Sunday May 20, 2007 - Camp Bread, Day 1
Mike Pontificates (yeah, so what's new?),
Mike Meets ..... everybody!
The day started with breakfast. Every day, the campers eat breakfast and lunch together. Sunday, like most days, the breakfast was catered by Boudin Bakery. They served some excellent pastries, and I had far more pastries, and far less fruit, then I should have had. After a bit of breakfast, where I met Kathy Keyes of Pagosa Springs Colorado, Solveig Tolfte - a competitor for Team USA in bread, JoEllen DuFresne (the Barefoot Baker), and several other people, it was off to teach class.
I taught a "So, you want to own a bakery" class aimed at a serious home baker who wants to open a bakery. Having been there, having done that, and still bearing the scars, I told a few cautionary tales that were mostly well received. My class notes will soon be on the Bread Bakers Guild of America web site in the members only area. Another, though not a big, reason to join the group. My class was a part of "Artisan Baking 101" taugh by Didier Rosada and Tim Foley, members of previous Team USA's. After my class, there was a round table discussion, and then it was lunch time.
Lunch was catered by Artisan Bakers, Craig Ponsford's bakery in Sonoma. I have never had such elegant boxed lunches. Nice sandwiches, fruit, chips made from crisped bread slices, and a nice salad of fresh greens with a rich vinaigrette. It was another chance to talk to fellow bakers. More than a few times people looked at my name tag and said, "OH! You're Mike Avery!" Sometimes they also said they religiously read my posts. I felt a bit embarrassed, and soon started encouraging them to also post in the list. Having been Mike Avery all my life, I've never been terribly impressed by that fact.... so the recognition was a little embarrassing. Still, it WAS enjoyable. All too often, posts go out tomailing lists without any reply to them, so I wonder if they helped someone. Even though I was very happy to meet the people who had avidly read my posts, I am embarrassed to admit, I enjoyed meeting the people with whom I had corresponded more than meeting the people who I had never heard from. The take home message here is... engage in communication! The big important difference between mailing lists and books is it's easier to have a discussion in a mailing list (or newsgroup or blog.) I am firmly convinced that everyone in a mailing list has something to contribute to it, and feel they should do so. As a long time list host and moderator, I also know that less than 10% of the subscribed members of any list ever contribute to it.
After lunch, I sat in on Didier and Tim's afternoon class and really enjoyed it. It pulled a number of things together for me that had been disjointed facts. Both of them are wonderful people, but my impression was that Didier has spent more time as a teacher and Tim has spent his career in the bakery away from people. Didier was the more open and engaging speaker.
That evening was the only evening without a reception or formal gathering. However, there was a small reception with a "Science Fair." Bakers from around the country did simple experiments to see if some commonly held beliefs were, or were not, valid. Something like bakers meet MythBusters. Keith Giusto of Giusto flour in San Francisco investigated the commonly held belief that freshly milled flour doesn't perform as well as aged flour. The myth was, largely, busted. Daisy Chow of Clear Flour Bakery near Boston was intrigued by a discussion in the Bread Bakers Guild mailing list about alternate ways of developing dough. She found that (a drum roll please) she created the best doughs with the stretch and fold technique. There were some studies of pH development in sourdough cultures and the effect of that on breads, and a number of other studies. Some "studies" were very thinly disguised marketing, but considering how much the vendors who supported Camp Bread and the Science Fair contributed, it would be churlish to resent it.
Then it was back to the Embassy Suites where we enjoyed their happy hour - free drinks and chips from 5:30 until 7:30. We talked to Eric Baumgartner of Bloemhof at some length. (Bloemhoff has since been acquired by Oliver Quality, another excellent bread machine producer.) We used one of Bloemhoff's molders while we running a bakery and really liked it. We also liked the support he gave us. Eric was taking the Artisan 101 class and learning to become a baker. For many years, Eric has been designing and supporting bakery equipment, but he's never been a baker, so this was the time when he choose to rectify the situation. Somehow, after a long day punctuated by far too many blended Scotch whisky's on the rocks, I just didn't feel up to adding to the blog.