Michael Mordecai's year-old bread business is on the rise.
His demi-baguette, the sole product of Fairfield Bread Company, has been moving off store shelves frequently enough to keep him tending the ovens 60 hours a week.
If rising sales weren't enough evidence that his organic flax loaves are pretty good, the product won first place in the "best artisan bread" category at the Connecticut Specialty Food Awards 10th annual Product Awards Competition.
Mordecai, who rents out a section of a local bakery, has hit his limit as far as what he can produce -- roughly 200 loaves a day.
"I am actively searching for a larger space," he said. "The demand is there. People love the bread. It's a wonderful feeling when people call or tell me how much they enjoy it."
Mordecai, who moved to Fairfield three years ago, an economic consultant in Washington, D.C. for 11 years, and a real estate agent for about eight years as well as a professional cook, caterer and personal chef.
Mordecai said he didn't have to invest a lot of money into the new business, as he rents space and equipment from Adam's Bakery, on Tunxis Hill Cuttoff. He said he uses about 1,200 square feet for his bread-making, but is looking for a larger space within larger bakeries or warehouses.
Though he's just begun, Mordecai said his company "is profitable now" as a result of little overhead cost.
He considers himself in the "bread-producing business" instead of a baker, and gives partial credit for Flaxette's creation to his wife, Elizabeth, for keeping flax on the kitchen counter. Mordecai, who had been experimenting with different things, found a flax-infused bread "adds a lot to the texture and the crust and the crumb," he said.
But that wasn't all he did.
"I also started changing the process in order to extract as much of the flavor as I could," he said. "Baking bread is really a dance between the time and temperature."
It would take a year-and-a-half of experimentation before the bread became the Flaxette now sold in stores and restaurants, such as the Dressing Room in Westport.
He knew he had it right when his wife said, "That's perfect."
Mordecai, who sells to about a dozen outlets, said store and restaurant owners are told not to sell the bread if it's a day old to maintain quality, even though the flax, which is a fiber, keeps the bread fresher by retaining water.
Mordecai said that having the ingredients -- bread flour, whole wheat flour, ground organic flax, sea salt, yeast and water -- on the packaging doesn't guarantee someone can recreate the same taste.
"There's a lot more flavor-development that has to happen over time," he said. Mordecai added that coming from a cooking background helped, because marinades and soups also require time to develop their flavors.
Mordecai, who has one employee, said he loves seeing his business grow and being his own boss, but 15-hour days keep him from his family longer than he would like, and he has missed a few weddings and funerals.
Mordecai said he plans to focus sales efforts on the Fairfield County area right now.
"You have to put one foot in front of the other," he said. "Just like a big building, you don't start with the 100th floor. You start with the first floor."
He said the bread developed a following very quickly because of the taste, but also because customers like buying local.
"He's the baker, the delivery man, the marketing man, the merchandiser," Peck said. "And you could just see how much pride he takes in it."
Peck said Mordecai has run into some fans of his bread and some ask why he isn't making more breads. Mordecai simply says that the Flaxette is what he does and what he does right.
"It's what he knows is going to be successful," Peck said.
As for his business' single product winning an award a year after the establishment of the Fairfield Bread Company, Mordecai is on Cloud Nine.
"I guess it kind of validates you to a certain degree, that the work you're doing is worthwhile," he said. However, a customer telling him that his sick two-year-old son couldn't keep anything down -- except the Flaxette -- gave him as good a feeling as the award did.
"The bread that I'm making is nourishing this little child," he said. "That's a really cool feeling."