hellooOoo! i hope you are still reeling from the total eclipse of the solar system that took place yesterday — i know i still am! i didn’t have any of those glasses but then a kind lady on the street handed hers to me and i was so happy she did. it was very cool! and it cheered me up from what was a sad sunday this past week: my last day working at Bread Furst bakery in washington, d.c. (cue: sad face emoji galore ☹️😣😖😫😭.)
instead of writing about a recipe this week, i’ve decided to share a bit about my experience working at Bread Furst this summer. after hearing some a+ advice from kristen, a colleague of mine from food52, i decided to look for some real kitchen experience earlier this year. knowing that i was moving home for the summer, i thought about Bread Furst as a place to work — it was less than a mile from my family’s home and the bakery’s owner, Mark Furstenburg, was nominated for a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Baker.” Between my initial interview and stage (kitchen speak for a shadow), Mark and Bread Furst won the James Beard Award. for those of you unfamiliar with the awards, they’re recognized as the “oscars” of the food world.
i was ecstatic for them! and even more happy that ben, the head baker, offered me a full-time summer gig there! i started working at the beginning of june in the bread department. throughout the summer, many people asked if i was baking cakes and croissants. i actually wasn’t! instead i baked bread all day — and loved it.
before i get to the actual bread, i wanted to share the team of bread bakers that i worked alongside. they were what made 6am call times not only bearable, but truly fun. and if you think 6am was early, my call time was actually the latest of anyone in bread baking. yup.
ben: the head bread baker, recipe wizard, and true talent of Bread Furst. he took me in with my zero bread experience and turned me into a bread baker. he’s called bane sometimes because of the mask he wears. (if you’d worked around flour as much as him you’d probably be in a mask too.)
miguel: el maestro = the teacher. miguel has been working with mark, the owner, for over 20 years. and it shows! he is a magnificent teacher and we got along just great. not only did he teach me how to work as a bread baker, but he helped make my spanish the best its ever been. diez estrellas por miguel!
haley: the youngest, most efficient person i’ve ever met. i loved working with haley because the day would just fly by. she turned 21 while i was working there and i was so lucky to see her in action. haley, you better start your own shop one day !!!
maximino: the energizer, and cleanest person on the staff. max is wicked fast at everything he does and he’s always a great person to help get things done when the clock is ticking. another person i spoke spanish with all day!
nefta (a.k.a. neftali): the songbird of the bakery. if you ever hear anyone singing in Bread Furst, it’s likely nefta. in another life, nefta would be an actor or singer, some type of performer. he was a true joy to be around and yes, another person i spoke spanish with all day! also, he worked the oven and made magic out of our bread dough.
max r: my fellow bread newbie and washingtonian, “osito.” max and i worked most of our shifts together and he is one of the cheeriest people i know. don’t let his dark mustache scare you!!
ashley: my quasi-trainee! i was able to show her the Bread Furst ropes during her first and my final weeks at the bakery. i only wish we had more time together!
+justin: the overnight warrior! he may not have made the team photo but justin is a big part of the bread baking team. he works through the night to make sure all the bread is ready to go for our deliveries and customers in the mornings. and he always has a smile on his face 🙂
so, now that you’ve got some visuals on who is behind the baguettes and miche and chocolate babka and english muffins and bagels, here’s a bit more on what it was like to make bread all day.
you can’t really work in this kitchen unless you can lift a 50lb bag of flour. i got into the best shape of my life this summer, merely by being on my feet and using my body all day. my muscles grew and so did my appetite. good thing there was always a quick bread snack close by!
every day i was making something. starting something and finishing something. there’s something really satisfying in completing a product each day (or many in the case of Bread Furst).
it can’t go without saying that this summer has been an exhausting one! working weekends and early mornings is something to get used to. i think i got used to it like last week lol.
a typical day for me would start with writing the recipe quantities for the day on our little whiteboard. as you can imagine, the bread quantities for weekends were always more than say a monday or tuesday. once the quantity was decided, we’d start weighing out the ingredients for the different bread recipes. this was one thing that was different from all the home cooking i’d done. all measurements at Bread Furst were done by weight. i have to say it is much more efficient than all the tiny spoons and cup measurements i’d used before.
into the mixer, one after another, the different flour buckets would go. once done mixing, we’d pull the dough out of the mixer, put it back into a bucket, and let it rest for some time. depending on what recipe it was, some doughs would sit longer than others before their first or second fold. once folded and rested again, we’d cut the dough and pre-shape it. back to resting the dough went again until it was ready for its final shape.
once the dough had rested in its final shape, whether that be in a bread basket or on a couche (used for our baguettes and palladin), whoever was on the oven would start baking the bread.
and while he or she was baking the bread, everyone else started to clean!
that was the usual rundown of my day in the bakery. the routine of it all became quite satisfying and it became a great place for me to practice my shaping and mixing of bread every day.
to end, i wanted to share some shots from the summer. enjoy!!!
fun times shaping challah with miguel. nefta posing as usual.
lunch after my first day of work at Bread Furst! their ham and cheese on baguette is awesome.
eating bread i made for the first time!!
pizza day !! (every tuesday and thursday at Bread Furst if you’re wondering.)
snacktime! (hiding from the big windows where customers look at us every day.)
this is me with a croissant in my lap. i spent a lot of the summer eating breakfast on the go in my car before my shift started.
my last day at Bread Furst: breakfast made by Justin on brioche with eggs, cheese, and bacon.
i’m a big fan of their carrot cake. just had some last night actually.
chocolate babka was definitely a fan favorite of the breads i brought home.
one of my best friends bridget and i outside the bakery on my birthday. brownie points to bridge for bringing me rosé! which reminds me…
thank you to everyone who came to visit me at the bakery!!!! whether you came purposefully and waved your hand off or just saw me through the windows and said hello, i loved seeing you. thank you.
if you haven’t made it to Bread Furst yet, i hope this post made you want to go! the bread, the lunch service (yes, they have savory food too), and the pastry items are all really fantastic. don’t forget a baguette on your way out!
Bread Furst, http://www.breadfurst.com/
4434 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, DC 20008
Mon-Fri, 7AM-7PM; Sat, 8AM-6PM; Sun, 8AM-5PM
Great post Catherine!
Katie Kates, great piece! You should send to the Post food editor and see if they would publish. Anne or mark Shields may know the person. Or ask Mark furstebberg.sp??? Second, you smile like me in the picture. Having a great time in the wilderness..