Bakers Journal

Going to Camp Bread

December 4, 2007
By Alan Dumonceaux

Imagine having Didier Rosada…

25Imagine having Didier Rosada (gold medal winning coach for Team USA at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie); every member of the 2005 winning team – captain William Leaman (artistic design), Jeffrey Yankellow (baguette and specialty breads), and Jory Downer (viennoisserie); Jeffrey Hamelman (author of Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes); Peter Reinhart (author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and instructor at Johnson and Wales University); and Maggie Glezer (author of Artisan Baking Across America), all in one location. Imagine them instructing a wide variety of classes, teaching everything from the basics of artisan baking to the science of pre-ferments. Now imagine Camp Bread 2005. Held in San Francisco from September 11-13, 2005, the event was organized by the Bread Bakes Guild of America (BBGA). Michel Suas closed the San Francisco Baking Institute to allow the approximately 200 attendees full access to the facility. And what a facility, with a full compliment of ovens, mixers, sheeters, classrooms and, of course, the parking lot, which hosted the science fair under the tents and also served as the main galley for our meals.

The attendees came from all areas of the North American baking industry. Home bakers, professional bakers, management, owners, educators, authors and suppliers were all in attendance.

The event kicked off on Saturday night with the Guild Hall Gathering and it could not have been held in a better location. Boudin Bakery hosted the get-together in their new bakery/museum right in the heart of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The new bakery and museum opened some seven months ago. Visitors can watch the entire bakery production from large windows on the street and speak directly to one of the bakers on shift through a microphone outside. They have truly taken bakery theatre to a new level. This, of course, is a must see for any baker visiting the Bay Area.

 The Boudin Bakery has been in San Francisco since 1849 and is the city’s founding bakery.

While having lunch one day with Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread in New York and author of Amy’s Bread, Amy commented that there was no better place to host Camp Bread than San Francisco, as it is truly the birthplace of the artisan bread movement in North America. Artisan bakeries of all sizes proliferate in the bay area. There’s Steve Sullivan’s Acme Bread, which has grown from one location to Acme Bread – Division 1, 2 and 3. There’s Semifreddi’s, which now employees some 120 staff. Further up the coast is Craig Ponsford’s Artisan Bakery in Sonoma. Then there’s Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, just a short drive south of San Francisco. From large to small, these Artisan Bakeries employ the production techniques of long, slow, cool fermentations, using specific organic flours with a specified ash count to produce some of the most flavourful breads in North America. Of course they are blessed with the specific Lactobacillus Sanfranciscensis, which gives their sourdough breads their uniqueness.

Over three days, participants had the option of taking hands-on baking classes, demo-based classes, theory classes, trade calculations, business classes and tours of the Bay areas bakeries, markets and mills. For complete details of the program, please see the Bread Bakers Guild website at:

As the program head of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Baking Program (, one of my greatest challenges is to keep our curriculum current and to continually update it to meet and exceed the expectation of industry. This was, without a doubt, my greatest educational experience in over 20 years in the baking industry. I participated in several classes, watching and learning from the instructors and, most importantly, having the opportunity to network with several of the top North American bakers.

One class comes to mind above all the rest: this was the Cold Fermentation class with Peter Reinhart. When we talk about the philosophy of baking and what it takes to make tremendous bread, Peter says it best in what he calls the bread baker’s mission: “to evoke the full potential of flavour trapped in the grain.” With his Pain L’Ancienne, Peter explains the difference in gluten development to gluten being organized through the mixing process and through enzymatic activity. His entirely hand-mixed bread (mixed in four minutes), using an autolyse, definitely achieved that mission. The bread’s crumb, which Peter describes as the “cream” of the candy, was very open and the loaf had a deep russet crisp crust, which he describes as the “candy” of the loaf. The full sweet, wheaty flavour is evoked from the grain in this rustic artisan style baguette.

The BBGA also took the opportunity to recognize certain members with awards. Jeffrey Hamelman, along with his Julia Child Award, received the Golden Baguette Award from the Bread Bakers Guild. Long-time member Amy Scherber presented the award on behalf of the Guild.

The Bread Bakers Guild of America set a new standard for the baking industry with Camp Bread 2005. It will be remembered by those who attended as an educational experience that surpassed expectations and will surely be a challenge to duplicate. Abe Faber, chairman of the event, and the BBGA’s Gina Piccolino, along with countless volunteers, made the first ever bread camp an unbelievable opportunity for both bakery education and networking.

For those who were unable to attend this year’s event please keep an eye on the Guild’s newsletter for information on future educational events. I hope to see an event of this quality sometime in Canada within the next couple of years.

Alan Dumonceaux is head of the baking program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. He can be reached at

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