Kenneth Curran’s first foray into bread making came at 21, when he was stocking bread at S&S Produce in Chico. The original Tin Roof Bakery owner Brandon Siewert walked into the store one day and, after striking up a conversation, Curran scored an invite to the bakery as a tryout of sorts to see if he’d be a good fit. He was.
Through Tin Roof, Curran formed a friendship with breadmaker Dave Miller, the owner of Miller’s Bake House who is known for welcome aspiring bakers into his artisan bakery in Yankee Hill to study with him. Another local baker, Tatton White, also studied under Miller and ended up partering with Curran on their current endeavor, Camina Bakery.
White grew up in Redding and moved to Point Reyes Station after graduating from Humboldt State to work at a prominent old-school woodfire bakery called Brickmaiden Breads (previously owned—under the name Bay Village Bakery—by Chad Robertson, a noted American baker famous for his tartine style bread) before relocating to Chico where he started his own bakery, Bread Itself.
Curran’s path to Camina went from Tin Roof to an internship at San Francisco Baking Institute and working at a few Bay Area woodfire bakeries, and then starting his own Italian restaurant in West Hollywood and a bakery in Los Angeles.
Back in Chico, White and Curran met and become became fast friends as they shared the Tin Roof ovens for their individual projects—Bread Itself and Curran’s pastry business, Takeaway Inc. About a year ago, the duo combined efforts and started Camina. They now work out of their own kitchen baking naturally leavened breads and French-style croissants that they sell at the Saturday Farmers Market and through Stoble Coffee.
The CN&R talked to Curran about the intersection of the two bakers’ paths and the journeys to come.
How’d the name for the bakery come about?
[In Spanish], Camina means to walk or travel. And given that we started this as us occupying other people’s spaces and selling elsewhere, there’s a lot of travel and movement in what we’re doing. As far as how it got on the short list of names, Tatton has felt that the name was really important for a while. Like if he had a child, that would be something he would want to consider naming them. So that really opened us up to thinking about it more. It’s also something that leaves a lot of space. The name just allows for us to grow in different directions, too. It’s not like, “The Sourdough Bread Guys,” you know?
There’s a paragraph on your website that describes the bread-making process as choreography. Can you elaborate on that?
So, bread is a relationship with fermentation. The dough is dependent on temperature and the recipe. And the seasons really affect how all these different recipes perform. It’s just a balancing act, which describes a lot of things in a kitchen. Making sure that you’re paying attention to all of the needs of whatever you’re trying to execute.
What’s your most popular bread?
It kind of depends on the season and where we’re selling it. Farmers markets in the summer—baguettes and country. And as the winter comes along, just more whole-grain bread—colder weather, people want a richer bread.
How do you describe your bread-making style?
We’re kind of are coming back and taking these elements that have come from the one end of the spectrum—like we’re doing Dave Miller on the whole wheat—and then on the white flour end of the spectrum we’re doing Chad’s tartine style. Dave’s the reason we got into the Saturday market. When our oven goes down, Dave lets us go up there and operate out of his bakery. He’s very important for us even existing. His encouragement is like, “We need the next bakery in Chico, you guys. Please do this. How can I help?”
Have you noticed how a lot of people have taken to baking during the pandemic?
Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s been just the national pastime, it seems. Which is really cool. We couldn’t be happier about getting more people interested in what we’re doing.
Any advice for home bakers?
It’s a relationship. It just takes your attention and time. To explore why things behave the way they do. It’s hard for me to give anything like, “just add more water” or something because I don’t know what the specific relationship is. It’s always different, so you can’t really speak to it until you really know what you’re speaking to. I’d say patience and attention are the best advice I can offer.
It’s almost your one-year anniversary—what’s next?
Going forward we’re looking to do more, get more involved with the community, having ourselves be able to sell more directly to the public aside from the two days that we are. Given the state of everything right now, it’s difficult to say with any certainty what shape that’s gonna take, but we’re looking at a number of things. Working with Stoble has been great and I imagine we’re definitely looking to expand that relationship and offer more days with them, and be more engaged with what they’re looking to do going forward. So that conversation is evolving, too. Just trying to get ourselves more directly involved in Chico.