This is part two of our interview with Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli of Noble Bread, the micro-bakery that's been producing Old World-style breads of top quality since last year. Today, we're back to talk about Urciuoli's family history and how it drew him to bread making. If you missed part one, in which the men talk about baking the hard way, you can read it here.
Part of what Raducha means when he says they're doing things the hard way is that Urciuoli kneads every loaf of bread by hand -- the Noble Bread baking process involves no machinery at all. From start to finish, baking takes a full three days. Unlike some other artisan bakers, they use an all-natural levain, a bread starter sometimes called "wild yeast."
Urciuoli says it's all about making "an honest piece of bread," and Noble Bread is about as honest as it gets since it uses only three ingredients: flour, salt, and water. And because Urciuoli is a fanatic about using the highest-quality ingredients, you can bet all three ingredients are the very best he can find.
Raducha and Urciuoli get their flour from a miller in northern California who uses a traditional hydroelectric-powered mill to make its flour to order. So if they get an idea for a new loaf of bread, he'll mill the flour for them (the process takes a several weeks, of course) and send it over. And it goes both ways, since the miller also will send his own experimental flours for Raducha and Urciuoli to play around with.
The salt they use comes from a guy who's mining it out of salt beds in Utah.
"When you have only three ingredients, you have to pick the very best," Urciuoli says.
For the Italian-born chef, this type of bread making is about more than just preserving tradtion. It's about carrying on a trade that's been a part of his family for generations. Urciuoli comes from a family of millers, and his father sold flour for 35 years. He can recall his father bringing home loaves of bread from bakers who lived in the Italian mountainside, each loaf with its own color, texture, and smell.
"It's always been something I was exposed to," Urciuoli says. "These loaves reconnect me."
In a perfect world, the duo agrees that they'd like to have a brick-and-mortar bakery someday to give them space to do more types of bread, pizza, and maybe a few sandwiches. For now, rumor has it (and Raducha confirms) that there may be some sort of partnership with Rancho Pinot chef Chrysa Robertson in the works -- though Raducha assure us it's too early to tell what that might be, if it ever does happen.
"The sky's the limit," Raducha says. "Have oven, will travel."
The last movie I watched was . . .I have no idea. Something late at night on TV -- 3:10 to Yuma
Your favorite ingredient and where you get it: Olive oil. Claudio often sources unique olive oils. You'll have to ask him his source.
Your drink of choice and where you get it: Ginger ale. I buy different ones all over.
One local chef you admire and why: That is a tough one. I am fortunate to call a huge portion of the culinary community friends of mine. I think each chef has different attributes that are admirable.
Your culinary mentor and the most important thing he/she taught you: Greg Priest. Keep your station clean by cleaning as you work, work hard, work smart, and keep everything organized.
My current obsession is: Grains
The trend I'm totally over is bacon because . . .: They have baconized everything.
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One national or international restaurant where you want to eat this year: I would love to list a bunch of Michelin-starred restaurants, but to be honest, I am looking forward to an unexpected meal in some neighborhood whenever I get to travel. Just a small place that the locals go.
I wish Phoenix had a . . .: Beachfront, a ferry building, and a Golden Gate Bridge.
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