by Taylor Hartanov @hartanovhappyhour
I am completely smitten with The Grain Shed. Located in the South Perry district of Spokane, The Grain Shed is a bakery/brewery that sources all their ingredients locally. At the heart of the bakery stands a custom-built wood-fired oven, which is their only cooking device and turns out equally delicious chocolate chip cookies as it does wood-fired pizza.
As a somewhat close neighbor to The Grain Shed, I have watched it grow and change since opening last summer. Like many regulars, I have had the pleasure of getting to know one of the owners and head baker Shaun Duffy, who takes time out of the busy hustle to greet all his customers. Shaun’s talent with his craft and hospitable nature have contributed to The Grain Shed’s increasing popularity. I sat down with Shaun to interview him about the bakery and what it is like being a business owner in Spokane. We talked about “sexy” grains, his favorite pastries (yes, he eats bread every day!) and what is coming up in the future for The Grain Shed.
Me: What is it like being a business owner in Spokane?
Shaun: It’s great! I’ve opened up restaurants and bakeries in cities like Chicago, and it’s extremely stressful. In Spokane you don’t have to worry about Eater, national food critics, and all that which is such a relief. The only thing you have to worry about in Spokane is talented labor staying here. Lots of really great cooks and bakers leave Spokane, yet I’ve been so fortunate that really talented people are moving here to work with us.
What have been some big milestones in the 8 months you’ve been open?
Finding the right people and being in this neighborhood have been great. Meeting all the neighbors has been pretty fantastic, and we’ve been getting a really great reception from the community. Learning how to bake a cookie in a wood-fired oven was a milestone. That was very hard because trying to bake a cookie at 425 degrees typically doesn’t work.
There are so many cool elements that you do here, I actually forget that the wood-fired oven is everything!
Not a lot of people realize that we are a wood-fired bake shop. It is our only cooking device and we do everything out of that, and then we turn it into a pizza restaurant on Mondays. When we first opened my big idea was to sell bread, a few slices, and a few pastries like cookies and croissant. And now our menu has evolved into pizza nights and dinner service on Saturdays.
So, what spurred on that evolution?
Definitely the quality of our employees. At first it was supposed to be me and maybe one other person, but then we got amazing resumes of people who bring so much to the table. Their talent has allowed us to bake so much more and really expand the menu.
For example, on Saturdays we run a small dinner service with a couple different specialty items – just whatever we get from the farmers for that week. We turn the bakery into a chili parlor the second Sunday of every month, which is a pretty Texas thing to do. We bring in a Texas swing band in here for the chili night and it’s really a good time.
What is your favorite item from the bakery?
The Vollkornbrot is a rye bread that is near and dear to me. We have a new grain we are going to harvest at the end of the summer called Rouge de Bordeaux. It is a winter red wheat. It is a very sexy grain and my favorite wheat, so that will be my favorite bread whenever we actually have the seeds. I think the chicken liver pate we make here is fantastic.
What does a typical day at the bakery look like for you?
I usually get here at 3:30 am, clean out the wood-fired oven, start baking bread, turn the mill on, start milling, proof pastries, and drink a ton of coffee. Then whenever the doors open it’s about talking to people and running a lot of errands. We have a warehouse in the Valley where we have to go scoop grain from 1-ton totes full of last year’s harvest. We are making this whole thing extremely hard on ourselves!
The whole fact of wood-fired products and freshly milled grain is so worth it and that is how it will always be. I don’t think people really understand how hard it is to make a loaf of bread here. Our farmer has to get the seeds, then clean the grain, store the grain, transport the grain here, and then we mill it. We have 100% traceability which is really neat.
What sets you apart from other bakeries?
We focus on an ingredient that most people don’t find very interesting: wheat. Most people do not talk about wheat, in fact their eyes start to glaze over if you do. But we think it is very interesting, and what sets us apart is that we are growing it and milling it ourselves. Lots of other bakeries buy flour, and the flour they buy has basically one note, one flavor. The grain that we mill has flavor profiles and that is the most interesting thing.
We can make a cake and it will taste totally different than other cakes people are baking because we are not using the same flour as basically the rest of America. We are all about traceability and baking the right way by fermenting these products. You really need to ferment flour as anytime you mill it there is so much more surface area that attacks your gut. Your gut has to work overtime and will start rejecting the gluten. All the complex starches need to be predigested so your gut doesn’t have to work overtime. Flour is not a volatile ingredient – some people will say that, but it definitely needs to be fermented. If you are not fermenting your flour, things are going to go awry.
Does the lack of grain fermentation in the U.S. contribute to the growing trend of gluten sensitivity?
Absolutely. We are eating the endosperm, which is very hard and not fermenting it properly, which leads to people’s guts rejecting it. So, there is a good way of doing things, and there is an easy and profitable way of doing things. Many people choose the easy, profitable way. We have gluten-sensitive people come in here all the time, and we carry an easily digestible loaf every day. Today we have the Dinkelbrot which is spelt. Spelt is one of the ancient grains, so it’s soft, flavorful and easily digestible because it hasn’t been polluted and bred for harvest or meal.
Are there any events coming up at The Grain Shed?
Well, our pizza nights are getting really hot and happening on Mondays and every Saturday we have our dinner service. In terms of events, we are talking about having a few pig and lamb roasts out of the oven and lots of hanging out on the patio. We are trying to book bands on Saturday mornings and have more live music in general.
I hope you enjoyed my interview with Shaun! Do yourself a favor and check out The Grain Shed if you haven’t already. They have a very active social media presence where you can stay in the know about any daily specials. Whether it is before work for a morning bun and some DOMA coffee, or in the evening for a beer and a warm cookie, I hope to see you at The Grain Shed!
*Guest Post by Taylor Hartanov – a dental hygienist with a big sweet tooth. When she’s not planning her next dinner party, she’s most likely reading or dancing in her bathrobe to Top 40 music. You can follow her foodie journey at hartanovhappyhour.com