Please Don’t Hate Our Food
January 8, 2014
Last week we had a joint meeting of the apprentices and staff.
“Staff,” you might ask? We are a couple of months away from opening but we do have staff. Not yet on payroll, still in their current jobs – but committed to coming to Bread Furst.
With all that is happening with permits and construction, with the leaky roof and wall, I haven’t forgotten – none of us has – that the purpose of all this is to be there everyday with good breads, desserts, and foods for you. It does seem a little odd, therefore, that I have written about architects and the D.C. government, airplane trips to buy ovens, and demolition of the space, but have not written about food.
We talked about that the other day.
Our discussion was led by Maiya Lay. She is one of the apprentices and in real life is sous chef of Doi Moi, the new and popular Southeast Asian restaurant on Fourteen Street, the latest production of Mark Kuller who earlier opened Proof and Estadio. Maiya’s ambition, her hope, is to open sometime a Cambodian restaurant or food store.
She’s very young and I am not; and I am aware all the time that as I am old now, this will be my final business. So I am immersed in menu development as I want even more than in the past to offer breads, foods, and pastries that I love.
Maiya is drawn to southeast Asian flavors, of course, and Michael, another of the apprentices, is half Moroccan; Michelle is Korean; Violeta is Argentinian. So all brought to the discussion some of the cultural richness that we’d like to have in the foods we offer to you.
Of course, we’ll make croissants and Danish for breakfast, but I want to offer some foods a bit more out of the mainstream like egg sandwiches with vegetables, a non-sweet coffee cake, some porridges with savory additions.
Don’t be alarmed. We are going to make scones and donuts too.
Anyway, we talked that day about the breads we will make and the pastries. We talked about spreads for bread. We ruminated about soups, sandwiches and salads for lunch and dinner foods for take-away.
We think our new neighbors will stop by in the morning as you walk to the Van Ness Metro stop. Indeed, as we have 20 parking spaces off the alley in the rear of the store and think some auto commuters will stop by too.
Everyone except me thinks you will come for lunch too, and so we talked about soups, salads, and sandwiches. Peanut soup. Minted pea soup. A chicken and chopped liver sandwich. A salad of bulgur wheat, dates, almonds, olives, fennel.
I am determined to offer breads, desserts, and foods with character. I really dislike bland food.
It’s a tradeoff. We are going to make foods that you from time to time won’t care for. That’s the way it is with foods of character.
I just don’t know how else to be in the food business. If I try to imagine foods my customers will like, I get lost. If I make foods that I like, I can be proud of them and learn what my customers like.
I am particularly committed to cooking foods with character for take-out in the evening. I never buy foods offered by markets to customers who want prepared foods for their dinners at home. (How many potato wedges can a man eat?)
Of course, we discussed desserts and other sweets, our ice cream and chocolates and our soda fountain.
A soda fountain? A little odd, perhaps, to put into a bakery. But what a wonderful treat for the neighborhood.
Finally, the breads – whole grains, ancient grains, baguettes baked every four hours, Palladin’s bread that I have made for 25 years ever since Jean Louis invited me to make a special bread for him.
We’ve launched into recipe testing and that will continue for the duration. As we are starting with soups, I made a large pot of chicken stock and one of vegetable stock so that staff and apprentices have stocks for testing their recipes.
Does all this sound like fun? It really is especially since all the rest of my time is given to getting a permit to build, waiting for Pepco to help us with our electrical upgrades, and all the other vital tasks of construction.