A Conversation with Expert Baker and Entrepreneur, Andy Clark

Last week, Escoffier hosted an exciting virtual event with expert baker and business owner Andy Clark. While Andy is a...

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July 22, 2020 9 min read

Last week, Escoffier hosted an exciting virtual event with expert baker and business owner Andy Clark. While Andy is a long-time friend of Escoffier Boulder campus president, Kirk Bachmann, it’s his entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity that made him an ideal presenter for our students, alumni and faculty.

Andy is owner of Moxie Bread Co. in Louisville, CO. A local, independent bakery, Andy shared with us that Moxie’s purpose is to nourish his neighbors and foster his community. And he conveyed the many ways that he and his company strive to attain that goal, each and every day.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Andy knew long ago that his dream was to one day open a ‘corner bakery’. Growing up, he worked in bakeries and restaurants so it seemed like a natural ambition. While his goal was a few years in coming, along the way he built up experience that made it an eventual reality. Working for Whole Foods Market for 15 years provided the background in areas he knew would be needed to run a successful bakery, including supervising employees, business financials, food costs, labor, and most importantly how to professionally deal with people.

“Persistence is often one of the strongest skills that you can possess in this industry.”

A Gathering Place

Moxie Bread Co. is the culmination of years of experience and the will to really want something of his own. He revealed that intimacy is important to him and his staff, who love engaging with customers. He also includes his kids in the daily happenings at the bakery and he says they love it. His visits to Europe influence the German and French flair of his products. Growing up, music was a big part of his life, so Moxie offers live music as well as a special gathering spot for small groups including Bible studies and moms who love the gritty sand pit in the back–the kids get to play while they sip on their coffee, enjoy some pastries and relax. That is the true spirit of Moxie Bread Co. and the sense of community it offers to everyone who enters.

Getting Excited About Heirloom Grains

Attendees were treated to a slide show highlighting some of Moxie’s equipment and products. A few of the audience favorites were the antique Austrian mill that housed some gorgeous New Mexico Pink Lady Seneca corn; locally grown Ethiopian Blue Tinge Emmer (an organic wheat berry); a classic seed cleaner that separates the dirt and debris from seeds; and a beautifully striking photo of colorful mixed heirloom grains.

colorful mixed heirloom grains

Andy is also chairman of a local non-profit group, the Colorado Grain Chain, which is helping to preserve ancient grains through transparency, biodiversity, artisanship, flavorful and nutritional products, community service, and equity. The group comprises locally-owned and-operated businesses and consumers that produce and support grain and grain products from heritage, ancient and locally-adapted grain. The group is inclusive of farmers, millers and bakers (like Moxie Bread Co.), brewers, distillers and chefs. It is also devoted to promoting member businesses and raising awareness and demand for their products throughout Colorado.

Attendees were asked to submit questions both before the event took place and during the presentation. Andy was able to see some great questions come in and was happy to address them.

Andy’s Personal Advice on Opening a Business

Andy’s advice to our students and recent graduates is to balance a well rounded education with as much experience as possible. He went on to include a basic, but very useful anecdote:

Do everything on paper first! Do the math. Write down your menu.

“You’re going to make croissants and coffee and baguettes. Okay, well, how many are you going to sell per day? How many are you going to sell per hour? How many people do you need sitting there per hour? What does that all equate to? Maybe it’s $2,000 a day. Okay, what’s your rent? What are you paying yourself or your manager? When you start with your sales, $2000, and you subtract your rent and your labor, and this and that, if that number that you arrive at is a negative number, well, that may not be a good business plan. It feels a lot better to modify and change your business plan when you’re sitting in front of a computer than it does when you’re paying rent and payroll.”

This is also something that an education at Escoffier provides. The business courses included in our pastry degree programs involve accounting, cost analysis, menu planning, and more. This business education, coupled with culinary/pastry skills courses and relevant job experience, can help prepare students for a bright future; especially as a business owner.

“Just to kind of love on Escoffier for a minute, you know I’ve hired a lot of people through the years, some from very big, fancy schools and some from very homegrown environments as well. The caliber and the quality in the willingness to work and the dedication that we get from folks from Escoffier is bar none. So hats off to you guys, and congratulations for being on the winning team and for winning your prestigious ranking of best culinary school.”

Best Flour for Pizza Dough

Andy says that chefs from Naples will tell you that pure white, extra fine-milled flour is best as it has the ability to withstand very high temperatures. It’s what creates what’s called ‘leopard spotting’; the stiff, dark spots that produce the caramelized flavor of the starches. However, back in Colorado, the middle of the U.S ‘bread basket’, he uses all purpose flour milled from organic and heirloom grains. He also shared that his proprietary pizza dough ferments for a total of eight hours before they begin to pull and shape it. Because, as with any hand-crafted product, unique qualities-in this case taste and texture-do take time.

Baking in a COVID World – How He Has Adapted

Andy has always considered Moxie Bread Co. a community maker and food provider. However, when COVID became the new reality, he, as many, had to innovate and reinvent the bakery.
“I’m not too proud to sell black beans and rice because the grocery stores are out. In fact, I should state that I’m very proud to sell butter and milk. We’ve been bringing in local farm fresh butter and milk, and different cheeses. Heck, we have toilet paper on the menu.”

He also notes that they began creating take home meal kits like chicken pot pie, lasagna and ribeye, adding that they “need to reinvent to support our customers”. Even as an expert baker, Andy says that he’s created a mercantile of sorts and provides options, “like grabbing a cappuccino and a baguette, while getting butter for dinner. We just want to help.”

In a closing remark, he left us with one of his favorite sayings that can be found on the Moxie website: Satisfy the soul and nourish the body.

He is excited about promoting whole grains, healthy sugar alternatives, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options, but non-apologetically admits that he takes pride in watching his customers smile and giggle as they eat a buttery sugary croissant.

“I don’t think you should ever get too far away from remembering health foods, but there is nothing wrong with tasting something really decadent.”

And on that note Andy was also too happy to share his locally-famous (and we dare we also add decadent) chocolate chip cookie recipe. While the cookies he sells at Moxie Bread Co. are made with locally grown heirloom-grain flour, he suggests home bakers try to find organic or locally sourced grains if possible, mentioning that farmer’s markets can be a great source for items like this.

Moxie Bread Co’s Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Moxie’s baked goods are always made using heirloom-grain flours, so consider getting your hands on some to make these chewy cookies. For the best results and flavor, Andy also refrigerates his cookie dough overnight, which fully hydrates the dough. Use whatever type of chocolate chips or chunks you like best.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 14 Tbs. (7 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 large egg
  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (130 g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/4 cups chocolate chips

Arrange oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. If you are baking the cookies right away, heat the oven to 300 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held electric mixer), beat the butter and sugars, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed to medium-high, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes after reaching medium-high. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and beaters as necessary.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low until combined, then beat on medium-high until fluffy, about 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer bowl and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix on low until evenly dispersed.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or up to 2 days; you can also scoop the dough into heaping tablespoon-sized balls and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. When ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough at least 2 inches apart onto two parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake, rotating and swapping the pans halfway through, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let sit on racks for about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely. To keep the cookies chewy, store them in an airtight container with a slice of bread.

**Note – There is much more to the stories Andy Clark shared with us, that we simply couldn’t capture it all in written words. Please be sure to click on the video to watch and hear our expert baker share his experiences, trials and successes.

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