Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli Noble Bread www.noblebread.com
Artisan bread is hot right now. But for the guys behind Noble Bread, it's not about the trend. It's about reconnecting to the way things used to be done, using a stone hearth and stone-ground heritage grains to make naturally leavened bread of a quality that's rarely seen today.
Read part two of this interview here.
The two halves of this small-scale baking operation are Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli, who have been friends for more than half a decade. They went into the baking business together about a year ago, after Urciuoli stepped down from his role as executive chef of Noca in Phoenix. Before the duo joined forces Raducha had already launched Noble Bread after running a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for a wood fired mobile bread oven.
It was ovens that originally got Raducha into the baking business. Though he used to be an IT guy, he says he always had a passion for the culinary arts and used to buy wood burning ovens and sell them to friends and acquaintances. That passion project led to his involvement in importing Italian food products, which is how he met Urciuoli, who was working at Prado at the time.
Back then it was all about pizza, at least for Raducha, who was using the wood burning ovens to cook at home. And though the focus has now switched to bread, Rachucha and Urciuoli -- who added pizza to the menu at Noca while he was executive chef there -- still keep their hands in the pizza game from time to time. Just last week Noble hosted a pizza party at Maya's Farm in Phoenix. They do catering gigs, too, when there's a demand.
These days Raducha and Urciuoli are making between 700 and 800 loaves of Noble Bread every week. They sell artisan breads at local farmers markets, as well directly to local restaurants including Scottsdale's FnB. And believe it or not, they're still baking out of Raducha's 600-square-foot garage, which houses the massive French deck oven they use now.
Each time Raducha and Urciuoli bake they make three different types of bread. The selection always includes their Country Loaf, the bread for which the bakery is most well-known (though Urciuoli likes to point out that it's a very traditional style of loaf that's been made for generations). The other loaves will change just about every bake but tend to be made from alternative grains.
There are several things that set a loaf of Noble Bread -- be it Country Loaf or one of their more specialty varieties -- apart from what you'll find everywhere else.
"We're making it the hardest way possible," says Raducha.
Your favorite childhood food memory: Watching the original cooking shows on PBS with my Nana
Favorite food smell and why: Italian sausage on the grill because it reminds me of the 4th of July.
Favorite dish to cook and why: Pizza. When I light up the pizza oven, it usually means getting together with family and friends. Can't beat spending quality time with those you love while eating pizza.
What's your culinary guilty pleasure?: Popcorn.
What drew you to bread? The challenge of combining simple ingredients to create something that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
One thing most people don't know about bread: It takes us over 36 hours to make a loaf of Noble Bread. The loaf you buy on Saturday began on Wednesday night.
One thing that should never be done to bread: Store it in the refrigerator.
Your favorite loaf of bread and what you pair it with: Our Country loaf. I enjoy a toasted slice of bread with a drizzle of olive oil.
Two qualities to look for in great bread: A crust with different colors and nice good-sized holes in the crumb.
One cookbook everyone should read and why: Seven Fires. It's simply captivating.
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Sasha Raj - 24 Carrots Nick LaRosa - Nook Joey Maggiore - Cuttlefish Country Velador - Super Chunk Sweets and Treats James Porter - Petite Maison Cullen Campbell - Crudo Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay