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Ask a Chef: Make or Buy Bread?

Maggie Borden

March 05, 2015

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While it may seem that the scale has tipped toward housemade everything, even top toques will admit that the best option sometimes lies outside the restaurant kitchen. We asked chefs from around the country to spill about what they source in and out of house. They share their thoughts on bread in our final installment.

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JBF Award Winner John Besh, Besh Restaurant Group, New Orleans: 

“I always said I would not make bread in my restaurants until I could make it as well as the bakers down the street. Now I have chefs that are able to do that, and I'm even opening a bakery, Willa Jean, with Kelly Fields and Lisa White.”

JBF Award Winner Ashley Christensen, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, and Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, North Carolina:

“Bread is currently a split for us. We supplement house-baked breads with Tribeca Oven par-baked baguettes. We have a very talented pastry chef, Andrew Ullom, and he’s been working on a number of great breads for the company. Within about three months, we should be baking all of our breads in-house, with the exception of our burger buns. We use Martin’s potato rolls, and I doubt we’d ever change that.” 

Sean Gray, Momofuku Ko, NYC:

“The bread program at Momofuku Ko started out as a hobby and an educational project for our team. We are quite passionate about the bread program because in addition to the technical challenges, there are so many environmental factors that can impact the finished product. We continue to learn and grow from this process on a daily basis, and have been using the same sourdough starter for over two years now.”

JBF Award Winner Maria Hines, Agrodolce, Golden Beetle, and Tilth, Seattle:  

“We mill our own flour, so I can use local sourced ancient grains (like emmer and einka berries from Bluebird Grain Farms). The freshness of the flour makes a huge difference in flavor.”

JBF Award Winner Michael Symon, B Spot, Lola, and Lolita, Cleveland; and Roast, Detroit, MI:

“We’ve played around with making bread in the past and I’ve worked at several places that did all their own bread production. In Cleveland we’re very luck to have several great bakeries that, quite frankly, make better bread than I could ever dream about creating.”

Maggie Borden is assistant editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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