Fairfield Bread Company: an entrepreneur's dream becomes reality
Michael Mordecai says he's been getting great responses from customers and independent food sellers who have tasted his bread and have opened the door for the former international trade economic consultant to follow a dream that literally has been "baking" since he was a little boy.
Mordecai is Fairfield County's latest bread baker. The burgeoning success of his new business, Fairfield Bread Company, rises from early memories of watching his grandmother bake bread and from his later travels throughout Europe buying and tasting the variety of European breads.
It is those memories that planted the seed along with the actual seed of flax that has sprouted this fledgling bread company onto the local retail scene where "The Flaxette" is flying off the shelves. The Fairfield resident couldn't be prouder and more enthused by the response his artisan bread is receiving.
"The Flaxette has the attributes I was looking for: crunch, chewy, tender, firm and full of flavor," said this new entrepreneur.
"I've always loved working with food and tinkering with bread recipes," said Mordecai, whose "secret ingredient" which really is not so secret: the flax seed is the key to "the crunchy exterior crust and soft chewy interior" that contribute to the natural flavor.
In addition to flax seed, the ingredients include natural unbleached wheat flour with malted barley, whole wheat flour, sea salt and yeast. Mordecai emphasizes there is no sugar in his bread. The flavors develop through four proofing stages.
"The sweetness you taste comes from the natural grains," said Mordecai, as he cut a second piece of bread, while he sat talking about his new business at a table in The Pantry, one of the local food establishments that sell The Flaxette.
"People who try it just love it. Kids love it. That little bit of crackle that you get from the crust comes from the flax," said Mordecai, noting that he uses only "organic flax," which he believes contributes to the texture and taste. He believes the organic flax makes the bread "more plump and robust.
"I am able to extract much flavor from the ingredients," Mordecai said.
He touts the bread's shelf life. "Day 2 finds it's still wonderful as is. A sprinkling of water followed by 10 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees makes it even beter. Top with salmon, onion and caper. Day 3? French toast or `killer' chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce. The Flaxette freezes well in its fresh state when wrapped tightly in foil or plastic and then unwrapped and baked frozen at 424 degrees for 10 minutes."
Mordecai rents a kitchen in a local bakery where he bakes his bread six days a week. He is a one-man operation: baking the bread; delivering the bread; seeking out new outlets; dealing with supplies; and handling all the paperwork. Currently, he is on a quest to find wheat that is grown in the region so that his product can be as "locally grown" as possible.
The decision to start his own bread company is a natural progression for this George Washington University economics major. For the past 10 years, following his tenure as an international trade economic consultant with Charles River Associates in Washington, D.C., he has been working in the food industry in a variety of capacities. He has been a personal chef, caterer, line cook and a baker. Also, he has spent many hours baking bread in his own kitchen, perfecting recipes that have culminated in the recipe for The Flaxette.
When he had decided to move in the direction of establishing his own bread company, Mordecai did his own research as any prospective baker would -- he went around tasting the competition. However, he said, "At a certain point, you can't worry about the competition; you have to commit to do it and step on the gas."
He admits that it was a challenge and adjustment going from baking bread in his kitchen to baking loaves of bread for distribution from a commercial kitchen with the commercial ovens and equipment.
In discussing his economic background, Mordecai said his "economic and financial analyses were presented to the highest levels of the U.S. Government, The White House, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce."
Despite his distinguished background, Mordecai says he was drawn to being his own entrepreneur, to have his own company, to be in control of growing his own business. His background in economics and business serves him well in starting a business, with setting down a business plan, looking at market trends and analyzing costs, profitability, etc.
He has adapted from international analysis to small town Main Street buying patterns. He's looking at how quickly his loaves of bread sell and how many loaves sell any given day of the week, time of day and weather conditions.
He quotes a local food shop owner who advised him, "You can look at all the data you want and you still can't figure it out."
Looking ahead, Mordecai is concentrating on fine-tuning the systems already in place -- expanding his distribution; increasing production; and evaluating when it will be time to hire staff. He plans to add another bread product in the future.
"I need to manage the growth and the distribution. They all have to grow together," he said.
For the adventurous bread lover, Mordecai suggests eating the bread with a spread of duck liver pate, or top with peach preserves and a fresh rosemary leaf. "Or," he added, "delight your kids with The Flaxette grilled cheese sandwich."
In addition to the Pantry at 1580 Post Road, Fairfield, the Fairfield Bread Company's Flaxette is also available at Spic & Span Market, 329 Pequot Ave., Southport; Adam's Bakery, 525 Tunxis Hill Cut-off, Fairfield; Garelick & Herbs, 1799 Post Road, Westport; Palmer's Market, Darien; and Harborview Market, 218 Harborview Ave., Black Rock, Bridgeport. The bread is also available online through Connecticut Farm Fresh Express at www.ctffe.com.
For more information, check Mordecai's blog at www.fairfieldbread.blogspot.com or send an e-mail to FairfieldBread@optonline.net