2015 New York Rising Star Artisan Austin Hall of She Wolf Bakery

2015 New York Rising Star Artisan Austin Hall of She Wolf Bakery
February 2015

Austin Hall’s mother was a baker in Iowa, meaning Hall wasn’t simply raised in proximity to good bread. He was raised with respect for the craft. That didn’t mean Hall would go straight for an oven. His first pursuit was education. Hall took on the rigorous liberal arts curriculum of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Intellect fed, Hall was ready to use his hands, and he found his calling where his mother had, in the world of good bread. Moving to Boston, he ended up at Hi-Rise, a North Cambridge wholesale bakery, where Hall found a formative balance between volume and craft.

Next was New York City, where Hall worked at Bouchon with Peter Andres and alongside fellow baker James Belisle for six months before moving on to Sullivan Street Bakery for a year. But Hall really came into his own when he began working the bread program (solo) at Andrew Tarlow’s Roman’s. Working Roman’s wood-fire with confidence and focus, Hall was ready to bake for the entirety of Tarlow’s Brooklyn empire, plus multiple farmers markets. He first moved his operations first to Long Island City before settling into his own production space, She Wolf Bakery, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. From She Wolf, he bakes character-rich breads made from grains sourced upstate, and cooks up plans for still more wholesale expansion.  



Interview with New York Rising Star Artisan Austin Hall of She Wolf Bakery

Sean Kenniff: How did you become interested in baking?
Austin Hall:
My mother was a baker, in Iowa. I was raised to value the craft. 

SK: How did you get your start professionally?
AH:
I graduated college in 2003 with a liberal arts degree. Ended up in Boston at Hi-Rise Bread Company, a wholesale bakery in Cambridge. There was a good balance between high volume and craft.

SK: And from there?
AH:
I started at Roman’s [in Brooklyn] with a wood-fire oven meant for meat. I thought I could do bread, and tried to find a way to make it work. I did that for a year, then decided I wanted to make enough bread for all of the restaurants in the company (Andrew Tarlow restaurants). So I moved to a production space in Long Island City for a year, then here to Greenpoint.

SK: Have you had a mentor?
AH:
Peter Endriss. I worked with him for a couple months at Bouchon [in New York]. He was a rock to work with. Great at staffing and training.

SK: What’s your go-to bread resource? 
AH:
Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman. There’s also a community of bakers trading ideas on Instagram. I’ve learned a lot by not having a mixer and just doing it by hand.

SK: What’s the biggest challenge you face with She Wolf?
AH:
Baking is a daily routine. It can be hard to keep your eyes on the prize since you do the same thing everyday. But you are not able to get bored. There is so much to learn. The real challenge is mastering consistency. There are so many variables, especially if you switch kitchens.

SK: What are your plans for the future?
AH:
Trying to develop the wholesale side. It’s more about logistics than about food. We’re trying to set up a few accounts—like at the Greenmarket—it would be great to do a bit of retail. Maybe designing bread programs for restaurants rather than just distributing. You want to work with people who have interesting ideas.

SK: You source your grains from Upstate; have you considered milling your own?
AH:
The thought has crossed my mind. There’s still so much to learn in bread making.