Chef Michael Kline
Born and raised in the corn fields of Northwest Ohio to a large family, my favorite memories are around the table, from intimate Sunday lunches after church to holiday bazaars where a sea of Crockpots enticed, filled with meats and vegetables and every warm, sweet concoction imaginable.
Through my school age years food was fuel, paying no attention to the family heirloom of grandma's sauerkraut recipe. Meals typically consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, Oreos and the blue box.
After my troubled high school years I move to Colorado to snow board and unexpectedly landed on the doorstep of The Broadmoor Hotel. It was there that food became more than just fuel and a paycheck. I began to understand its importance in my everyday life.
I got married, had children, went to school, and threw myself deep into the chaotic world that is culinary. The French Laundry was still in its infancy and we as young cooks stood around the book during smoke breaks, daring to dream of being as great one day. Like The Babe, Gretzky, and Montana, Thomas Keller was the culinary Rolling Stones.
Stints in California, Chicago and Las Vegas landed me in small town Walla Walla. Having lived the nomadic life of a commis it was time to settle down, buy a house, raise the kids, and watch my culinary dreams circle the drain with my discarded mouth wash each morning. That was the fall of 2005.
In 2005 small town Walla Walla had wine down to an art, food however, was limited to a handful of standouts in a sea of fast and frozen. Spending the fall of 2006 learning to make wine and pair food with wine, I landed at the stoves of a local favorite in spring of 2007. Building a strong team of cooks and chipping away at the idea that pasta sauce came in a jar.
The Bread Co was born with little fan fare in July of 2009. It was a chance to get into business for myself and prove my mettle as a chef and owner. Our bread was bad and we were broke. I continued on for the first 6 months as the chef of the restaurant, sleeping 4-5 hours night and never getting a day off, I left the restaurant in January 2010 and went to work for myself determined to save the business I had doomed from its birth.
As a chef consistency is death. As a baker it is the key. It is a must. I love the quiet of predawn, the hum of the ovens and mixers as they come to life. There is an aroma that comes off the raw bread dough as it furiously beats against the bowl, desperate to spring to a new life. The bread coming out of the oven has an aroma, yes. It has a song as well; happy, crusty bread will snap and crackle and sing a temptress song of the airiness that hides beneath its dark hued shell. The sun rising over Whitman College each morning reminds me the Good Lord has got my back for another day.
The magic in the kitchen and the bakery could not be more different or more alike; the heat and intensity of the dinner service pace vs. the calm precision of nurturing a supple crumb from a crunchy crust. The action of feeding someone is primal. The power of food and aroma invokes emotions that would cause the most stoic to pause and reflect; reflect on a simpler time of crockpots and picnics, of family, Grandma and Grandpa, cousins and friends.
Those lost rock star culinary dreams are now happily replaced with friends and memories. The partnership with Seth Small and the farmers that I call family shape my bread and my food each day. Now I watch my nearly grown children stepping out into the world with their own favorite memories of food and family. My wife and I moved away from immediate family years ago. Our Bread Company family of customers and staff fill our lives with so much joy and love each day. We hope you will join us for a great loaf of bread or to share a meal with us very soon!