When Greg Wade was in culinary school, he didn’t take baking classes. Instead, he studied in the trenches where chefs more typically toil: the savory program. But plying dough with his hands ended up being his true calling.
“It’s a tactile, sensory experience,” says Wade, a James Beard Foundation finalist for Outstanding Baker in 2017 and 2018. “For me, baking became this ritual of growing with your product. It’s something a lot of chefs are intimidated by. It’s alive. It’s scientific.”
Wade, 30, isn’t making bread in a commercial bakery. He is the head baker at Publican Quality Bread in Chicago, where artisanal bread rules.
The bakery opened nearly seven years ago and provides loaves to about 100 Chicago-area restaurants, in addition to the 10 other restaurants in its hospitality group, including Avec, Publican Quality Meats, and Blackbird. The bakery makes around 10 different types of bread on average, including ciabatta, country sourdough, baguette, and dark rye.
Artisanal breads are the next item you’ll be seeing more of in the increasingly popular farm-to-table and organics-driven food movement.
“There’s a shift in our culture to wanting to know where our food is from and how it’s produced,” Wade says. “Artisan bread is a good example of that. When you go to a grocery store and you see the bagged breads, it’s all machines that made that. The artwork and the transparency and the integrity is something that people are looking for.”