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With a heavy heart we are discontinuing lunch and dinner as we know it

Friday, April 27th, 2012

For the past 8 years we have been providing moderately priced food based on mainly sustainable products.  During this time we have learned a lot, but more importantly we have shared this knowledge with our customers as well as our vendors. We believe that, though small, we have had a voice in the sustainable movement. We’ve included in this sustainable packaging as well, constantly helping our vendors find and distribute sustainable products.  We have appreciated all the support that you have given our efforts.
It is with heavy heart that I must declare our attempts to provide this at an end.  Though we are going to continue selling coffee, bread, pastry, drinks and catering, we must end our hot food production due to rising food and packaging cost’s and a general change in market forces.  We may still have some lunch items available, but for the moment they are going to be limited to soups, salads and a few deli style items.  This change, like all changes, will hopefully enable us to become more sustainable as a business and, with any luck after a bit of soul searching, will enable us to find a new voice in the land of sustainability. In other words, we may come back with a more viable concept later, but for now we need to lick our wounds and regroup. So as of May 1rst we are going to discontinue our lunch, dinner and brunch menu. As I said before we are still going to continue run our café with coffee, bread, drinks, soups and some salads, and will explore other possibilities in the future as well.

Thanks you for your continued support and patronage!

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Who Are You: Kimi Owens

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I am the Weekend Supervisor and general administrator of this site, and I’ve been working at the Bread Workshop since June 2008. I have a strong background in the arts and design, with a particular fondness towards illustration. Coffee and bread being two of my favourite things, I applied on a whim, and quickly grew to love being a barista, in no small part to all of my customers. I spend less and less time at the counter these days, but it’s allowing me to focus on projects like this website, which I hope will be more than the usual fare.

Working in the Bread Workshop Cafe was my first foray into food service, and I am grateful for having such a fantastic introduction. Besides gaining a huge amount of respect for what it takes to run a restaurant from the front of the house to the back of the house, a big part of what makes working at the Bread Workshop fulfilling for me are the ethics.

That our owner and purchaser work hard to make the right choices towards sustainability in the long-term has really helped open my eyes towards big-picture choices when it comes to compostable, renewable, and reusable products. I have a much stronger knowledge of what sustainability really means and how much of an impact making good food choices can make for both the physical and economic health of a community.

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Who Are You: Robert Mott

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

My primary responsibility at the Bread Workshop is purchasing. My forty years of experience began in the professional kitchens of Chez Dreyfus, an old style continental restaurant in Cambridge, MA, as a dishwasher. Since that glamorous introduction to the culinary arts, there have been few jobs in the cooking world that I haven’t tasted.

I’ve had my own Chinese banquet catering business in Santa Fe, and been an executive chef of restaurants. I’ve taught cooking classes and been a private chef for the richest man in the country. For a while I specialized in menu design, development, and the opening of restaurants. Even now, the Workshop only claims a portion of my day, with the rest of my time spent cooking for a family in San Francisco, owners of a wine estate in the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley.

Allow me to use a sports analogy to describe the type of food person I am: A classic gym rat. I work on food everyday. I research on the web, by talking to my vendors, by spending more hours than a normal person should in the aisles of stores and markets.

My hope and goal in all of this is that everyone connected to the Workshop, from cooks to customers, benefit from the knowledge I gain and the ingredients that I bring in to form the foundation and inspiration for everything we do.

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Who Are You: William Briscoe

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Nearly thirty years ago, I started as a dishwasher. Then, a short order cook in the same fast food steakhouse. The 80s found me in five-star restaurants, a dash of cooking school and 4,000 miles of travel.

Over the years, I’ve cooked in restaurants specialising in New Mexican, Italian, French, Californian, and even plain old American. I’ve worked with people of all nationalities, and all skill levels. I’ve trained in pastries, sauces, butcher, catering… I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a chance to learn about anything and everything to do with cooking.

You might’ve heard me talk about my environmentalist childhood before, and throughout all this learning, I never really left the forest that was my first classroom. There I learned to observe with each of my senses and to pay attention to how the smallest creatures influence the ecosystem. Now, I use that training to make the Bread Workshop the most sustainable business it can possibly be.

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Sustainable Priorities

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

What do we look for when choosing a sustainable product? There’s a lot more to consider than you’d think.

1. Health. For us, it isn’t sustainable if it isn’t healthy for our customers. Period.

2. Product purity. Not a single one of our products contain high fructose corn syrup or trans fats. We consider these to be so detrimental that we outright ban them from our foods. As soon as we made this decision, it didn’t take long for other additives to lose their appeal, and now there are dozens of other products we avoid for similar reasons.

3. Local products. The largest threat to our planet’s sustainability by way of humans is climate change. In goods transportation, the general rule is that the faster the mode, the worse it is for the environment down to the very last mile. The hierarchy for modes of transportation, from most damaging to the environment to the least, is planes, trucks, trains, boats, bicycles, walking. The closer it is to home, the keener we are to evaluate it.

4. Product production integrity. Producing a product should have a minimal negative influence on the environment. Ideally, we aim for a positive influence. A negative consequence is evident in water-cooled chicken. The hazardous water left over from this process simply can’t be allowed back into nature without heavy processing. Heritage products (products without extensive genetic tinkering) are a positive consequence. For example, modern hogs sunburn, while the darker skin of heritage hogs provides protection from direct sunlight. Most heritage vegetables are better suited to survive in their natural environment with minimal intervention from people.

5. Market development. We live in a bubble of sustainable food distribution and production. We have the potential to do all the right things in our geographic area and have little to no influence on the world as a whole (save providing an obscure model of what is right). Sustainability is a global issue, and to have a global influence it is important to realise that sustainable developing areas must have a market to become financially viable. Our organic white beans are from China. Though they come to us from a distance, we believe our support is an imperative part in the realisation that there is a market for sustainably produced products, and in encouraging continued effort.

6. Packaging. It is important for us to be aware of not only what comes in our front door, but what goes out our back door to the recycling bins, compost, and even down our drains. We look closely at how products are delivered–a product wrapped in plastic is less desirable than a product wrapped in paper.

We could go on. And on. Sustainability is such a complex issue, with such wide-ranging consequences that the debates have been raging for years. The items we’ve touched on here are literally only the top of the pile.

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When Passions Collide

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

During the 60s, my mother was an environmental educator (we called them nature teachers back then) in Concord, Massachusetts. As a child, I played in the ecosystems she taught me about, and later as a teenager, got up to no good in the same wood that Thoreau wandered.

In trying to find my path through a forest of a different kind, I dabbled in psychology and philosophy until I found my true passion: Cooking. But my heart never really forgot the things my mother taught me.

An ecosystem is a complicated intertwining of different forms of life, the area in which they exist, and how these two interact. It can be as small as a clearing in the forest or encompass the entire universe. These systems are often changing, and sometimes it’s a challenge to identify each component. Whenever we think we fully understand them, one small piece can alter the system, showing us how critical to the balance it truly is.

Why all this talk of grade school biology? Because ecosystems are the basis for sustainability. For humans, our ecosystems are our homes, our community, our city, and in this era of global industrial expansion, our world. Our actions today can have an effect on an ecosystem on the other side of the planet for years to come. The only difference between a dust storm or a volcanic eruption altering the environment and us is that we have the power to do so consciously.

The biggest burden we have placed on the global ecosystem is ourselves. Our population requires massive amounts of food, and we as a singular collective organism are incredibly creative about meeting that need. We use more and more sophisticated agricultural methods, larger and larger forms of animal husbandry, and even divert resources from one side of the planet to the other.

Our challenge now is to find a sustainable solution to this question. The answer lies in us as a collective organism agreeing as individuals to change our interactions with our global ecosystem. We must examine how our individual ecosystem affects the Earth as a whole, what mechanisms cause change, and how we can change for the better. We must think of ourselves as the catalyst for sustainable growth.

Through the Bread Workshop, I combine my passion for food with my concern for the environment. My focus is on the workspace, the neighbourhood, the city, and the food community of the world. As with all ecosystems, each one is very complicated, but there are some easily identifiable aspects of what the Bread Workshop is doing to help create a sustainable world.

In our workplace, we seek to provide a living wage, not minimum wage. We offer health and dental to promote a supportive environment.

In our neighbourhood, we offer sustainable foods at reasonable prices, so that our neighbours can eat healthily. Sustainability must be affordable to be practicable; all of us have to be able to practice it all the time. We offer a sustainable foods information centre in our café to help educate and promote this.

We also try to make healthy decisions for our patrons, such as using meats with essential and positive fat content and sensible portion sizes. Our new dinner menu, which will be in place by the winter season, will feature vegetarian foundation plates with carnivorous options in place of the traditional reverse menu.

In our city, we support the educational systems as well as multiple non-profit organisations with catering, pastries and coffee, and a place to meet.

In our world, we minimise our footprint through waste reduction, energy efficiency (an area that we must work at harder), and minimising the need for the transportation of goods in our product stream, with pointed exceptions.

Wherever possible, we purchase local products that are produced with an eye to sustainability. Our exceptions are when we cannot offer our products at a sustainable price, or if we have a specific goal, such as purchasing organic dry white beans from China (thus promoting the organic markets of China, one of the largest agricultural growth areas in the world).

This means that approximately 80% of our products are sustainable, with a good deal of our other products locally produced. We have dedicated ourselves to these issues in research development and our purchasing–it is unusual for a business of our size to employ a sustainability coordinator. Though we are not pioneers in the sustainable food movement, we are dedicated to thinking critically about those who are, adopting and adapting to become a business model we are proud of.

The world can’t afford to wait. We hope that our ideas of how a food business should be run will continue to be supported by your beliefs and your patronage.

William Briscoe

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An individual perspective of community

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

When I think of the Bread Workshop, I see a series of interlocking communities, and myself, through my role as Purchaser for the Workshop, as someone who strives to insure and nourish the health of these communities.

For example, the Bread Workshop itself, with all of its employees. Like any small business, as time passes it begins to seem like a typical and slightly dysfunctional family rather than a disparate group of people with hands out for paycheques. I helped to hire many of our people. I have worked with a number of them for years. I’ve developed a great sense of responsibility to help provide them with a satisfying job that they can use to support themselves and their families, and to also help them grow in their chosen profession.

Then there is the community of customers we serve. At times, I wish we did more than we currently do, and sometimes even forget to do. I’m conscious every day of how the decisions I make and actions I choose affect our customers. We are more than a café luring customers to our product. We feel a responsibility to our customers to provide smart, healthy, responsible food and drink choices that they will be both safe and comfortable with enjoying.

As purchaser at the Workshop, a third community that I interact with on a daily basis that the average person has very little direct contact with is the community of food vendors. Initially, I moved to the Bay Area to cook because I discovered the accessibility and attractiveness of the web of food growers and suppliers here. Through my dealings with all of these people, the ones who grow, the ones who deliver, the ones who do both, I have been able to practice the principles of sustainability that are at our core. They share my love of food and every chance I have to speak with them reinvigorates my commitment to good food.

Finally, there is the global, human community that we try in our own way to improve through our core beliefs in business, sustainability and healthy, creative and delicious food. One of the mantras for both personal responsibility and social action is to think globally, act locally. We as a species must be more conscious in our daily practice, and we at the Workshop are striving to create one model of how that can be done.

Robert Mott
-sustainability coordinator and purchaser

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