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

by Sean Kenniff
February 2015

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.