--- Join Andrew Connole on a journey to uncover the unique flavours, personalities and cultures baked into loaves across the world every day. For the Love of Bread airs Sundays at 5.30pm on SBS Food (Ch.33) from Mar 7 - Apr 25 and then available to stream on SBS On Demand ---
What makes great bread? “Great ingredients, heart, focus and detail,” says Andrew Connole. He’s talking about what ties together the band of dedicated bakers he visits in For the Love of Bread, from Apollonia Poilane in Paris to Chad Robertson in San Francisco.
Connole knows about heart and focus. When he, his father and his brother started what would become Sydney’s popular artisan bakery group, Sonoma, he was making thousand-kilometre round journeys to bring bread from the outback town of Bellata, where his family had restored a wood-fired oven, to markets in Sydney.
His travels for bread took him even further afield, from Athens, where he’s currently based, to Austria, Denmark, Germany, the UK, France, Malta and the US, meeting talented bakers and exploring the history and changing ways of bread, from a woman making gluten-free artisan sourdough in Berlin to a sourdough croissant maker in Paris. There are meeting with others passionate about food too, including Rene Redzepi at noma in Copenhagen and Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver at St John in London, plus a visit to an annual bread festival in Austria.
What inspired this fantastic bread tour, we ask Connole?
“It was an idea that I’ve had for about 10 years. I was inspired by the sourdough movement in San Francisco, and Chad Robertson of Tartine, before it was even called Tartine. It used to be called the Bay Village Bakery back in 1998. For a long time, I’ve carried a deep love for bread and respect for the very best bakers on the planet. I always get inspired by spending time with them and being able to tell their stories.
“Embarking on the bread tour was amazing because it gave me the chance to catch-up with friends in the baking community around the world like Apollonia Poilane.
“During our time in Athens, we’d visit the Takis Bakery and hang out with the owner. He’d bring us koulouri and tell stories, and there are so many humble but inspiring stories, some more well known than others, that I thought needed to be shared. My desire was to document these stories and try to communicate the passion that goes into the love of baking great bread.”
In the first episode of For the Love of Bread, Connole takes viewers inside Takis Bakery to talk koulouri with founder Takis Papadopoulos and his sons. It's a glimpse of Greek bread history, and a fitting start to the series.
Bread for the future
Sustainability and community are two themes that come up a lot with the bakers he talks to and the bakeries he visits, from Emil Glaser at Juno in Denmark, who talks about being part of everyday life of the neighbourhood, to Helmut Gragger of Gragger and Cie in Austria, who sees it as essential to help the future bakers of Austria, and has also helped open a bakery in Senegal in Africa. “I like organic, natural and I like social responsibility. I believe I should help young people become bakers,” Gragger tells Connole.
“He’s an inspiring guy,” says Connole in the show. “The notion that bread can take people from poverty to financial security is a sound one. As the saying goes, give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime. It's this very basic concept that runs throughout Helmet's bakery. He's happy to sell you a loaf of bread so that you can taste the years of learning and passion he has for the craft. But he enjoys teaching people the trade even more, so they can then share it with their family and community.”
In Athens, Connole meets Elisavet Koulour, founder of Betty’s Bakery, a pioneering baker who’s determined to make artisan with environmental values. In London, there’s E5 bakery, another with a strong focus on the environment, local sourcing and helping others, where, pre-COVID, they were running a refugee bread program twice a year, helping migrants learn new skills.
“Sustainability is something we all need to think about and be more considerate of,” Connole says when we talk to him ahead of the start of For the Love of Bread. “When it comes to the flour that you choose, the ingredients that you use, obviously the packaging as well, all these things need to be considered in baking. When you have four children you often think about what the future will look like and try to make decisions from a sustainability perspective. A lot of bakers are passionate about this, they care about their footprint, and think about how they can apply themselves to minimise the impact they have on the environment. Of course, there are huge industrial bakeries where this is difficult, but that’s not Sonoma. Like the other bakers in the series, Sonoma is an artisan bakery that bakes at scale. Our bakery and its peers are in pursuit of quality, not quantity.”
One episode in For the Love of Bread visits some big names in American baking of the past two decades, including the Della Fattoria bakery in Petaluma, Acme founder Steve Sullivan and Chad Robertson of Tartine in San Francisco.
“The inspiration for Sonoma Baking Company came from Northern California. I spent time with the baker Chad Robertson in 1998 at Point Reyes Station where he had a small woodfired oven inside a converted laundry. That’s where the inspiration for baking naturally fermented sourdough came to me. I told him I was going to go home and start a sourdough bakery and he looked at me in disbelief until I mentioned I knew Adam Scott (the Australian woodfired oven builder) and Chad Robertson said I at least had half a chance.
“Returning to Northern California for the series was the most incredible experience and almost like paying homage to the inspiration and generosity Chad Robertson and others gave me. Bakers like Chad are like family to me. When I have visited over the years we’re always shocked about what our businesses have become because back in the day most people thought the likelihood of success was zero but now sourdough has become so popular.”
Beauty in simplicity
Has filming the series changed how he thinks about bread? “The experience of filming the series has reinforced the idea that there is beauty in simplicity when it comes to great bread as well as a high degree of passion that goes into artisan breadmaking that sets it apart from the ordinary. Every baker in the series shares this approach, combining great ingredients, heart, focus and detail to arrive at excellent and consistent bread.
“The making of the entire series was a highlight because it was fulfilling a vision to tell the story of Sonoma and great bread in general through the lens of different people, places, and ingredients but all with the same underlying drive and passion to create the world’s best bread.”