The bread we use in our restaurants is baked each day, nearly single-handedly, by our head baker Ramone Lopez. He arrives each day at 1:00AM to begin his routine of mixing, shaping, baking, and preparing the finished loaves for delivery to the restaurants. His tools: a German-made spiral mixer, an English made “seen better days” deck oven, a twenty foot long bakers table, and his two weathered hands help him to coax the various formulas of flour, water, salt, and yeast into crusty, chewy crumbed, rustic loaves of bread. In 1995, we developed a sour starter using organic grapes, flour, and water that we continue to use today. Using wild yeasts and sour starters give a distinct flavor and texture to the breads but don’t necessarily give the predictable results of a commercially manufactured product. Our breads require long proofing times, 24 hours or more, to develop the flavor and crumb that we seek. Years of experience, and a baker’s intuition, give Ramone the ability to make micro adjustments to each batch of dough depending on weather conditions, fluctuations in flour, and ambient temperature.
Ramone came to California 18 years ago from his village of Caxuxi, Hildalgo Mexico. His father grew corn, alfalfa, herbs, and flowers on the family farm. At the age of five, Ramone began working along side his father. His father taught him that hard work is its own reward and gives a man an opportunity to “be the best” at whatever he did. By the time he was 21, making 15 pesos a day and in competition with his thirteen brothers and sisters for work, Ramone needed a change. He decided to look for opportunity in California. On the recommendation of a family member, Ramone landed in Dixon where he worked as a day laborer on local farms. One of them, Stone Free Farms, was owned by an upstart Englishman named Stuart Dixon. Dixon was so impressed with Ramone’s skills and work ethic, he offered him a full time job at Stone Free. In addition to his duties on the farm, Ramone often made deliveries to area markets and a hand full of restaurants including Paragary’s Bar and Oven and The Capitol Grill. (Yes, we were buying and serving produce from local farmers in 1992!) Ramone was impressed with how the chefs at both restaurants scrutinized each box of produce. Even more impressive to him was his discovery that we had leased an acre of land along the River Road to grow our own herbs and vegetables. (Because of the difficulties of managing our chain smoking hippy farmer and controlling theft and escalating costs, we eventually gave up on the idea of maintaining a remote restaurant garden) When Dixon decided to move the farm to the coast, Ramone came to work for us. When we opened Paragary’s Bakery in 1995, Ramone began training under baker John Hyde. (Turned out there was a Jekyll side to John) One day after a rather unpleasant transformation, John abruptly left the position and Ramone stepped in as head baker. These days, Ramone and his team produce over 500 pieces a day of hand shaped table breads, focaccia, hamburger buns, brioche, and pizza dough. If you’ve been at any of our restaurants, chances are you’ve enjoyed Ramone’s work. Thank you Ramone!
Posted on 11/18/2009 at 12:00:00 AM