In The News
When Joe Bellavance visits a trade show, he can’t just stand idly by a display table of his products. He wants people to smell them.
The good-humored baker is no stranger to hard work, so lugging an electric oven from truck to showroom floor at the Fort Wayne and Chicago home and garden shows was worth every grunt and pain in the neck, in his opinion.
At each show, he rented electricity and brought in special wiring to install an electric oven, all to plant the fresh scent of baked bread into the olfactory nerves of buyers.
“The best way to sell the product is to get people to try the product and to try the product, you need to bake the product. So, when I go to a trade show, I won’t do it unless I can bake live on the floor,” Bellavance said. “There is just something about the smell of toasted wheat that drives human beings crazy. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s evolutionary or what, but when people smell bread, some little switch goes off in their brain and they kind of start salivating mentally.”
Bellavance is the owner of Average Joe Artisan Bread LLC, which produces prepackaged kits that take the difficulty out of baking fresh artisan bread. “I wanted the crusty European stuff that’s really difficult to find and even harder to bake,” he said.
It took two years for him to perfect a recipe that would become the basis for his Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit. And what makes that innovative?
“It’s a good question because bread has been around for about 6,000 years, so there’s really nothing new under the sun with bread,” Bellavance joked from his home kitchen. “The innovation, if I had to pick one, would be to put together a comprehensive package to allow people to do this very easily, consistently and inexpensively.”
At one time, the bread machine was considered an innovation. It was the hot-ticket gift item for holidays, newlyweds and the home cook.
“Most of them, from what I can tell, have either been re-gifted, donated or collected dust,” he said.
In terms of artisan bread baking, the difference between man and machine comes with time, something the bread machine eliminated.
“Where you get the all the flavor and color is from the time you give the yeast to convert the flour starches into simpler sugars. That’s why it caramelizes; that’s why it tastes so good. That’s one of the reasons bread machines failed, because you would throw everything in, press go, and you would have bread in three hours. The problem with that is that the yeast didn’t have any time to do the work.”
For kicks, Bellavance took his master bread recipe and tossed the ingredients into a bread machine. “I pressed go just to see what would happen and it was like the paste I used to eat in kindergarten,” he said. “It was terrible.”
Bellavance calls himself a hack baker. He didn’t go to culinary school and is not a professional cook, let alone a professional chef. He he can do one thing really well: bake bread. It was something the renowned staff at Roanoke restaurant Joseph Decuis couldn’t help but notice.
“I used to eat dinner there occasionally and when I started working with a (bread) recipe and improving upon it, I would bring (bread) in for the kitchen staff to share and enjoy. Eventually, I asked them if they would be interested in buying the bread and they said yes and we started working together.”
The business relationship led the self-taught Bellavance to an opportunity coveted by every chef on the planet: stepping foot into the James Beard House in New York City.
“It’s kind of the Carnegie Hall of the restaurant business. You have to be invited to cook there and Joseph Decuis was invited and I was able to accompany them and serve fresh bread on tables in Manhattan,” Bellavance recalled.
If his bread was good enough for the James Beard House, there was reason to believe it could have mass appeal. Bellavance said he basically took what he did for Joseph Decuis and put it in a box.
Bellavance offers what he calls a price and production spectrum of products. That means kits are staggered to suit the needs of home cooks at every level, from the very skilled to the baking challenged.
“It’s a no-need recipe, so it’s really good for lazy people like me. Basically, you mix it, then ignore it for 18-24 hours. Then you take it out, you shape it and then you bake it. The net handling time of the bread is five to 10 minutes, so it’s really low maintenance and the result is fantastic.”
The Average Joe Artisan Bread line of products so far includes gift editions, a cook’s edition, a refill edition and a signature bread pot sold separately. Kits are sold direct online at www.breadkit.com and through retailers he supplies. As of October, Bellavance had 14 retail accounts and was in talks with some of the largest kitchenware retailers in the country to sell his products.
Corporations looking for employee or client gifts can also purchase kits through the holidays.
“We have a product goal and we have a company goal,” he said. “The product goal is to help people bake world-class bread in their own kitchens. The corporate goal is to bring the bread experience back into the home more frequently and there are a number of steps that we’re going to take to get there.”
Thank you to Floyd Mann of The Fresh Loaf for this great review of the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit. And kudos to him for creating what may be the best bread-baking site on the Internet! Check it out...
I frequently receive offers to review products. I turn most of them down because they typically don't seem like a good fit for TFLers, but an exception was the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit, which I baked with today.
If you are looking for a way to turn friends or families on to baking and don't have time to give them a personalized tutorial, the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit is a good way to go.
The Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit is the brainchild of Joe Bellavance and is based on the no-knead bread approach. Different editions are available on the website, some fancier and more "gifty," others plainer and more practical. At its core the kit contains everything you need except the water to bake your first three no-knead loaves.
The spiral-bound book included with the kit is really nice, and I really enjoyed the tone and approach he uses, which you can get a feel for from his blog. Glossy and color printed, it includes a FAQ and a number of variations on the basic no-knead loaf. There is also a laminated cheat sheet with the "golden standard" on it, the core no-knead recipe that everything else here is based on.
My first pass I tried to "play dumb" -- something that comes naturally to me ;^) -- and rely as much as possible on the instructions rather than my intuition. I prepared the dough as directed in the afternoon, covered it, and waited to bake it until the next day.
As directed, in the afternoon I shaped the loaf into a ball, let it rise for another 45 minutes or so, and then baked it in the pot.
As you can see, this isn't the best loaf I've ever made, but if I were a new baker and ended up with this my first pass I'd be ecstatic. It was extremely simple to make and did not require any gear or knowledge outside of what was included in the kit.
Later in the day I baked a second loaf in the pot. This one was a sourdough, and this time I relied more on my intuition as far as determining when and how long to bake it. It turned out lovely.
Joe says up-front that there is no "secret sauce" in the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit that you can't get elsewhere and, yes, one of us could put together a kit like this on our own, but Joe Bellavance has done a great job of putting everything together here. Even in the Cook's Edition the kit feels very professional and complete to me -- a breadboard and a nice bread knife are about the only other things I can imagine telling someone they should get when getting started baking, but they aren't essential to baking one's first loaves. I'm sure the gift editions are even nicer in their presentation. So if you are looking to introduce someone to baking this holiday, the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit is a great way to do it.
In the December issue of Fort Wayne Monthly Magazine, Jennifer Fox suggests including fresh bread in your holiday meal plans. Fresh bread? Now? Aren't the holidays crazy enough without having to work bread into the schedule? Jennifer doesn't think so!
"A tossed salad and fresh from the oven homemade bread caps off the meal. At the apex of the holiday season, I'm asking you to bake homemade bread? Yes! Local bread wizard Joe Bellavance has simplified the process of baking great homemade bread for even the novice cook. Enter: Average Joe Artisan Bread. The directions are clear and concise, and the smell of fresh bread will scent your home in the most delicious way. Use the directions for parbaking, which will get most of the work out of the way days or even weeks prior to your party. All you'll have to do day of is brag that it's homemade."
Thanks, Jennifer! We couldn't agree more!
KPC Media, publishers of Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, recently announced its 2011 Innovation Award winners. Categories included: Emerging Company; Health Care; Manufacturing & Distribution; Professional Services; Real Estate, Construction, & Design; Retail; and Technology.
Average Joe Artisan Bread was fortunate enough to be nominated for and to win the Retail Category! I'm very grateful for the Award and for the chance to share our story with the 2011 judges.
You can find the original article here.
Fort Wayne, Ind. – Two Fort Wayne businesses that are clients of the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center (NEISBDC) will be a part of the 38th annual Fort Wayne Home and Garden Show this weekend at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The show takes place Thursday, March 3, through Sunday, March 6. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m.to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The Olive Twist will be in Booth No. 344, right next to the Bella Bread Company booth, which are just two of the more than 650 home and garden exhibits at this week’s show. Locally-owned by Auburn residents Lori and Terry Berndt and located in Covington Plaza in Fort Wayne, The Olive Twist will be offering tastings of its extra-virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars that come in a variety of flavors. The boutique will also offer a selection of sea salts, olives, and gourmet pasta that will be available for purchase.
The next booth over, meanwhile, Bella Bread Company owner Joe Bellavance will be demonstrating how easy it is to make gourmet artisan bread using his exclusive Bella Artisan Bread Kit. The bread kit, which Bellavance uses for making artisan bread for area restaurants–including the exclusive Joseph Decuis in Roanoke–will also be available for purchase at the Home and Garden Show.
For more information on The Olive Twist, go to www.theolivetwist.com or call 260-436-3866. To learn more about the Bella Artisan Bread Kit, visit www.breadkit.com or call 260-740-8501. Information on the Northeast Indiana SBDC is available at www.isbdc.org or by calling 260-481-0500. The Fort Wayne Home and Garden Show Web site is at www.home-gardenshow.com.