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Baker In Focus
40 Pastry & Baking North America
For 25 years you worked in print media as an
art director. How did you discover your passion
for baking? 
I’ve always been a creative guy (taking after my dad, a
newspaperman, and my older brother, a graphic designer)
and I’ve always liked to mess around in the kitchen. I
followed the former passion professionally, designing
The
Washington Post
,
Smithsonian
and
House & Garden
magazines) but pursued the latter in my spare time. When
I was growing up in California, my uncle and I started a
cross-country bake-off between the two of us; I’d ship him
something I made up (breads, cookies or whatever would
travel well to his home in Florida) along with the recipe. A
week or so later he’d send the recipe back, cheekily marked
up in red ink to address any problems he saw, along with
some baked good he invented. When I moved to Tampa to
help launch the local city magazine, we’d get together in his
kitchen for baking marathons, leaving the mess for my aunt
to clean up. One of our more successful projects is on the
menu at the Red Truck Bakery: a multi-grain honey wheat
bread with dried cranberries, golden raisins and walnuts.
While working at 
Smithsonian
magazine, my partner Dwight
and I bought a farmhouse 50
miles west of Washington, DC, in
Virginia Piedmont hunt country.
I started baking out of the
farmhouse on Fridays, delivering
baked goods at local upscale
country stores on Saturday
mornings in an old red truck.
When I arrived early one day and
found a crowd already waiting
for the breads, jams and pies,
I knew I was on to something.
Marian Burros at
The New
York Times
discovered me and
included my one-man bakery
twice in her annual list of favorite
food businesses (my fledgling
website hits went from a mere 24
visitors one day to 57,000 hits the next morning when the
story came out). A year or so later, I quit the magazine job,
found a good site for the bakery in a renovated 1921 Esso
service station next door to the county courthouse, and hit
the ground running.
Creatively speaking, what are the similarities between
conceptualizing and designing a magazine and
creating breads and pastries?  
There indeed is a correlation between the two. Baking is a
design process as well as a chemistry project, and I mean that
in a number of ways. I’m used to the corporate publishing
world: meeting with the editor-in-chief, writers and my
design team to come up with concepts and the execution of
ideas in a final product. I brought that training to the bakery
(a magazine review of our new venture referred to me as
“baker-in-chief ”) and we built a good team here. We bounce
ideas off one another, coming up with interesting products,
and I use my art-direction experience in the packaging and
marketing of our products that pass our taste-test. That’s
exactly how our double-chocolate moonshine cake, using
real Virginny hooch, came to be; we now ship hundreds
of these across the country. The label doesn’t just say
“moonshine cake” but shows a shady group posed around a
still hidden in the woods.
There are just three of us in the kitchen and we work
well together. This is a good point at which to introduce my
kitchen team: head baker Kevin Powers showed up the second
week we were open waving a resumé: we were swamped, I was
green and desperately needed some help baking and hired him
on the spot. Kevin’s a CIA graduate and a take-charge guy who
whipped the kitchen (and me) into shape immediately. He’s
still here nearly three years later and I tell anyone who listens
that I couldn’t do it without him; he handles the breads,
soups and has come up with some very tasty – and popular
– cookie varieties; each one better than the last (think white
chocolate, lime zest and coconut in our “Castaways”). Pastry
assistant Ryan Glendenning is a graduate of The Restaurant
School of Walnut Hill, in Philadelphia, and tackles the cakes,
cupcakes and specialty items
along with breakfast pastries
and muffins. We rescued her
from underemployment at one
gas station only to bring her to
another one.
Love the red truck! Does it run
or is it just for show? 
Interesting story. After buying
the farmhouse, I wanted an old
farm truck (the art director in
me wanted to complete the rural
look) and have always lusted after
mid-fifties Ford pickups – and it
had to be red! I searched online
for awhile and found one I really
liked up in New York. When the
auto consignment company vetted
me as interested and qualified, they
turned me over to the owner selling the truck, who turned
out to be fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger; he kept the 1954
Ford F-100 on his Connecticut farm and sent it down to me
on a flat-bed. It looked great at my farm and people loved
buying baked goods out of the back of it at stores in our rural
county. When I signed the lease on the old service station in
Warrenton, Virginia, I saw a successful equation: old red truck
+ old gas station = all kinds of marketing opportunities, and
right then the Red Truck Bakery was born. The truck does
indeed run, and I drive it in parades and to a few functions
on big farms in the area; we’ve been asked to run the “pie bar”
from the tailgate at a farm-to-table benefit dinner for
Garden
& Gun
magazine next month. I get a lot of requests to have
it appear at country weddings but turn them all down; it’s at
home in front of the bakery and would be sorely missed by
our customers. There always seems to be a crowd around it
having their picture taken; we’re amazed that it’s a magnet for
prom photos, too.