2014 Coastal Rising Star Artisans Ian Cappelano, Peter Kobulnicky, and Mike Lingwall of Foremost Baking Co.
Maybe it’s no surprise that it takes three guys to prepare what’s arguably the freshest bread in Providence. But it’s not just any three guys; it’s three seriously fervid, idiosyncratic ones: Ian Cappelano, Peter Kobulnicky, and Michael Lingwall—excellent bakers in their own right, but a force for sublime baked goods together.
The trio met when they were all working at Seven Stars Bakery, another homegrown Providence operation, but it was actually their regular habit of meeting at a local bar—Louie Fuller’s, where Ian also worked—that led them into planning what would eventually become Foremost Baking Co. Production began when bar owners Desi and Eric Wolf offered the trio a space in the bar’s kitchen in exchange for fresh bread.
From there, Cappelano, Kobulnicky, and Lingwall opened their own space in Butcher Block Mills and began supplying local businesses and restaurants with artisan-quality, obsessively fresh bread and pastry (staggered baking for morning and afternoon runs, with restaurants supplied with breads baked at 2pm, delivered by 4:30pm). Not only do the guys deliver fresh, they design bread programs specific to restaurants—pushing not just quality, but the intimacy of artisan bread to the next level.
Interview with Coastal New England Rising Star Artisan Baker Ian Cappelano of Foremost Baking Company – Providence, Rhode Island
Sean Kenniff: What differentiates you from other bread and pastry companies?
Ian Cappelano: Staggered baking. 5:00 am to 7:00 am is the only time Foremost is closed. Most bread at restaurants is a failure. Our product is fresh upon deliveries. If you start baking the baguettes, you deliver the baguettes. Providence is small, so delivery takes about 2½ hours. We also design bread programs specific to restaurants.
SK: What’s the most important quality control for this wholesale operation?
IC: The fewer hands that touch the bread, the better.
SK: How did you get your start in the industry?
IC: At 15, I was a dishwasher at Newport Creamery. It was like a Friendly’s. I think there’s still one in Newport today.
I got serious in my twenties and started baking at Seven Stars Bakery when I was 21. I needed an overnight gig when I was in college. I learned to bake at Seven Stars. When I was the production manager there, I came up with the staggered baking concept and pitched it to them, but they weren’t interested.
SK: What other bakers do you admire?
IC: Eric Kayser. And I also admire Tartine, they don’t start baking bread until after 4:00 pm.
SK: What’s the biggest challenge you face?
IC: Striking a balance. It’s really hard to keep life going while trying to make a business. But it’s also so rewarding, and the staff hangs out here. We offer health care and a living wage. We have bakers that have been with us for a few years now.
Baking is tough work and a very specific skill set. Just touching dough is weird. It’s not like cooking soup.
SK: Tell us a bit about designing bread programs.
IC: We produce specific breads for restaurants. We eat at these restaurants, so we want them to have different breads. The programs take a couple months to develop. We also do a lot of burger buns in two different doughs, sliders and burger buns specific to bars and restaurants.
SK: How do you describe Foremost’s style, for your wholesale breads and pastries?
IC: Fresh and fun. Just bring good stuff. We’re mainly European-style. We stay ahead of the baking curve in Providence.
Fuck blueberry muffins, we want to do cool things, but please the customer.
SK: What’s the five year plan?
IC: We’re growing exceptionally aggressively. We just started accepting new wholesale accounts again, after a hiatus. We want to keep making the freshest, best, coolest stuff that you can take out of an oven.
We have 2000 square feet now for wholesale. We’ll only increase wholesale capacity without losing freshness. We want to bring freshness to customers. Eventually we’d like to have a Tartine-style operation as well.
SK: Favorite Foremost product?
IC: My favorite is the French baguette. It’s like a pilsner, everything has to be perfect or imperfections come through; not like a Russian imperial stout where you're dumping everything in. Same for croissants. It’s all about technique.