Wave Hill Breads turns 10 this year. We sat down with Mitch Rapoport and Margaret Sapir to talk about 10 years in the bread biz.
What made you decide to launch Wave Hill Breads? Having observed that there was so little outstanding bread between New York and Boston, we recognized an unmet need. After we tasted remarkable bread at a restaurant in Stowe, Vermont, we tracked down the French baker, apprenticed to him, and brought authentic French bread-making techniques Connecticut.
Has the business of baking changed in the past 10 year? How? Our business has changed since we moved to Norwalk from Wilton. We expanded our product line and now offer a wider variety of breads, croissants, and pastries. We opened a Café which won Best Bistro on the Gold Coast from Moffly Media but it distracted from our core wholesale business. We also participated in the short-lived Sono Marketplace. With so many restaurant and store clients, we automated our delivery and production tracking. But we still shape every loaf, croissant, and cookie by hand.
What is the secret to your success in this competitive business? Maintaining our reputation by making and selling only the very highest quality of breads and pastries. We are probably the only bakery around that mills their organic grains on site. We also devote a lot of attention to client service, recognizing the importance of keeping our retail and wholesale customers happy.
How do you develop new recipes? From where do you draw inspiration? We respond to customer requests and stay true to our roots. This year we introduced our first Wild Yeast Sourdough based on the guidance of our mentor, Gerard Rubaud. Tim Topi, our Head Baker studied and worked in Rome for 12 years and brought us his Focaccia Romana, a bread distinguished by its ingredients, and by the manner in which the dough is mixed and formed. With bread baking, it is not so much the recipe that is important, but the master baker’s attention to time, temperature, and touch.
Do you alter your original recipes to meet the changing needs of your clientele. (i.e. Gluten Free etc) It would be difficult to offer gluten-free products made in the same bakery as products with gluten. Recent research has shown, however, that true wild yeast sourdough bread can be enjoyed by people who have gluten sensitivities (not people with celiac disease.) “In the long slow fermentation that produces sourdough bread, important nutrients such as iron, zinc and magnesium, antioxidants, folic acid and other B vitamins become easier for our bodies to absorb. Diabetics should note that sourdough produces a lower surge in blood sugar than any other bread: in a 2008 study published in Acta Diabetologica, subjects with impaired glucose tolerance were fed either sourdough or ordinary bread: the sourdough bread produced a significantly lower glucose and insulin response. In the sourdough process, moreover, gluten is broken down and rendered virtually harmless.” From The Guardian, August 12, 2014.
What are your plans for Wave Hill Breads moving forward? We are committed to maintaining the highest ingredient and production standards and to keeping our range of offerings small in the interest of quality. and we plan to expand our bread party class offerings (for team building, birthdays, homeschoolers, women’s or men’s groups, etc.) as well as our popular holiday breads such as Panettones.
What is the most challenging aspect of your business? Building the team of serious bakers.
What do you enjoy most about your business? The customers’ response to our breads and pastries and being part of the farmers’ market community. We also enjoy being able to contribute to many local organizations and charities through our bakery. “We believe in the joy of bread. We see it in the eyes of children sneaking up to the sampling basket at the farmers’ markets to snatch just one more little piece. We hear it in the words of older folks who tell us how our bread reminds them of their mothers’ big round loaves coming out of the oven decades ago. We enjoy seeing Europeans smile when they taste Wave Hill Breads and croissants for the first time and say they remind them of their home country. We want our bread to continue to be, as so many of our customers put it, ‘the best bread I have ever had.’’ (Adapted from our original bread bag.)
Receiving letters such as this one (excerpted) “I stopped and tried a sample of your bread. At this point in my mission to get the grocery shopping done, I realized that I had just tasted Heaven. I rushed over to my wife and gave her a sample and she said it was damn near amazing. … One bite of your amazingly delicious bread would make even Darth Vader question his motives, take off the mask and sit down to dinner with Luke Skywalker while enjoying the greatness that you bake daily. ..”
We enjoy seeing how our team works seamlessly to bake, organize, deliver, and sell our breads and pastries.
What is your favorite product? So hard to say.We do like our newest two products: Wild Yeast Sourdough and WAVIES – artisanal crouton chips. But it’s hard to beat our Rosemary Roman Focaccia or Chocolate Croissant just out of the oven.