Baking bread, building community
One might not expect the intrinsic sense of coziness here. Concrete floors, soaring ceilings and an expansive wall of glass don't typically evoke a sense of warmth. But fill the space with joyful conversation, soothing scents of fresh-from-the-oven baked goods, rich, roasting meats, and just-picked produce simmering in sturdy pots, and you have Central Food -- an enduring neighborhood hub of hominess -- located in Spokane at 1335 W. Summit Pkwy .
"Before there was Central Food, there was an idea that I wanted to build a restaurant around bread," explains David Blaine, owner/chef at Central Food. Every morning, fresh dough, lovingly handcrafted with locally sourced ingredients, bakes in the kitchen's mighty steel oven. Much of the finished product is incorporated into Central Food's farm-to-table fare, but loaves of the artisan bread are also sold from retail racks overlooking the restaurant's garden.
"The bread connects people to the restaurant," David says. "Creating community through the tribal knowledge of this craft makes people feel like they're part of the family, like they have a stake in this place."
And, so, once each year, David offers bread-making classes; at 8am on the Friday morning following Thanksgiving, Central Food opens enrollment for two January classes, each with 10 coveted spots – and they go fast! Participants are taught to make, shape and bake bread during class, and each person leaves with know-how, a natural sourdough starter, one just-baked loaf, a willow proofing basket filled with shaped dough to be baked at home, and "a lifetime of opportunity to come in and ask questions."
"People love to learn things they never plan on doing," David explains with a smile. "Maybe 20% of our participants will be passionate about what they learn, and the others might pull it out every once in a while." Either way, he loves stirring curiosity. "The bread classes are a metaphor for everything in the restaurant. My goal is to demystify the process and help people understand that something as simple as a loaf of bread can create a sense of belonging -- either here at the restaurant, or, more importantly, around their own table, at home."