Page 43 - PastryNA2012_2

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How would you describe your
style of baking/philosophy of
bread making? 
I like things rustic and rural, and don’t
focus on overly-decorated pastries
and cakes. We don’t do wedding cakes
or petit fours; I like seeing big hunky
loaves of bread out front alongside beefy
handmade rustic pies. We’re all about
using local ingredients; we’re smack-dab
in the center of the best fertile farmland
around that provides some of the best
produce and fruit in the mid-Atlantic.
Our loyal following knows that we’ll have
some incredible fruit pies in the height
of the season and that they won’t be able
to buy a cherry pie from us in the middle
of November. I grow sour cherries on my
farm, along with a halfway-decent peach crop, and they find
their way into our pies and jams, along with some luscious
harvests (huge sweet peaches, tart cherries, golf-ball-sized
blackberries and an amazing apple crop) from nearby farms.
Kevin oversees the breads; we bake a really popular focaccia
that one benefit-dinner host referred to as habit-forming
(and he called me the town’s crack dealer because of it) along
with our wheat breads and other loaves. And Kevin’s a bread
magician: leftover black-bean soup found its way into a batch
of bread dough and we sold out of some very interesting
Latin-flavored loaves.
What about management style and leadership?
Do those attributes dovetail with your culinary
I know our baked goods taste great but insist they look swell
out front. Being a former magazine art director, I have a keen
design eye and really want the Red Truck Bakery to look good
and to have our items display well. We spent a lot of time and
money making a greasy former gas station look good; old
schoolhouse lighting and beaded-board cabinets give the place
an apothecary look – the dining room and the kitchen sit in
the former auto service bays but you’d never know it. I’ve had
trouble with store managers whom I hoped would share that
design philosophy, but their sloppy visual aesthetics led to
problems. I’m again overseeing that myself and think we’ve
finally put together a great team that shares the enthusiasm for
the place. 
You studied at the Culinary Institute of America and
L’Academie de Cuisine. How did  formal training
impact your approach to baking? 
I was a home cook and knew I needed some professional
training. I spent vacation time away from
The Washington Post
magazine getting proper instruction, going
through the CIA’s artisan breads and pastries programs, and
learned an incredible amount over several years from Mark
Ramsdell at L’Academie de Cuisine outside of Washington,
DC. Baking is precise; one can’t underestimate the need to
measure and weigh every ingredient – it really is a chemistry
business, and that was drummed into my head at both
schools. But they also opened up my eyes to items I wasn’t
exposed to, from kitchen tools to international pastries (I
can’t wait to offer Day of the Dead cakes like we made at
the CIA). To get a well-schooled and experienced guy like
Kevin Powers in here to head up the kitchen gave us all an
opportunity to learn more on the job than we could in class.
Red Truck Bakery has grown considerably since
opening.Which path have you followed? Controlling
growth or letting the growth influence planning? 
We’re being pulled in many directions. The online business
has taken us by surprise (everyone wants to send our
moonshine cake and bourbon cake to friends); we ship
thousands of items over a year and part of me wants to open
a wholesale kitchen and shipping operation to handle it (it’s
a lot for just three bakers to handle, especially in the middle
of the holiday crush). But I left publishing to open a little
rural bakery that people could fall in love with – and they
have – so right now I’m trying to find the middle balance.
I’d like an additional destination location out here in the
boonies that would serve a good breakfast and lunch, and
have our original bakery site supply the breads and desserts.
We’re in a great location: Washingtonians have country
homes and farms out here and they bring their discerning
tastes with them. We’re not far from the revered Inn at Little
Washington and have discovered that many folks stop at our
place on their way to or from that five-star inn. Originally I
had investors lined up to help, but when the economy tanked
they pulled out and I’ve pretty much been underwriting
the bakery myself, along with a couple of generous friends.
Now that we’re on the map, so to speak, I’m talking to some
deep-pockets wanting to help. Getting some good press lately
doesn’t hurt; we were surprised by a very swoony segment
on NPR’s “The Splendid Table” by Jane & Michael Stern
last weekend which continues to bring in the crowds. The
Huffington Post
asked me to keep a diary during the holidays
and published it in early December;
magazine saluted
our quest to resurrect the maligned mincemeat pie;  Oprah’s
O Magazine
gave us a nod as “one of the best online grocery
sites”; we ended up as number 20 on
list of “the most beautiful things made in America.” In a