Chico’s Local Bread Movement
By Kayla Anderson
Story by Kayla Anderson
Photos by Sunshine Rush
THE SWEET SMELL of baking bread comes wafting out of Chico’s Tin Roof Bakery and spilling over into the adjoining café. Biting into a sample of the chocolate chip sourdough, the spongy bread tastes like it’s been made with love, embodying a Northern California heartiness.
This could be why the Tin Roof Bakery is so popular, and why renowned local bread maker Dave Miller sells out of his bread by 9:30 am at the Chico Saturday Farmers’ Market. The care that goes into making and localizing artisan bread has become a movement, comparable to what you see with craft beer, spirits, coffee or wine. Especially in Chico, baking a good loaf of bread is a skill, an art and a science, so local bread makers want to stick together and bounce ideas off each other to improve their own craft.
Ten years ago, Jordan Vogel got a job at the Tin Roof Bakery as a bread shaper and has been making bread ever since, using local ingredients. Throughout the years he has worked his way up to head bread baker and is now the operations manager. Vogel and Miller co-founded the Chico Bread Guild, a community of local bakers who talk about grains, yeast, flours, milling, bread shaping – practically everything related to bread. Other members of the guild include Tatton White from Bread Itself, Jesse Simpson from the Chico Unified School District and Larry Jansen and Christina Greer from Hearth and Stone.
“The goal of the bread guild is to educate community members on the benefits of buying local bread and how to seek out local bakeries. We put our heart and soul into this. Buying local bread is just like supporting local artists versus a corporation. Our bread is made by hand, not a machine; from us you’re getting someone’s life knowledge in this craft, and you’re keeping your money local,” Vogel adds.
It’s also healthier, he says.
“Look at the packaging label on Wonder bread. You can’t pronounce two-thirds of the ingredients,” Vogel says.
Vogel talks highly of his fellow bread guild members, who are also highly skilled in baking bread.
“You can go to any bakery in the country and say that you’re from Chico and they’ll ask you if you know Dave (Miller). He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s perfected his craft and is really good at what he does,” Vogel says. Google Dave Miller and you’ll see that he is a living legend in the world of bread, even going so far as to mill his own grains.
Redding native Tatton White of Bread Itself also creates his own specialty loaves, focusing on soul grains and sourdough, getting his water content and leavening technique just right to achieve a perfect open crumb. He is personally involved in every part of the bread making process from start to finish – from sourcing organic and locally produced flours, seeds and nuts to selling the loaf at local farmers markets and co-ops. “The foundation of great food is great ingredients. From there, I can begin to make bread,” his website says.
Vogel enjoys the camaraderie, innovation and ever-changing world of bread making.
“I look at (Tatton) as, I want this guy to help me out because he’s so skilled at what he does. It’s difficult to make bread. You’re dealing with the temperature, the weather, humidity, flour,” he says. “It’s never stagnant. I’m always tweaking recipes. Just like an artist has a unique style in his craft, so does a bread baker.” •