The Rise of Bigwood Bread
Ketchum company opens new organic baking facility and café
Nestled in the light-industrial district of Ketchum—where half of the houses are empty most of the time, where restaurants struggle to make it through “slack” season and where transients and transplants strive to make a living—a thriving bakery burns through 10,000 pounds of organic flour every week. And that’s on a slow week. During peak season, that number doubles.
Bigwood Bread has weathered the seasons in Ketchum for almost 30 years, winning the hearts of locals and visitors with their delightful baked goods and dedication to the community.
From the massive window outside Bigwood Bread’s new eco-conscious building, you can see rows upon rows of bread rounds rising and challah buns baking in massive ovens. There are also giant metal towers of fresh sourdough, campagne, lavash and Vitagrain breads (to name a few) and hundreds of bags of cookies. What onlookers can’t see is the apartment-sized room that houses mountains of organic flour, the bakery’s state-of-the-art pastry and production rooms and the temperature-controlled loading docks.
Bigwood’s old space—pint-sized compared to the new 10,000-square-foot structure—had too much temperature fluctuation for a bakery. On cold winter days, head baker Alex Ponce had to find the warmest spot in the building for the bread to rest and rise. On hot summer days, the bread had to be moved into a cooler. The bakery’s 18-year-old French ovens were finicky, with uneven temperatures that required bakers to shift loaves around frequently. Because the space was so small, two cycles of loaves were baked every day in order to supply local cafés and vendors.
In November 2014, Bigwood Bread moved into to its new building, which took years to design and build. Not only is the new Bakery Café the first commercial building in Blaine County built to the International Green Construction Code, but the bakery is finally consistent. Everything is still made by hand—breads still originate from the same decades-old starter created by founders Art Kabeary and Rob Wallace (the two guys featured on the logo)—but the ovens are new, the temperatures are regulated and the space is efficient.
After a decade spent tending volatile leaven in the old space, Ponce had to modify his recipe so that it would flourish in the new, controlled environment.
“I can sleep at night now,” he said.
Current owners Carly Tempest and her father George Golleher (along with their spouses Bryan Tempest and Rita Golleher), are relieved to be in the new energy-efficient, well-organized space. Still, both Tempest and Golleher wish the storage room was larger. While the new bakery is a well-oiled machine compared to the old one, demand for Bigwood’s products is on the rise. Besides baking and cooking for its two restaurants—the new Bakery Café and the smaller Downtown Café, located in a white house across the street from Ketchum’s Town Square—Bigwood also supplies bread, bagels, cookies, pastries and granola to Wood River Valley restaurants and grocery stores. And it sends a daily truck to Boise to provide the Treasure Valley with fresh-baked goods.
Like its bread, the food offered in Bigwood’s two cafés is made from scratch, often with organic, locally sourced ingredients. In addition to serving sandwich and salad staples like the Bigwood BLT and the Chicken Chipotle Salad, Bigwood’s Bakery Café has also expanded its menu. New breakfast items include an open-faced tartine with sliced avocado and “birdseed” pancakes (inspired by Bigwood’s popular cookie), while new lunch items include a hearth-baked daily pizza special and Mexican dishes like sopes and street tacos.
True to Ketchum’s dichotomous nature—melding sophistication and simplicity—Bigwood’s spacious new Bakery Café combines high peaked beams and a cozy fireplace reminiscent of old European ski lodges with rustic country flourishes. It’s a quick stop for those who want to grab a coffee and a cupcake and head back to work, but it also welcomes lingerers looking to enjoy a post-meal wine or après-bike-ride beer.
The staff seems at ease with a never-ending line of people stepping up to the counter to order. Aromas of espresso and fresh-baked bread swirl in the air each time the doors open. There’s never a lull, only bustling bodies and the happy hum of an artisan bakery.
Bigwood Bread Bakery Café
271 Northwood Way, Ketchum
208.726.2035 • BigwoodBread.com
Bigwood Bread Downtown Café
380 N. East Ave., Ketchum
208.928.7868 • BigwoodBread.com