Going to the Guru

June 16, 2014

This, my first essay in some time, is an open letter to Steve Jenkins.

You may not know his name but food people do as he really invented artisan cheese in America.  Well, that is to say he was the first person I know about who began to import really good cheeses from Europe and market them effectively to people who then became cheese-eaters.  He did that with other specialty foods too and has been for more than 30 years a champion of good food.

So I wrote to Steve this morning:

Dear Steve:

Bread Furst has been open for six weeks now.

We have beautiful shelving on the wall facing our service line.  Old reclaimed wood, thick boards mounted against a white brick wall and as you can see we are doing very little with those shelves.  A few jams, honey, some Italian Nutella, mustard, the usual but hardly up to the creative standards of Steve Jenkins.

This is a bakery, a neighborhood bakery.  We make food of course because I have a butterfly mind and the neighborhood likes us to make food.  Sandwiches and salads and starting this week some dinner dishes for people to take home.  We have a bit of charcuterie and a nice little selection of cheeses.


We have a huge reach-in refrigerator that arrived weeks ago from Italy new but needing repairs.  When it is repaired we will produce more foods for take-home, a wide selection of spreads for breads that in the past customers have liked a lot — and I do too.

We’ve also started our pickling and canning program and all summer long we’ll make jams from local fruits and pickle vegetables.

But this is a bakery, a neighborhood bakery and I don’t want to lose the character of a bakery and become a food store with breads and pastries.  So the question I raise with you is what shall we do with all that shelving, the shelving behind the line, the shelving in the customer area.  Some of it will get occupied by our pickles and jams but not all of it.


I could go to New York for the fancy food show at the end of the month to look for other people’s foods but I know I will be overwhelmed by jams and mustards and candies and crackers and will be even more uncertain, if not nauseated.   I’d rather hear what you have to say.

Second question:  What do you think we should do with that deli case, the one pictured above.  Philippe (my son) thinks we should fill it with pastries so that customers have time to linger over them as they wait to order.  That means our charcuterie and cheese would be consigned to a little display case at the front and/or to the reach-in — when it is functioning.

“So what?” Philippe says, “You’re a bakery.  Why bother with that stuff anyway.  You’re not selling very much of it.”

So I appeal to you, Steve.


You know more about display (among other things) than anyone else and you are not known to be shy with opinions, even wrong-headed political ones.
What should we do?



  1. Olga Boikess says:

    I very seldom buy foodstuffs at restaurants and bakeries. But so far I have bought salt, jam, butter and I would buy a bread knife if you sold them. You must be doing something right.

    I know that I have no baking credentials, but as a customer I think the breads get better all the time. The airy ciabatta roll this morning was wonderful as was the crunchy, tangy bagel. Best Olga

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Zanne Stewart says:

    I’ll be eager to learn what Steve has to say. He’s one of my favorites and, possibly, the most entertaining of all. I miss running into him!

  3. Steven Jenkins says:

    mark, I am flattered to my tippytoes that you would let me help make a decision regarding Bread Furst.

    it is obvious what to do.

    you absolutely MUST offer a half-dozen or so early-harvest monocultivar olive oils.

    preferably all in dark bottles so as to protect them from the doubtless harsh shop’s light.

    early-harvest monocultivar olive oils are the ones that offer that fabulous adult bitterness and pungency.

    ‘fruity’ olive oils (late-harvest) are unworthy of anyone’s attention; they offer no pungency or bitterness, an indication of low polyphenol levels.

    high polyphenol levels are the raison d’etre of olive oil.

    philippe is right. and my best regards to him.

    I would also offer the best line of fruit preserves you can muster. I wish I could sell you my La Trinquelinette jams from Burgundy. nothing remotely as good anywhere.

    I also wish I could supply you with olive oil, but I cannot.

    jams and olive oils.

    nothing else.


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