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A couple of years ago, I got a behind the scenes tour of Roberta’s (one of my favorite restaurants) and I got to see their new homemade bread oven, which was built inside a freight container. I knew then that I wanted to go back to see the oven in action. Finally, two years later, I got the chance after meeting Melissa Weller (Roberta's head bread maker/genius) in April at the New Amsterdam Market.

Melissa said that one of her more memorable episodes making bread at Roberta’s came during the snowstorms of December and January 2011, when she found herself shoveling snow to keep a path open from the kitchen to the oven outside. She’d shape the bread, wheel the dough out to the oven, get the loaves in, then run back to the kitchen, and back out to the oven to check the bread, and back and forth, back and forth, again and again through the snow.

Now, in early summer, the path from kitchen to oven is clear. Melissa and fellow baker Brendan Smith start baking early. By 5am, they’ve already been in the kitchen for hours making dough and baking the bread for the day’s orders. There’s something wonderful about working so early in the morning – the sense of calm and quiet combined with the scent of baking breads seems to inspire a very high level of productivity at a time when most New Yorkers are still fast asleep.

As the sun rises over Bushwick, Brendan scores the bread before it goes in the oven.

Back in the kitchen, Melissa keeps mixing and shaping dough for the day's orders.

The finished product. Roberta's breads are available at Roberta's in Bushwick, The Brooklyn Kitchen and Depanneur in Williamsburg, Greene Grape Provisions in Fort Greene, the Brooklyn Grange markets, and Anarchy in a Jar at Smorgasburg.


All photos (c) Donny Tsang. All Rights Reserved.

Donny is a Boerum Hill-based photographer who is currently mired in the mayhem of shooting a cookbook. You can follow his work at his website, Foodasissance. You can follow him on Twitter @ultrateg.

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