Los Angeles native Graison Gill moved to New Orleans in 2008 at age 20, began learning the baking arts and within a year had a following for the distinctive, dark-crusted loaves and baguettes he sold at Crescent City Farmers Market. He later returned to California to undertake a professional baking course and moved back to New Orleans in December 2012 to open Bellegarde Bakery (504-827-0008; www.bellegardebakery.wordpress.com), a small-production bakery in Broadmoor. He doesn't sell directly from the bakery, but shoppers can find Bellegarde breads at some wine and specialty food shops and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Crescent City Farmers Market (200 Broadway St.; www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.com).
What do people taste when they eat your bread?
Gill: They're tasting the choices I made, and the weather the day before, the humidity, if there was a thunderstorm or not. All of that affects the way your bread tastes. Then it comes down to the flour, the salt, the choices for the fermentation, the amount of yesterday's starter that goes into today's starter. There's math and science to it, but really baking is flour, water, time, humidity and the choices the baker is making.
Do you think the artisan approach is a throwback or the wave of the future?
G: It's retro-innovation. We look to the past every single day with this work, but with the foresight of what we have access to today. You can only talk about po-boy loaves for so long. How far back does that tradition even go? Baguettes, rye bread, the country loaf, these are hundreds of years old. That artisanal approach to food is getting better here now, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
Are there local traditions or influences that inspire you?
G: I'm inspired by what chefs are doing with farm-to-table cooking. There's no reason why that approach should bypass bakers. I'm working on a German Coast rye, I want to do a rice bread, I'm talking to NOLA Brewing about doing a bread with the spent yeast from their Hopitoulas (ale). We're in such a breadbasket here, so why not make some music with the instruments at hand instead of ordering off a catalog? — IAN MCNULTY