When did you start baking?
In the summer of 1989, I took a break from accounting, moved back to my home state of Montana and tried out for a baking position at Sweetgrass Breads in Helena, Mont. I was hooked after the tryout shift.
What drew you to the artistic design element of baking?
I took a class sponsored by the Bread Baker's Guild of America in August 2006 at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y., called the East Prep Class. I didn't realize the “prep” part was prepping for the team trials. I had gone to practice my lamination technique and to prefect my brioche. Ciril Hitz and Tom Gumpel taught the class. When I saw Ciril's stack of colored dead doughs, which included yellow, red, black, brown and two or three shades of natural, I was immediately drawn in. Working with dead doughs is similar to clay, which I have dabbled in as well. I had a lot of fun creating a piece during the class and learned about the regional tryouts. I had less than a month to prepare my application, but felt compelled to apply. I am new to the [bread dough] medium, but have been interested in ceramics and sculpture for years.
What drove you to try out for BBG Team USA?
After the prep class and video application, I was invited to compete at the regional competition in Providence, R.I. Once there, we all went on to Nationals. As I like to say, “The train has left the station and it hasn't stopped.”
As a home baker, how do you balance your “real” life with team practices?
At the moment, there is no “real” life. Carla Randall, my life partner, is keeping the home fires burning without me. I have spent quite a lot of time away from home for both personal and team practices. When home, I try to catch up and work my part-time job of income tax preparation. Being on the team is a once in a lifetime experience. We are putting this first in our lives and know, at the end of the day, my real life will be there for me when I come home.
What are America's chances at the Coupe?
From my personal experience, practicing is the key to success. Team USA has the funding and support of General Mills, King Arthur Flour and the San Francisco Baking Institute, among others. Without these kinds of resources we simply could not practice or prepare as much as we have been able to. The teams that will prevail in France will be the most prepared and mentally focused. We are such a team because of the experience and success of the past USA teams and all that have been devoted to allowing us to travel and practice together. Many things have to come together to win, and we are doing our best to bring those things together. We are in good hands; the coaches and managers are doing their best to get us into shape as a team.
What are your plans for after the Coupe?
Dealing with my garage full of bakery equipment, and Carla says I need to get a job.
Who do you consider a hero/role model and why?
I admire anyone who takes charge of their life and creates a reality that suits them. I especially admire people that see the world differently and are committed to their convictions in a high-pressure world designed for conformity.
Have you ever considered entering the baking profession full time?
Actually, I did not intend to leave it; I worked full time in the profession for many years. Circumstances led me to pursue other avenues of income since our move to Maine, where it had been my intention to open a shop. I will consider a wider range of options now that I attended the Notter School of Pasty Arts, in Orlando, Fla., last year. Just as becoming a member of the team, which I could not have predicted, I am open to the possibilities.
What was the last movie you saw in a theater?
A movie in a theatre, what a novel idea. I think it was ‘No Reservations' with my classmates in Orlando.
What sets your style apart from other bakers?
I can't say what sets my style apart from other bakers. I believe my success was simply hard work and practice. Since I am a bread baker first, and new to the pastry arts, my commitment is to use “live”, or yeasted dough, to create the artistic piece. While I am not the most skilled baker, I understand that bread should be used for a bread competition and have worked to use yeasted dough in different ways than traditional applications, if for no other reason than the color, of say laminated or lean dough, is unique no matter how it is manipulated.