DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
At 6 a.m. Sunday, Durango was dark, but the lights had been on at Bread for hours.
Inside the steamy bakery, a small crew of three bakers, a counter worker and a delivery driver worked diligently.
To the left of the large, open kitchen, bakers Ashley Bailey and Mark Davis prepared loaves of ciabatta on a wooden counter covered in flour.
To the right, Jeffe Morehart, one of four owners of Bread, arranged baguettes on a conveyor belt before sliding them into a huge, steaming oven on a wooden spatula big enough to sit on. Morehart started working for the bakery in 1998, when it was called Old Town Bake Shop. The name changed to Bread in 2001. (Other owners are Durangoan Rob Kabeary, and two silent partners in New York– Rob Johnson and Bonnie Johnson.)
Even with the dreamy smell of warm cinnamon rolls and laid-back atmosphere at the bakery, one look in the kitchen proves that baking isn’t easy.
The bakers arrive around 3 a.m. on an average day and leave around noon. During the run of the Durango Farmers Market, which starts in May,the bakery does almost twice as much business as usual, and some bakers will arrive as early as midnight to prepare for the next day, Bailey said.
“After I get off, I’ll usually go take a run or something and try to wind down so I can take a nap,” she said as she whipped up a batch of lemon poppyseed scones.
Three hours into Sunday’s shift, the staff had already prepared pastries for breakfast deliveries, filled a glass cabinet with cookies, muffins and other goodies, and stocked a large shelf behind the counter with loaves of pain aux olive, raisin pecan, foccacia and sourdough red onion bread.
“The most important thing is having big, strong mixers and the right tools,” Bailey said.
That and good planning help things run smoothly at the bakery.
Pastries are prepared a day early so they can proof in the refrigerator overnight. Each morning, the staff bakes the pastries from the night before, then bakes all of the bread in time for lunch deliveries.
Prep work is key in keeping things on schedule, as evidenced by Davis, who weighed out pound after pound of flour at a scale.
“I’m just scaling, getting ready for tomorrow,” he said.
Despite the hard work and crazy hours required from bakers, the biggest challenge the staff at Bread faces is the urge to eat all the fresh treats they create.
“You have to watch out for the pastries – they’ll catch up to you,” Davis said.
There’s always temptation, said employee Lexy Congdon, as Davis popped oversized muffins out of a tray onto the counter.
“I don’t eat anything; I just taste everything,” Bailey said.
There’s no single path to working in a bakery, and the group at Bread come from various backgrounds.
Congdon, who’s been with the bakery for four years, has a degree in early childhood education. Bailey, an employee for 14 months, spent seven years at a cake bakery in Dallas.
Davis, deemed “chef” by his co-workers, came to Bread seven years ago after attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and working in several restaurants.
He moved to Durango with his wife to raise their two children, and while he put aside kitchen life for bakery life, to the staff’s delight, he makes lunch for the crew almost everyday – usually fresh pasta or homemade pizza.
“Mark’s expertise is so good,” Bailey said. “He can literally make anything.”
Time moves fast in the Bread kitchen, and by 7 a.m., Morehart was chopping golden loaves of sandwich bread while Congdon offered coffee to some of the day’s first customers.
Bailey was in the back with three massive trays of bacon and a warm batch of cinnamon rolls, teasing Davis about competing in a Bread version of Iron Chef.
I wondered, between the scones, cinnamon rolls, bread, cookies and pies, what’s the hardest thing to make everyday?
“Nothing’s really hard because I do it all the time. The hardest thing is finding time to clean,” Bailey said.