In this episode we speak with Andy Clark, an expert baker and owner of Moxie Bread Co., a Colorado-based bakery and coffee shop. He’s also the proprietor of a retail grain mill and the chairman of the Colorado Grain Chain, a local non-profit group which seeks to preserve ancient grains.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Andy and his team innovated in order to reinvent the bakery, as well as used their resources to help struggling local farmers.
Listen as we chat with Andy about opening a non-traditional bakery, adapting to COVID times, serving one’s local community, and music.
Kirk Bachmann: Hello everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode we are speaking with Andy Clark, owner of Moxie Bread Company, a bakery and coffee shop with several locations in Colorado.
Andy’s also the proprietor of The Mill Site, a retail grain mill in North Boulder. Andy is also the chairman of the Colorado Grain Chain, a local nonprofit group which seeks to preserve ancient grains and works with businesses to embrace regenerative farming techniques. In his spare time, Andy is incredibly involved with his local community, from farmers to musicians.
Join us today as we chat with Andy about his journey starting a successful bakery business, adapting to COVID, perseverance, and all things grains. Andy, welcome buddy! Thank you so much for chatting with me this morning. So great to see you. How are you?
Andy Clark: Doing good, thanks for having me this morning. Excited to be here.
Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely. Are you feeling good? You look good.
Andy Clark: Feeling good. I’m on one cup of coffee. So you know, we’re getting there.
Kirk Bachmann: What is that thing over your shoulder? Up on the wall.
Andy Clark: That’s an octopus.
Kirk Bachmann: Is it? (laughter)
Andy Clark: We got COVID back in January. And after suffering through that, we decided to take a family trip to see my mom in San Diego and we had just watched My Octopus Teacher.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, great, great film. Oh my gosh, yes.
Andy Clark: We’re just really fascinated with it so we found that stuffed animal in San Diego. And then I stole it from my son and put it on my [wall].
Kirk Bachmann: It’s a perfect backdrop. I love it. I love it. Yeah, speaking of COVID I ran into your beautiful bride. We were all cross country skiing at Eldora and it was right after…you may have still been feeling a little rough. But I’m glad you guys got through that okay. It was good to see you were up on the mountain for sure.
Hey, before we get started, first of all, it’s going to be really obvious to our guests that Andy and I have met and and we hang here and there and I just have to throw this out. So baseball, our boys are playing baseball together. I think they have one more game wo they’ll they’ll play each other three times this year. But all of a sudden…so my son is is watching a lot of stuff here and there. He’s watching the Rockies, he’s watching the cubs. You know he’s changing his batter’s stance. The other day, he was watching the Padres against the Rockies, and all the players had these incredible sunglasses. So of course, Joseph Henry has to have these sunglasses. Just wait until Max wants the sunglasses.
Andy Clark: Well wait for it because we stumbled upon some Pit Vipers. I don’t know if you’ve seen those glasses – they’re like…who is the wrestler who ate Slim Jims? Who said “Slap, snap into it!” (laughter) 80’s glasses, so our whole family has these Pit Vipers and they’re like Ted Nugent-certified. But next game the Pit Vipers are coming up.
Kirk Bachmann: I love it. Yeah, we’ll have ours but I’m not sure the coach is going to rock with that. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. All right, let’s talk. I know you’ve got an instrument somewhere. I’m going to come back to that in a minute. What do you have today? Is that a banjo or…? There it is. There it is. He’s a baker. He’s a community person. He drops beats not bombs. Very nice…very nice, buddy.
Andy Clark: This is a banjo guitar, a guitjo. I can’t really play banjo very well, but I can play guitar and this sounds like a banjo.
Kirk Bachmann: Is this like an intuitive thing? I’ve always wanted to ask. So I love the sound of the guitar and I think to myself sometimes, if I’m not playing the guitar or hearing someone play the guitar, I think, “Wow if I say to Andy, could you play bee-dee-bop-bop-boo-doo-dee?”
Andy Clark: Yeah. I mean, I can’t read music.
Kirk Bachmann: You feel it.
Andy Clark: I’m kind of a hack musician but I’ve been playing a long time. And I definitely feel it you know. I can usually hear a song out and most musicians can sort of pick a tune out…
Kirk Bachmann: …and just play it. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It’s like for a chef right? Say hey, if I give you eggs, sugar and cream, what are you going to make? Is it ice cream?
Andy Clark: Creme brulée. Did you say yolks?
Kirk Bachmann: (laughter) I’ll throw some yolks in there. That’s fine. Let’s talk bread and grains just for a minute. What sparked your interest in that? Take us back.
Andy Clark: I grew up in both a musical and food-centric household. My grandma, my Nana, played the church bells, the carillon.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh wow.
Andy Clark: She played them all over the world and she played them at a church in our hometown called Our Lady of Good Voyage. All these old people would drive into the church parking lot with big cups of decaf coffee and donuts and my grandmother would be up in the belfry playing the carillon. Her bumper sticker on her car said, “Honk if you love Bach.”
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, yeah…I love that.
Andy Clark: At a carillon concert you’re in your cars in the church parking lot and instead of applauding you honk your horn so all these old couples are in their cars…
Kirk Bachmann: With their coffee. (laughter)
Andy Clark: Their mega coffee, their Dunkin Donuts because I’m from that. So my Nana used to bake really beautiful buttermilk honey raisin bread in a pan. And my mom used to bake bread and I just remember sitting up on the counter and looking at these old beautiful stoneware bowls, that sort of beige.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Andy Clark: And I’ll just be sitting there on the countertop, which is sort of what my kids have done with me too, engaging and baking and flour is flying everywhere and you’re covered in flour, you’re so excited and you can’t wait for it to come out of the oven. So that’s where it started as a little kid. Then in high school, I was lucky enough to get a job at a local natural foods…not a co-op, but a little store, a community store that had macrobiotic foods and vegetarian foods. They had a salad bar in the 90’s – you could walk into what’s called a glass sailboat. One of the managers there was a bread baker. Man, I think I was the prep cook, the barista the dishwasher, that “everything guy” at I guess 14 or 15 – weekends and summers. Michael Levy was making bread and I said, “Michael, can you teach me?” And he said, “Well, sure. Come in before your shift on your dime, at four in the morning, and you can watch me. Just stay out of my way. But yeah, you can watch.”
Kirk Bachmann: 14 years old, four in the morning? Wow.
Andy Clark: Yeah, on the weekends. I remember for many years just waking up early. It felt great, it didn’t really matter. Actually I still wake up early but I don’t go in and make bread. I sit around, do accounting and email and stuff on my computer and copy – which is different. But before it was get up at 3:30, you’ve got about nine minutes to sort of get your world together, chug a coffee on your way out the door and show up at 4. That’s the usual start time for…the kind of nice start time. Midnight and overnights are a little different. But that’s how I got my start. Then as a young man, I somewhat meandered into Boulder, Colorado, and got a job as a barista at a new bakery that was opening up in ’94 called Daily Bread. And I said, “I know all about artesian bread.” They’re like, “It’s artisan bread.” And I was like, “Well eah, that too…” (laughter) It was pretty obvious I was not an artisan baker. I had just learned your classic American pan breads. So they put me as a barista. And I just kept saying to the head baker, we we’re like 20 feet away, and I’d make him coffee all day, and I said, “Hey, if you ever need help baking bread, I really like it and I’d love to help.” They wanted to keep their qualified bakers there until somebody didn’t show up. That’s the opportunity, right?
Kirk Bachmann: Stepped right in, yeah.
Andy Clark: You’re like, “Hey, can I help?” And I did. I was 18 years old and, man, I just dove into the deep end for a few years. Much like in culinary school when you start learning things like mise-en-place class and you start to know how to hold a knife, and how to kind of have hustle. I dreamed, lived, and breathed that for a few years as just a super bread nerd.
Kirk Bachmann: How did that translate into when you were at the Daily Bread? Did you think to yourself: “I can do this. I’m gonna open up a bakery”?
Andy Clark: Yeah, when you’re young, you’re so cocky. I just remember thinking after a couple years of baking bread, I was super cocky, and I thought I was like a bread athlete, bread Olympian. The fact is, I definitely was a green horn, and bread has different sort of areas of focus. You’ve got your fermentation of your sourdough, mixing, bulk fermentation, divide and shape the dough, you have to proof it, you have to load it into an oven and bake it correctly. There’s probably three distinct areas that it takes a long time to familiarize yourself with, let alone master.
So I think at that point, I really didn’t know how to mix but I could shape really well and I was fairly good at the oven. Sourdough is a unique beast because it’s just this living, breathing thing that changes quite a bit. I don’t enjoy monotony. Strangely, I don’t even totally love consistency. I like moving around and things being dynamic. We strive for consistency in our final product, but the path there is often very dynamic and requires attention to so many different moistures and temperatures and time.
Kirk Bachmann: To fast forward a little bit, two-part question: How hard is it to start a business? And let’s talk about Moxie a little bit. Where’s the name from? I mean, Moxie is this beautiful sort of gathering place in Louisville. It’s there on the corner, people come from all directions. But I think our audience would love to know: what was the inspiration for it? Where’d the name come from? How hard was it to get it going?
Andy Clark: Super easy. You guys should just go do it tomorrow – just jump in. (laughter) So like many people, when I was a young cocky baker, I was 19 or 20 years old and ready to go get the world. I remember talking to the executive pastry chef and saying, “I’m gonna go to Germany and learn more about the seeded breads that they do and the rye breads” and plan this trip that I’d never booked a flight for, or even really knew much about what the heck I was going to do. But I was like, “I’ll go to Germany, learn some more stuff, come back and open a bakery.” I wasn’t even 21. And then the owner of our bakery ended up selling our bakery to Whole Foods Market for their first store in Colorado in Boulder, and a bunch of us got…I liken it to a tornado where a house is in one spot one day, and then it’s 10 miles away the next day.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. (laughter)
Andy Clark: Our little bakery house, which frankly was a beautiful thing…Daily Bread was a starting point for a lot of folks who have gone on to have some really satisfying careers and make some really good food. The next thing I know, I’m in a grocery store. It was very, very surreal and I didn’t really like it, but I ended up loving it after.
Kirk Bachmann: You’re 21.
Andy Clark: 21 years old, yep. We were this little hippie corner bakery and suddenly we’re in this corporation with all these rules and somebody else is controlling the music on the loudspeaker.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, yeah. (laughter)
Andy Clark: Jazz. I’m like, “Ugh I can’t take this.” So they saddled me and I started to be less of a jerky, young kid – punk, as they called me. Then I started really love the culture and the mission of Whole Foods at that time and I ended up going for 15 years as I grew the bakery with a company leading up to a 30,000 square foot bread factory in Denver, which was kind of a beast and pretty tough to manage. All of those 15 years, every one of those years, I was like, “I’m just gonna go up in my little teeny bakery because that’s what I want to do.”
But what was really happening was that I was getting trained on business and leadership and food safety and quality assurance and tons of stuff. I didn’t know how to use a computer. I thought computers were stupid. I was like, I’ll never need to type or use a computer and I’m a baker. Anyway, 15 years of that finally built the courage, the “moxie” if you will, which is a sort of colloquialism for determination and chutzpah. I jumped off into a little corner bakery and it was pretty tough, to be honest with you. Luck was on our side, and we were busy from the onset.
I paid attention in my 15 years of my first sort-of career as I traveled around the country and the world, going to…well San Francisco actually, and discovering from a French friend the kouign-amman original French pastry and saying like “Wow, man, that tastes different than anything…that’s on the future menu. Then going to Dusseldorf and seeing a certain ginger spice cookie that’s done in the holidays, it’s from Aachen, but the Aachen Printen – sort of like a ginger cookie. Going to New York and having a really amazing cortado. So this list sort of grew. The list was a corkboard of menus that I stuck up with pins. It was hard drives full of photos that I took eating food and looking at spaces and seeing people. So when we opened we dropped all those things in – all of the greatest hits of what I’d ever seen in the world. And we were busy – but we were busier than we were prepared for.
Our building is this 120-year-old little house, one of the oldest houses in Lewisville. Not really built for a bakery and the air conditioning doesn’t keep up. Luckily the floorboards hold us up even though they’re old. But a moral to that story is had I opened my little dream bakery in 1996, when I thought I had everything…
Kirk Bachmann: …you had all the answers, yeah.
Andy Clark: I mean, I didn’t even know how to place an order for flour. That wasn’t my job. I didn’t have a productive conversation with a baker that needed a little bit of help with punctuality or quality. Those 15 years were school for me. Maybe I didn’t need 15 of them, maybe eight or 10 would have done, but the learning curve and the impact that I had to brace for, opening my own shop, was certainly much less than it could have been 20-something years ago.
Kirk Bachmann: But the relationships too take a long time. 15 years is a career for a lot of people, but…it’s where you met Derek and Chad, right?
Andy Clark: Yeah, and those relationships are what it is all about.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, 100%.
Andy Clark: Derek and Chad Sarno are some really great industry-leading, vegan, plant-based food chefs. I called Derek and said, “I don’t know how to cook vegan food, Derek, what should I put?” Oh, I had this portobello mushroom that we make into this smoky-sweet…it’s sort of similar to bacon, but with maple syrup. So that was my first vegan sandwich. When I was sitting there with my then five-year-old son, looking at the drywall we just put up and thinking, “Gosh, what should I do to this wall that’s customer-facing to make it look pretty?” My old head baker, Luis Pacheco, called and said, “Hey, how’s that bakery coming?” I said, “Good, you know…” He’s like, “You need help?” I said, “I mean, absolutely yes, in every way.” And he showed up that day and he looked at that wall and said, “Man, you gotta tile that wall.” I said, “I’ve never tiled before.” And he said, “I’ve got all the gear. I’ll bring it up. I’ll show you how and then I’ll check up on you.” So we tiled the bakery.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, a true teacher, a true teacher – he didn’t do it for you.
Andy Clark: Yeah, he came and critiqued me and busted my chops for a few days (laughter) and said, “Put a level on that.” (laughter) But you know, I feel like all these angels just popped into our world at just the right time and helped and that was all through relationships.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah and there’s a story on every wall, which is super, super cool. Hey, you know, I have to ask, I gotta come back to the music thing. I don’t know if it’s a chef, baker world…and thanks for throwing out Dusseldorf – as you know, my dad’s in the industry right in Dusseldorf.
Andy Clark: A German Master Baker.
Kirk Bachmann: He is, he is and he achieved that in Dusseldorf. So it warms my heart to hear about that. You mentioned the greatest hits and I started thinking, “It’s either motorcycles, or it’s music,” or it’s both with the chef world, right? Tell us, you played last night? You had a little gig last night?
Andy Clark: Yeah, music is near and dear to my heart. Even getting into baking…man, I feel ashamed to admit this but I remember early on in Massachusetts, that all of the folks who were working in the kitchen, first and foremost, were really interesting people. My boss was an art gal from Rhode Island, a sculptor, a musician, a food genius, a chocolatier. We listened to the Talking Heads and Richard Thompson and cool music that was was really inspiring as a 14 year old. It just seemed to be music and also cycling – in addition to motorcycles, cycling.
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, yes, yes.
Andy Clark: We have a bunch of local kind of moms and dads who are all working people, who love music, and some of some of them are music school people, and some of them are actually professional musicians. And we play maybe once a week or two post-pandemic. I got a note from Nick Forester, who runs a great community, a Prairie Home Companion-type thing called e-town that’s more focused on the environment and the community. He was doing a Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday bash up in Boulder at his venue – he has a little theater. So the deal was, you could either pay 20 bucks to attend, or you could play a tune and get in for free.
Kirk Bachmann: Unreal.
Andy Clark: Well, I’ll bring up some bread and cheese. And I said, “Can you squeeze me on the guest list?” It was sold out immediately. I said, “Will you squeeze me into the guest list, plus I’ll bring food?” He’s like, “Sure.” I said, “Maybe I’ll play a tune.” He said, “Great!” I said there’s no way I could muster the courage to hop up on stage. Then I hit my friend Emily up. She’s like, “I’d love to do it.” So yeah, last night with one night’s warning, we’re up on stage playing a beautiful Dylan tune. It was really fun and super spontaneous.
Kirk Bachmann: What about during working hours and stuff? Do the employees get to pick the music?
Andy Clark: Yeah, the employees pick it. We hire for a musical ear, we hire for the ear. That’s the first question in the interview. Let’s talk a little bit about music.
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. (laughter)
Andy Clark: We don’t really, but as long as it’s not out of whack for the time and the space, I think sometimes we’ll get in there and say, “All right guys, I don’t think early Frank Zappa is a seven on a Sunday music.” But it’s a little bit part and parcel of chemistry. We actually do hire a lot for chemistry and fit. We think that’s really important.
Kirk Bachmann: Which drives culture, right? There’s something to be said about walking in and you hear Sweet Lilies or something and you ask about it. Like, “Oh, it’s local.” I love that.
Andy Clark: And you tend to have a lot of creative people who are attracted to us. We’re a really wild and non-traditional bakery. Your average bakery in America right now, is a Tartine-inspired, Tartine the San Francisco bakery, that’s got a very specific, amazing bread and some rustic French-style pastries, and probably a really beautiful, Scandinavian-inspired design that is not busy with stuff hanging everywhere. It’s just sort of nice and relaxing. And we’re the opposite. I’ve got crocheted owls hanging on the wall and a banjo and a guitar. (laughter)
Kirk Bachmann: Instruments – instruments hanging. (laughter)
Andy Clark: Yeah, a lot of found objects, a lot of antiques. It’s been said many a time when we were serving people inside at Louisville, like, “What is this? An antique store?” (laughter) What do you want? Everything’s for sale.
Kirk Bachmann: It keeps the conversation going. Let’s have a few plugs for The Mill Site. Can you talk a little bit about it? What’s the decision behind that?
Andy Clark: So I had found this beautiful mill. We opened Moxie on a budget, it was probably under 100 grand that we spent to get it open and I had no money. My last paycheck, from a short job in between Whole Foods and Moxie, came when I took the first $20 bill to put in the cash register in June of 2015. And so everything was really bootstrapped. I hit up a bunch of friends for money for five or 10 grand and flexible payment terms. An old boss of mine gave me 25 grand – again on flexible payment terms. I scoured the world for used equipment. And that’s one of my greatest talents – digging up really good equipment for a good deal.
Then I found this flour mill that was built in 1917 outside of Ventura, California. So I drove out there to buy it, drove it back and it didn’t fit in the door of Moxie. It was too heavy to even sit on the floor and the electrical requirement was that of an industrial garage. That sat in my garage for years as a coat rack. My wife said “Do you think you’re ever going to use that mill that takes up a car spot in our garage?” So long story short, one of my really great supervisors, Marcus, came to me one day, a year and a half ago and said, “Dude, I cannot believe your unit. When are you going to open a mill? You’ve got not only that mill in your house, but we’ve got these other three mills. We’ve got all this grain that we get direct from farmers that’s really phenomenal that nobody has access to.” You cannot go into Whole Foods or a supermarket – barely can go to a farmers market and have access to local and regional heirloom grain. So it was actually Marcus’s prodding and it sort of irritated me. I was like, “We’re busy enough, we can barely keep up with our bakery.”
Right before the pandemic, we signed the lease in January of 2020. We got in there, we popped three stone mills in there. And we created it as a nonprofit, at that time with the intent of trying to employ folks coming from other countries that needed help finding employment. As it turned out, it’s so small that we had our miller, Jones, who started the mill, and we didn’t really need to hire anybody. So we haven’t really fulfilled that mission.
But another mission of the non-profit mill was to create a catalyst for local farmers to bring their goods to market and the mill was the missing piece. Because growing wheat is pretty straightforward. You need to know what you’re doing and it’s a little bit equipment-heavy, combine and stuff like that, but all this week was getting ready. What had been planted locally for the first time in a long time in Boulder County, commercial, modern wheat grown in conventional systems, not necessarily regeneratively farmed, is everywhere. And Colorado is a big, big wheat state. But Boulder County specifically, was more farmers market vegetables and cut flowers and stuff. It just sort of occurred that we need to make sure all the links in this local grain chain are in place. And the nonprofit mill has allowed us to keep the pricing down, since we don’t need to make money on it. It’s just our food costs plus our labor costs plus our overhead and a little wiggle room. And that’s how we build out our cost model.
So if any local restaurant or cafe wants to buy flour and 50 pound bags, we’ve got really favorable pricing for that and we can also accept grant money and donations. It’s been very effective. We’ve got a wonderful roster of some of our favorite local food makers from all over the state and outside the state that are on board and we get to have this continuity to go back to the farmer and say, “Yeah, this is working. Go plant another 10 acres or 100 acres or what have you.”
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, that’s great. What’s the website, Andy?
Andy Clark: Website is moxiebreadco.com. And on there, you can just pick The Mill.
Kirk Bachmann: Pick where to go, The Mill. Yeah, perfect. Hey, let’s talk just a sec. You told me a story last year, shortly after the pandemic set in, you had to decide what to do. We’re gonna pivot or we’re not, but you did an interesting thing. I think you asked your employees: “What should we do? Are you in or are you out?”
Andy Clark: Yeah. I mean, what a petrifying moment for the world. What a petrifying moment for anybody making a paycheck, let alone the small businesses. It’s been pointed out to me, and I’ve read on the topic quite a bit about what entrepreneurs bring to the economy. And it’s a greater net worth, there’s more dollars that are created from little coffee shops and restaurants than any government agency, any NGO, any institution. It’s the businesses that are putting their necks on the line and they are the economic engine for our country. You may think that you’re just a little cafe, bakery, or restaurant, but the group of us together defines what a small town is.
Kirk Bachmann: Huge impact, huge impact.
Andy Clark: Yeah, it’s the fact that we’re crazy. We’re driven for our communities. We will not take failure. When you open a business, it’s like having a baby and you just do what it takes.
Kirk Bachmann: Plus, you love the craft. You love and respect the craft.
Andy Clark: Yeah. The pandemic hit and there was very little guidance from local, state, and federal government on the safety, the protocols, this public food safety aspect in that first month or two, it was pretty slim pickins’ to get info. I read the newspaper, and online and talked to friends and stuff, but we were all like, “I don’t know. I mean, masks seem kind of crazy. But seems like that’s what needs to happen and there’s growing evidence that supports it,” and “Geez, we really probably shouldn’t have people come into our dining room.”
So the day it hit and that following day, or two days later, we were just in shock. We were in disbelief and then we circled our management team, our leadership team. And I said, “Hey, I don’t know what the right answer is here and I’m scared, this is very new. And I don’t want to put anybody at risk – our staff or our customers. Moxie could survive if we just shut her down.” And it’s sort of like, turning off your car, right? You’re not using any gas, you’re not using the battery that much. Then you just put it in storage for a month or two and then you come and maybe charge a battery to fire it back up.
I was of the opinion that if collectively, we thought, “Hey, this is crazy, this pandemic is gonna ruin us and we don’t feel safe doing it” then let’s just shut Moxie down. We stopped buying ingredients so we’re not paying that bill. Maybe ask my landlord for a break for a month or two. We wouldn’t pay wages. Everyone would just have to agree to hold off. We kind of roundtabled it for obviously a long time, multiple days and said, “We think that if we figure out how to be safe and agree on what that means, we know we can make food.” And then as it progressed, flour was out of stock, right?
Kirk Bachmann: Yeah.
Andy Clark: We had access to millions of pounds of grain. So we can feed the community, which then became a point of pride. As the weeks turned into months, we can keep everybody paying rent. Everybody’s like paying their car bills and rent and then their student loans and I’m paying my mortgage and we’re feeding the community. Nobody wants to go into grocery stores. That was like a zombie apocalypse at the beginning.
Kirk Bachmann: Very scary.
Andy Clark: No way I’m going in. Remember when you buy your groceries, you had to leave them outside for two days to disinfect?
Kirk Bachmann: Oh, yeah, yeah – you were cleaning them off.
Andy Clark: Yeah. Then our chef, Brian said, “What do you think about doing lasagna?” We’re this Italian immigrant town, coal miners and there’s a legacy. We have this restaurant, The Blue Parrot, our neighbor, that had been here for over 100 years. Lasagna was like…of course, we need comfort food right now. So we started knocking out meal kits, meal solutions, bake-at-home, cook-at-home stuff. And that took off. We were slammed with that. Laura, our general manager said, “Why don’t we bring in some produce and eggs and butter?” So we started adding some key grocery store components. We had toilet paper and pinto beans for a while. We were all psyched to do it.
Years ago, I was Andy the baker. That’s changed through the years and certainly the pandemic. I’m Andy, the community supporter. “What can I do to help a business leader provide employment?” We have almost 50 people in our employ and “what can we do to fit into the community and do something useful?”
Kirk Bachmann: And it motivated others in the community, right? There were several businesses that sprung out of the pandemic.
Andy Clark: Yeah, you think about how joyful it is to cook a really nice pizza or to make a wonderful croissant. It’s equally joyous to go to your farmer friend, who’s making cultured, organic hormone-free butter and take that instead with your customer or a friend. Gosh, the amount of stuff that we brought on…one of our employees makes this zhoug, an herbaceous spread from Yemen, and we started selling that. People love it. Another gal has started this local fresh-pressed oat milk company called Oatly and they take organic glyphosate-free oats and they make oat milk in Boulder. They sell them only in glass bottles and they take their glass bottles back and…yeah, there’s a lot of beauty. It’s really fun being almost like a farm shop.
Kirk Bachmann: You’ve mentioned farmers a few times. Speak a little bit about your relationship and your reverence for farmers – particularly local farmers.
Andy Clark: I mean, it’s almost a selfish starting point, because I find that when I’m in nature, I’m the happiest. I find that when I’m on a farm and I’m in nature and there’s animals around, cows and sheep and turkeys…and my friend has peacocks, of which I have a feather.
Kirk Bachmann: I noticed that, beautiful.
Andy Clark: This is a peacock from my friend’s farm, and an owl feather that I found, and a turkey feather that I found. I hope that someday I’m on a farm making food.
Kirk Bachmann: I knew you were gonna say that.
Andy Clark: But farmers are the epitome of food creators. Their hands are in the dirt, they’re pulling food out of the ground and there’s nothing easy about it.
Kirk Bachmann: No, no.
Andy Clark: Some of the farmers that are in neighborhood here, Andre Husseini, he’s a couple miles up the road, Ann Cure, she’s four miles up the road, Aspen Moon, Speed Well…it’s a really obvious collaboration to give them as direct of a market outlet as possible. Whether that’s just buying their produce, or their farm goods – because it could be eggs, butter, Andre makes an amazing cheese and labneh and yogurt. Last year, we bought an entire 200-pound sheep and spit roast it for a party. We do popups. We have pretty much a carte blanche for a farmer, at any of our soon-to-be three locations, to post up in our parking lot for no cost. We provide some marketing.
Our customers are psyched. You go and you grab a coffee and croissants and maybe a loaf of bread. And then you get fresh cut organic arugula and farm fresh eggs and butter at a one-stop shop. You get to meet the farmer. So the sort of produce and value added direct marketing relationship with the farmers has been great. It’s been great for them. Then from those relationships almost always come the opportunity to plant wheat and that’s been a really beautiful symbiotic relationship.
Kirk Bachmann: Full circle.
Andy Clark: Full circle. So Andre Husseini, again two miles up the road, an absolute madman. One of the hardest working dudes. He basically just hand cuts every part he has to fix on his tractors. Right before this huge snowstorm in April that dumped multiple feet, three farmers called said, “I know you have wheat. Can we put some in before the storm?” Because that would be the ideal spring wheat planting time in April, right before a ton of moisture in an otherwise very arid climate. So I dashed around and distributed maybe 3000 pounds of grain to about four farms and helped each farm plant it with my kids. I have three young boys and they love to be on the farm. Andre said, “You think Theo wants to ride the tractors?” Theo’s my eight year old. Theo spent an hour and a half or two hours on a John Deere disking a field, as the sun was setting, as snow was spitting in the air. We’re trying to put in wheat, at dark.
So that wheat is actually located between our Louisville and our Boulder shop, and I drive by it every day. I look out in the field and I see it just coming up against the mountains.
Kirk Bachmann: That sounds like perfection, Andy.
Andy Clark: It’s pretty close.
Kirk Bachmann: Pretty close. Well, we’re winding down. Moxie Bread Company, downtown Louisville. You’re in NoBo. Newest location, Lyons, right up the road.
Andy Clark: Yep.
Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I love it. You know there’s so much to talk about. I’ll ask you to come again. We’ll have to chat about some more specific topics. Before I let you go, what’s the ultimate dish?
Andy Clark: The ultimate dish, okay, no brainer…
Kirk Bachmann: (laughter) Here we go.
Andy Clark: The food of the gods, pizza. We’ll start with that. I thought too about injera, the Ethiopian flatbread, made with teff grain, which is basically a big crepe in which all of the other foods sit. You eat it, pulling a little piece of the injera bread and scooping up with your hands some food. But when I get really honest with myself, I just dream about pizza. Daydream. Night-dream. Dream-dream.
Kirk Bachmann: Is it your pizza? It’s your pizza, you’re making it, right?
Andy Clark: It is a pizza that I would make that I haven’t made before. But it’s just a flavor combination. You’ve got either a sourdough pizza base, which we do, we do about an eight hour fermentation on it, or you do a sort of classic napoletana, multi-day dough with a really teeny amount of yeast and a kind of dead feeling dough that suddenly comes to life in the oven.
But what you’re getting for the dough, which I think it was Jeffery Steingarten that said dough is 90% of the pizza, is a chewy, little bit of crackle on the bottom, but sort of airy and maybe a creamy flavor. Not too acidic notes from the sourdough, but the texture should be not crackery, the whole thing shouldn’t be a cracker, whole thing shouldn’t be floppy and wet. It should have a wide range of textural beauty. So that’s the base and we’re baking it in a woodfired oven about 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
On top of that, we put some organic san marzanos, sweeter san marzanos, we put a little bit of olive oil, we put some burrata on there – maybe De Stefano burrata from California.
Kirk Bachmann: Perfect, perfect.
Andy Clark: Maybe too much burrata. Fire that off. We pull it out when it’s just got all these beautiful leopard spots on it. And we put little baby basil all over it. Tons of basil, and then mortadella and then maybe some sun gold grape tomatoes, sliced in half.
Kirk Bachmann: I love it. That is… (laughter)
Andy Clark: And with that a radicchio, red or ruby radicchio salad with some shaved fennel, some sweet mountain gorgonzola, and some lightly pan fried shaved Brussels.
Kirk Bachmann: You heard it here from Andy. Is that on the menu yet? Or is it still in your head? It should be right. Oh, my gosh. (laughter) Andy, thank you so much. We’ll schedule more time. I’ll see you at the game. I think our boys are playing Saturday.
Andy Clark: I’ll be wearing the Pit Vipers. I’ll look like Ted Nugent.
Kirk Bachmann: I’ll look for you. I’ll look for you. Andy, thanks so much for being here.
Andy Clark: Thanks so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Kirk Bachmann: We appreciate it. Thank you for listening to The Ultimate Dish podcast brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.