Interview with Chicago Rising Star Artisan Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread

by Caroline Hatchett
May 2015

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Greg Wade:
I’ve been baking professionally for five years now. I went to culinary school and always made the bread there. After I graduated, I worked at Taxim doing bread and pastries. Then I moved on to Girl & the Goat. Eventually I oversaw all the bread baking there along with Little Goat and Little Goat French Market.

CH: How did you build your bread technique?
GW:
Girl & the Goat was where I started to bake just bread full time. Chef Stephanie Izard wanted flavorful bread that she could use to hold interesting garnishes. I started playing with the wood-fired oven, timing how fast the oven cooled versus how fast the bread was rising. Now it’s more tactile. I’ll create recipes, make the bread, and write down what I did. There’s a remarkable difference between using [grains from] Baker Miller and Spence Farms.

CH: How much bread do you make normally?
GW:
150 kilograms on a weekend. 50 of those are multigrain. We have to make bread for 30 restaurants.

CH: Why do you ferment your 1979 multigrain bread for 60 hours?
GW:
The benefits are flavor. You really start to get a lot of the starch and proteins to be broken down. Lots of people have problems with gluten in bread, because they’re pumping out bread in 5 hours. Our flours are not enriched, just milled wheat. It's a natural product combined with long fermentation, just like fermenting anything else. That's why it's easier to digest and a healthier product. Also the breads are naturally leavened. By doing that, it lessens the content of phytase, or physic acid, which doesn’t allow you to absorb vitamins and nutrients. It also has a longer shelf life—like four to five days on the counter—as long as it's protected in a paper bag.

CH: What’s your five year plan?
GW:
I’d like to have a place that is devoted solely to bread that uses natural products with little to no enrichment. We want to create more relationships with local farms and grains. We already have a great relationship with Spence Farms. He grows some great wheat and rye just for us. I want to get back to what we should actually be eating here, be as local as possible. We’re also going to be a part of a wheat study with Bill Davison [of University of Illinois Extension]. He’s going to pass some heirloom organic spring wheat to us and then we’ll test its baking qualities.