So you’ve had a whirlwind year. How did you end up at the helm of The Standard’s bread program?
This last year after I left Tørst, I wanted to move forward with combining bread and savory. I had worked at Mission Chinese and Mission Cantina (as a line cook and then sous chef) and knew Angela [The Standard International’s Creative Director] from being in the kitchens there. Just as one opportunity was falling apart, Angela asked me about doing bread at The Standard, and there being an actual position open in the East Village location. I thought it was going to be a position just baking bread, but it turned out to be the Chef de Cuisine position [for the property’s three food outlets]. It was a lot more food-focused than it was bread, which wasn’t totally out of the realm for me. I had been going back and forth between bread and savory for a few years.
But you’re hardly leaving bread behind. This week you’re launching the first-ever bread retail stand at The Standard East Village.
Beyond the restaurants I worked at, I’ve sold retail bread casually in the past [Editor’s note: Blachman-Gentile used to make 10 loaves per day that he’d sell via Instagram and drop off to eager fans at McCarren Park]. We’ll be selling bread to-go from The Standard East Village’s cafe, which will have different kinds of breads daily. At Tørst our best-seller was the “Greenpoint Sour,” a white country style sourdough. It’s pretty approachable and it’s one that’s always sold the most, because it’s what people are probably the most familiar with. For the retail at The Standard, I’m doing one called “Glenn the Redeemer,” a blend of varieties called “Glenn” and “Redeemer,” which is an evolution of that classic country loaf I did in the past. We’re using heritage grains, which customers may not be familiar with. These are seeds that would've been grown in the past, which for the most part have gone out of production and are specific to a region. I’m using a flour called Sirvinta, which comes from Estonia, but is grown by Maine Grains. It’s a seed they’ve revived from the Baltic/Eastern Europe.
People always combine bakers and pastry chefs, but that’s never made any sense to me.
And how are these different from the breads you’re introducing to The Standard’s restaurant menus?
Right now we have a few different breads on the menu at Narcissa and then in addition, we have the winter garden menu going. Some of them are continuations of one’s I’d done at Tørst, like the parker house roll, but I’m evolving them into something new. I started this position in September and parker house rolls don’t need a deck oven, so it was a easy starting point while we were waiting on that. Then there’s our “Four Star Sour,” a reference from the farm it came from: Four Star Farms. Four Star mills fresh-to-order. I’ll also be working with a rotating porridge in my breads. Recently, I did a pumpkin porridge, which I loved. For Narcissa I’m going to do a kasha one, inspired by the Jewish dish, kasha varnishkes. I really didn’t like that dish growing up but I’ve really grown to as I get older. That’s our only non-vegetarian bread because of the chicken fat.
What has it been like working as a Chef de Cuisine at a hotel for the first time?
People always combine bakers and pastry chefs, but that’s never made any sense to me. Baking is a part of the savory experience, because you’re eating bread during those courses. I’ve never worked in a hotel before--I am used to this attitude of like, “we are making what we want to make, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to come.” Hotels have more of a hospitality mindset. My friend was saying recently that bakers are such old souls and at the end of the day, we want to make food that’s simple. I don’t mean to say it's simple in the way that it would be boring, but in a way that uses ingredients that goes back to our roots. Narcissa used to be considered more of a fine dining spot you’d go on special occasions, and I am hoping this menu gives more of an everyday more casual feeling, too.
For us, it’s a 2-3 day process from flour being mixed to water til it’s baked,..
What do you hope people take away from your bread program?
This isn’t a new idea by any means but the whole gluten misunderstanding is the most frustrating. Bread can be bad for your health if it’s from a chain supermarket. It’s not slow, natural fermentation; they’re mixing it with massive amounts of wheat, and they go from flour to bread in an hour and a half. For us, it’s a 2-3 day process from flour being mixed to water til it’s baked, and it has a higher percentage of whole grains. Wheat on its own is one of the most complete foods: it has fat, carbs, and protein, plus a wide range of vitamins. It doesn’t make any sense to me from an evolutionary standpoint.
Since your influence at The Standard is global and expanding with the new locations in Asia and Europe, how are you thinking about ingredients local to these spots?
It’s been interesting, because there aren’t many southeast asian bread traditions. Overall I kind of go through phases, I’ve really been obsessed with learning more about Mexican techniques lately. Not to say that the food we’re doing is Mexican by any means. Here at The Standard we just wrapped up our last ACLU benefit dinners called Chef’s Stand Up. The money has been going to the Immigration Rights Project, because so many people we work with in this industry are Mexican, and it’s something that should not be ignored.