Starter Bakery takes the idealistic vision of a classic French bakery and kicks it up whole lot of notches. Brian Wood's life-long dream "focuses on producing well-crafted, unique baked goods and pastries". And, turns out, making these incredibly superior bites of heaven is anything but a scene out of this summer's hit rom com.
what does the average day at starter bakery look like?
“I get in around 9:30 a.m. and leave around 3:00. when the trucks start coming to pick up the day’s deliveries [to bakeries, cafes, and markets in the Bay Area].” That’s not 3:00 p.m. That’s 3:00 a.m. As in, 15 ½ hour days. “We have people working here on a few shifts starting at 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. We make everything fresh daily so it’s a lot of production.”
what’s the motivation behind starter?
“To make really great pastries with the best ingredients.”
what did you do before starter?
“I majored in ‘Cultural Anthropology’ in college,” he said, then paused and let a big laugh. “Sort of…I went to a very liberal arts school where there were no majors. So ‘Cultural Anthropology’ was my ‘focus’. I feel like I use a lot of the skills from those studies daily — understanding marketplaces, cafes, people, the relation of food and place — we are in an amazing and dynamic part of the country for that.”
so how did you get into the pastry world?
“I always knew I wanted to work in the food industry, but I didn’t want to be a chef”, so he worked the night shift at a restaurant from 8:00 p.m – 4:30 a.m. to get his pastry foot in the door. Then, on his days off, he worked with the chocolate chef at Essential Baking Co. in Seattle (now Theo).
After training in the chocolate world, he began teaching, doing consulting, research, teaching, and product development for various food companies. Then the time was right to begin Starter Bakery.
so you wrote a book…?
“I managed a whole book — ‘Advanced Bread & Pastry’ by Michael Saus. And I wrote all of chapters 1, and 9 – 22, Introduction, Viennoiserie and all of the pastry section, including Advanced Decoration, and Chocolate and Chocolate Work, respectively.
“It took 3 years to create the whole thing. We really wanted to get into the theory, like presenting chocolate from bean to bar. So before presenting a recipe, we would go through the entire process of what it took to get there.”
And all that research and explanation was well worth it. “Advanced Bread & Pastry” still stand as one of the top culinary textbooks today.
“I try to be as local as possible. Customers love it and are thrilled that I use TCHO!”
favorite thing to make?
“Kouign Amann, because it’s so unique! It’s a traditional Breton pastry that can be difficult to make. Traditionally it’s very dense, but now people are making it so light that it tends to be very dry.”
a small interjection to readers to explain what Kouign Amann really is:
Kouign Amann is unadulterated, unfiltered, no-holds, no-restrictions ethereal bliss into a single, traditionally Breton, pastry.
Chef Wood handcrafts perfectly square layers of dough, salted butter, and sugar. He chills the dough, then masterfully places three shiny, round discs of 68% TCHO chocolate in the center. A cootie-catcher-like fold later and the Kouign Amann is ready for the oven.
Something magical happens when that simple mixture of dough, butter, sugar, and TCHO is placed into an oven. The heat acts like some kind of wonderful cocoon, enveloping the tiny bits of dough, turning them into something a million times more wonderful than the folded pieces of dough they want in as. The finished Kouign Amann is wonderfully dense, incredibly flaky, perfectly sweet, and insanely indulgent. Taste buds dance with joy. Brain neurotransmitters are on overdrive with delight. The body goes weak at the knees. If one could ever truly have a mouth orgasm, Kouign Amann would most surely induce it.
“There’s a whole bunch of other things I want to be able to make,” Brian continued, “but can’t because time is so limited. What I make now is really just a sliver of what I really want to do.”
where can i find starter bakery pastries?
Chef Wood’s pastries are sold at Farmer’s Marketing in cafes and markets around the Bay Area. For an entire list, go to his website: www.starterbakery.com