its multi-ethnic breads. Our customers rave over Moroccan m’smen, a buttery, flaky flatbread, and our nixtamal corn tortillas are some of the best in the city. 

Best compliment: The best compliment is having my two-year-old daughter tell me she wants more of what I just baked.

Best part of the business: The long hours! Joking aside, I love being challenged physically and mentally when working. The process is spiritually rewarding.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Recently, my home stand mixer broke. I decided to fix it myself and found the process very enjoyable. Perhaps, I would turn that into a business to help aid all the home bakers out there with burned out mixers! 

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I would characterize myself as a miche. It’s versatile and is strong as a workhorse.

What’s next? I am continually exploring and trying to learn as much as I can about this craft.  I also love to spread that knowledge whenever possible.

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? There are more local bakeries popping up. It is very exciting. The local bakery is going to become a destination and fit into needs and traditions of the community. Downsizing of bakeries will mean fresher, more authentic bread, greater varieties and employ more bakers. I think this ancient tradition of turning flour to food is here to stay.

 

 


Ursula Siker

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Ursula SikerRising Hearts Bakery

Owners: Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin
10836 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
310-815-1800 • www.risingheartsbakery.com

 

Questions answered by Ursula Siker 

Business profile: We are an artisanal and allergen conscious bakery located in Culver City, California. We cater to gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, kosher and peanut-free clients. 

How it all began: Our bakery first started producing in November of 2009. I interviewed in 2012 based on some home baking photos I posted to Instagram (yes, really) and began as an entry-level sweets baker. I had never worked in a kitchen before and didn’t even know how to hold a piping bag, let alone understand the chemistry of alternative baking. Over the past two-plus years I have worked my way up and now oversee all kitchen production as well as being head of research and development for Rising Hearts. Long story short, everything I know I learned on the job.

What you’re trying to do differently: We are trying to provide a good gluten-free bread in varieties that I have yet to see elsewhere. Some of our more unique offerings include brioche, sorghum style sourdough, bagels, rye bread, even a ciabatta with fresh rosemary garlic spread baked right into it. That being said, our mission stretches beyond the quality of our bread. We make every effort to ethically source only the highest grade of ingredients. We want to help your taste buds and the planet!

Bread varieties: We make six styles of bread loaves: oat, millet, brioche, rye, pumpernickel and country white. In addition, we also make an array of specialty products such as bagels, breadsticks, pizza crusts, buns, focaccia, ciabatta, baguettes, dinner rolls, bialys, and even bake-at-home challah.

Favorite type of bread to make: Ciabatta, because it fills the bakery with the most fantastic aroma of garlic and rosemary.

Favorite bread to eat: Sorghum baguette. It’s our take on a sourdough and it is seriously so good. I’d recommend either eating it plain or slicing it up for a crostini. 

Bread philosophy: Patience and attention to detail is really important. While this is true for all bread, I find it especially true for gluten free. For example, where standard bread would use one flour, we use an array of starches, gums, powders, and flours just to successfully substitute that single ingredient. Essentially, there are a lot more steps to potentially mess up, so having a keen eye for detail and understanding the chemistry behind what you’re making is a must. I think you need to be a little bit of the mad-scientist-type to be successful at vegan gluten-free baking.

Signature products: Our brioche and our millet breads are among our most popular. The brioche comes in several different styles: dinner rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, and loaves. It’s sweet and airy and nothing you would expect from vegan gluten-free bread. Our millet is by far our most popular loaf for restaurants. It’s hearty and holds up well against any sandwich but also offers a slight sweetness accompanied with a great texture. 

Best compliment ever: The standard response is, “This is gluten free?! There’s no way this is gluten free,” but I think the best one I’ve heard happened about a year ago. A woman came in and tried a sample of one of our cinnamon raisin bagels. She started tearing up a bit and had to excuse herself because she hadn’t had anything that even closely resembled a bagel in eight years. Those sorts of moments are exactly why I love doing what I do. We get to provide a service for people who really need it and honestly, I think my team is pretty great at doing just that.

Best part of the business: The fact that my business is BREAD! I get to work with my hands for a living and then I get to eat what I made?! I think I still can’t believe that this is what I get to do every day; maybe in a couple more years it will finally sink in.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Well, I majored in Religious Studies with an emphasis on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, then I worked at a coffee chain for a number of years, then Rising Hearts! So basically I have no idea. I definitely lucked-out finding my career this early on (I’m just shy of 24), so at this point I can’t picture life outside of the bakery. 

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? Sourdough, hands down. I’ve been known to be pretty tough on the outside but I’d say deep down I’m a softie—just with a little “sourcasm” thrown in.

What’s next: This year we are greatly expanding our wholesale production. We just purchased a larger wholesale facility and are hoping to launch our bread nationally within the year, especially within markets and grocery stores. In our retail facility we just installed a new oven with double the baking capacity so we can ramp up production for our walk-in customers as well. Personally, the main thing I’ve been focusing on lately is completely veganizing our menu. All of our breads are already vegan (as well as gluten-free and soy-free) but there are still a couple of sweets I’m trying to tackle. 

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? First of all, there has been a huge boom in alternative baking that is only growing larger every day. I’m also definitely seeing more of a focus on ancient grains such as quinoa and millet flour, which is exciting because I always love messing around with unusual ingredients to make a unique and interesting product. This is a really great time to be in our niche of the industry and I’m just so excited to see what lies ahead.

 

 


Mark Stambler

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Mark StamblerPagnol Boulanger

Owner: Mark Stambler
3001 Maxwell Street, Los Angeles, CA 90027
323-913-1667 • www.stamblersbread.com

 

Questions answered by Mark Stambler

Business profile: A small, home-based boulangerie that uses traditional methods and ingredients to make breads one would find in the French countryside.

How it all began: I began baking bread while living in Boston in the 1970’s. It has evolved considerably since then, however.

What you’re trying to do differently: I’m proud to say that I am a home baker. I use only my home kitchen to make the bread that I sell to my customers throughout Los Angeles. Until 2013, this was illegal in California. In 2011, I was busted by the Los Angeles County Department of Environmental Health for selling my homemade bread. I worked hard over the next 18 months to help write legislation and secure its passage by the California legislature. In 2012, the bill passed and the governor signed it into law. It went into effect in January 2013, and I became one of the first people in the state to obtain a license to sell homemade food. Now, thousands of Californians have permits to take advantage of this new cottage food law, starting small, home-based food businesses. Within the context of working in a home kitchen, I make my bread by hand, except for the milling: I have a small stone mill with which I produce the whole-grain flour that is an important component of every loaf. I work in very small batches, I work alone, and I am not interested in greatly expanding my business. 

Bread varieties: I only make four types of bread, all variations on the theme of wild leavening, long fermentation, and freshly milled whole grains: pain au levain, rye, and two miches, including the L.A. Miche, the first bread in more than a century to be grown, milled, and baked in the greater Los Angeles area.

Favorite type of bread to make: Right now, the L.A. Miche: it’s the easiest and the dough, due to the wonderful local wheat, is magnificent.

Favorite bread to eat: Pain au levain, right from the oven.

Bread philosophy: My approach, as much as possible, is exactly the opposite of modern, factory-based bread-making techniques: Use only four ingredients – grain, water, salt and wild yeast. Use only the best ingredients, including freshly stone-milled whole-grain flours. Know as much as possible about your ingredients. Work slowly and by hand; give the preferments, doughs, and loaves long, cool fermentations. Do as little to the dough as possible. Let the yeast and bacteria do the work. Bake in a traditional oven. Work for richness of flavor rather than perfection of appearance.

Signature products: I bake so few products I like to think that each bears my “signature.” None resembles the loaves that emerge from large bakeries using modern equipment and techniques. 

Best compliment ever: Jordan Kahn, the chef at the renowned Los Angeles restaurant Red Medicine, told me that one of my loaves was “possibly the best I have ever eaten.”

Best part of the business: The moment I pull the loaves from the oven.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Reading, hiking with my wife, and, occasionally, daydreaming about bread.

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? Traditional. 

What’s next: I am working on a fifth variety of bread, which, while using the same ingredients, adds a layer of complexity to the process. In terms of bread-baking in Los Angeles, as a founder of the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, an affinity group with about 1,000 members, I am working to secure a bread-baking space that can be used as a teaching facility and a community-based bakery. The idea is to raise the quality of bread in Southern California, one of the most profoundly diverse regions of the country when it comes to cuisine. We’re making headway.

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? I hope that boulangers will pay more attention to and ask more questions about their grain and flour: what variety of grain is it, who grew it, and where and when was it grown? Who milled it, and when and how was it milled? I also hope that there will continue to be a shift towards using whole grain in as many baked products as possible: it’s time to demonize white flour!

 

 


Tissa Stein

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Tissa SteinTabor Bread

5051 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR
971-279-5530 • www.taborbread.com

 

Business profile: Tabor Bread is a neighborhood bakery with a mission to produce good, simple, nourishing, flavorful food. We start with the bread and we try to reference everything else we do back to this.

How it all began: I started making bread as a homemaker and mother and became more serious about it about 20 years ago. I had the good fortune to meet Alan Scott, a wood-fired oven designer and baker who lived and worked in my neighborhood in California. He delivered bread weekly and I became a customer on his route. This led to Alan building me a backyard wood-fired oven.

What you’re trying to do differently: Our bread is predominately whole grain and we mill our grains in-house for maximum freshness and nutrition. We then bake the long fermented, naturally leavened doughs in a wood-fired oven for moist crumb and flavorful crust.

Bread varieties: We have a basic menu of about five breads plus a daily special that rotates weekly. We also have something we call Mountain Bread which is a very popular fougasse-shaped, single serving bread filled with seasonal veggies, cheese and olives or herbs. We do a selection of pastries made with a percentage of our house-milled whole grain flour and reduced sweetener, for a delicious and relatively more substantial pastry experience.

Inspiration: My inspiration for the bakery was the bread that Alan made 25 years ago. The loaf that most closely resembles that is our red wheat boule made from 100% fresh milled red wheat (half red fife, an heirloom red wheat, and half red winter wheat). I love all our breads but I always come back to this one. For me it is the quintessential loaf.

Best compliment ever: I think the thing that I most love to hear from my customers is that our product has “brought me back to bread.” Because our bread is made from non-hybridized grains and then long fermented – allowing the gluten to break down in the process – it is more easily digested and folks who have been sensitized to wheat are often able to eat it. I also love to see small children respond to the taste of our bread. Their faces say it all. I think there is something primal that they recognize.

Best part of the business: Having the bakery allows me to share something that I love and that has nourished me and that I have some real history with. I really had no idea the enthusiasm that it would be greeted with. That has been a lovely surprise. There was a hunger out there and somehow miraculously, I have been able to offer something to satisfy that hunger, and it is very gratifying.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? Dancing Argentine tango! We have a formal tango event called a milonga at the bakery once a month, so I haven’t abandoned it completely.

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? I think that given all the recent attention to gluten and health and farming sustainably, there will be more and more bakeries working with non-hybridized whole grains and long fermentation. There is so much to be gained by doing so! I would to think Tabor Bread is setting a standard in the area and that others will follow.

 

 


Robert Tell, Master Chef

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Robert Tell, Master ChefFIKA

Owner: Lars Akerlund
66 Pearl St., New York, NY, 10004
646-837-6588 • www.fikanyc.com

 

Questions answered by Master Baker Robert Tell

Business profile: I am a proud member of the dedicated FIKA team. We are a company born from a Swedish heritage and concept, raised in New York. At the moment we have 10 physical locations in Manhattan, along with an online shop. All locations get daily deliveries of the freshly made breads and pastries that my team and I bake every day. This year represents a very exciting time of expansion for FIKA, with several more Manhattan locations planned throughout the year; one of them our “FIKA Tower” – a two story building that will house a state of the art new open bakery, head office, coffee training facility and event space.

How it all began: When I was 16, my best friend and his dad ran a small local bakery in my hometown in Sweden. When my friend’s dad needed to take a summer vacation, I was asked if I wanted to help out. Without any previous experience, I decided to give it a go and discovered that I not only completely loved it, but also had a natural talent for it. When summer came to an end, I applied to baking school and was accepted. From that day on, my passion for baking has only grown. After graduating from school, I went on to work in many different types of bakeries, among them seasonal, industrial as well as some of Stockholm’s top-tier establishments. I’m fortunate to have seen and mastered many different sides of the industry, as it taught me many valuable lessons. The one lesson I’m most grateful for learning is to always think “quality over quantity”.

What you’re trying to do differently: Darker bread – I’m trying to put more effort and focus on bread that is harder to find in NYC, like real rye bread, handmade sourdough crisps, and a full bodied whole wheat apricot & raisin loaf, and long term fermentation on all of my baked goods to let all flavors come together in perfect harmony. Naturally, every baker and bakery has their own unique way of baking. The fact that at FIKA we are baking classic Swedish and Scandinavian breads already gives us a unique viewpoint in New York. For me, mixing every dough to perfection and maintaining top quality in everything I produce is most important. There are bakeries who prefer to have that “home baked” look to their breads and pastries. My goal and personal challenge has always been the opposite. I want everything to look identical, almost machine made, but of course always made by hand from scratch. I think that when you can achieve that, you have great skill. To work with something as alive as bread and exercise enough control to make it look and taste the same day after day – that’s perfection for me.

How many types of bread do you make? Currently, we offer 12 types of bread. These breads are used to make our delicious sandwiches, as a complement to our daily soups and sold retail as whole loaves in our FIKA stores. Once our new bakery is up and running, we plan to expand our offering to approximately 20 to 30 different types of breads, baguettes and rolls. That may seem like a large number, but we have many great recipes and seasonal Scandinavian breads that I want to share with America!

Favorite type of bread to make: It’s a bit like children, you love them all equally. All breads are very different, so they are all fun to make in their own way. Baking with natural starters like sourdough and levain makes every day feel like a new day and adventure.

Favorite bread to eat: That depends on the occasion, but it’s tough to beat a fresh thick slice of Kavring with a little butter and a strong matured/stored cheese, like our Swedish Vasterbotten cheese. The combination of the sweet bread with the saltiness from the cheese and the creaminess from the butter never gets boring!

Bread philosophy: Bake with love and care, and have a real respect for your profession. When you show your products love, they will love you right back. Bread and its components are living organisms after all, and absolutely capable of love. Going one step further, that love should translate and spread to your customer, so can return double amounts of love and respect your way!

Signature products: Our Swedish Kavring is one of our many unique breads that showcase the craftsmanship involved in bread making. From start of creation to store shelf, you are looking at a three-day process. 

Best compliment ever: The highest compliment is always getting live reactions from our customers. I specifically remember an in-store bread tasting, during which there was a woman who was a food critic, who literally could not stop eating or barely form a sentence. She expressed to me that she was blown away by my bread and that she had never before tasted a bread with so much flavor. Those moments make you feel pretty damn good.

Best part of the business: That I get to be creative, and can apply my knowledge and skill to face all the various steps, challenges and difficulties throughout the bread making process. I’m there when my sourdough is fed, when the dough is mixed to the exact point I want it, I observe the long hours during the fermentation stage until the bread is ready to be baked, and still keep focus and have the knowledge of when to put the bread in the oven to get the best results. I’m mastering all these components knowing the bread I am creating will become a part of our customers’ lives and bring smiles to their faces and bellies.

If you weren’t making bread, what would you be doing? I would probably have pursued my second biggest passion, which is skiing. You would most likely find me working and skiing in some mountain resort – chasing powder. And eating great bread, of course.

If you had to characterize yourself as a type of bread, what would you be? I share certain qualities with a nice and robust multi grain loaf. I’m a combination of many different ingredients – there’s a sweetness to me from the dark syrup, I can be a little bit sour in the mornings, from the sourdough, I’m healthy (at least trying to be) from all the seeds, grains and fibers. The combination hopefully makes for a balanced, complex and interesting baker!

What’s next: Our goal ahead is to continue to further develop the FIKA bread & pastry department. With the expansion at hand, no one is resting on their laurels, but instead going to work every day thinking of how we can be better and do more. It’s an exciting time! We look forward to expanding our bread and pastry selection throughout the year, and also rolling out our wholesale program. Holiday time is approaching rapidly which means adding all the classic Swedish holiday recipes to our assortment. I look forward to the smell and taste of saffron, cloves, ginger, and roasted nuts spreading in our new bakery!

What direction do you see the bread baking industry heading? I feel that there is a great new excitement and appreciation for the craft emerging. It’s growing increasingly popular for young men and women to become bakers and pastry chefs, and in many ways the industry as a whole is moving forward with new products, flavors and raw ingredients. At the same time, I feel that there is a real desire to bring things back to the basics. Real ingredients, made fresh, just the way it used to be and just the way it should be. It’s great to see more small bakeries pop up, making people buy local and fresh instead of buying mass produced breads that have been shipped across the country. 

 

 


2015 Hall of Fame Inductee:

Peter Reinhart, CCP

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Peter Reinhart
Peter Reinhart. Photo by Ron Manville

Peter Reinhart is the author of ten books, including the winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (as well as James Beard Foundation’s) Book of the Year Award for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (2002). His most recent book, Bread Revolution, was released in October, 2014.

His books have also won two other James Beard Awards: Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor (2008), and Crust & Crumb (1997). Another book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday, was also nominated for a James Beard Award. His other books include the best selling American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza (2004), and in 2012 he released, The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking. His early books, Brother Juniper’s Bread Book: Slowrise as Method and Metaphor; Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Café; and Bread Upon the Waters all explore the relationship between bread, culture, and religion.

Peter is the full time Chef on Assignment at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC, where he teaches courses on baking, as well as on food and culture. In addition to writing and teaching, as the owner of Reinhart Culinary Development, Peter is also a product developer and consultant for a number of major international food companies, appears regularly on television and radio shows, is a culinary and keynote presenter at conferences around the world, and is also the host of the popular video website, PizzaQuest.com. He is the consulting partner at Pure Pizza, Charlotte’s first organic, farm to table pizzeria, and also serves on a number of local non-profit boards, including The Seventh Street Public Market, and also The Community Culinary School of Charlotte, a training program for people who have experienced barriers to employment. 

 


 

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