F&W Game Changers: Bryan Ford
This baker is breaking down bread barriers, one loaf at a time.
When Bryan Ford published New World Sourdough last year, he had one goal: to upend the commonly held Eurocentric notion of sourdough baking. Ford, who is Afro-Honduran, wanted to highlight the naturally leavened breads of Central and South America that he grew up on, like Jamaican hard dough and semitas de yema, and move the conversation away from crusty San Francisco-style boules. "If you let a flour-and-water mixture sit long enough, it will ferment-especially in a tropical climate," Ford writes in the introduction. "A dense loaf of pan de coco is no less 'sourdough' than a crunchy batard with an open, light crumb." Ford's book, which arrived in the middle of a pandemic to a newly sourdough-enraptured audience, proved so popular that for weeks, it was impossible to find. In six months, it sold over 60,000 copies.
"In my mind, it doesn't seem that big of a deal or that special to make a coconut sourdough," Ford says. "I didn't expect it to be this phenomenon." But that is what New World Sourdough proved to be, as well as a clarion call to shift the baking world toward inclusivity. That means not only acknowledging forms of naturally leavened bread that don't cleave to the Eurocentric model, like Ethiopian injera, Indian dosas, and Mexican birote, but also helping people realize you don't have to be a professional to bake bread. "Bread was being made 5,000 years ago in a Honduran wood-fired oven. The goal was to make something you could eat," he says. For Ford, the way that tropes of the professional baking world-like crackle-crusted loaves with perfectly honeycombed interiors-have crept into amateur baking is ultimately harmful. "You get this culture of exclusivity. People are hindered by that stuff."
Ford has been busy. He's starring in his own new cooking show, The Artisan's Kitchen, set to debut on the new Magnolia Network and Discovery+ on July 15. He formed a production company, Flaky Biscuit Media, with his partner, and he is currently working on a cookbook with about 150 recipes that celebrate the baking cultures of South America, Central America, and Mexico-beyond just bread. His aim is to continue the conversations sparked over the past year about whose food gets represented in cookbooks and how to broaden that. "The question is: How do we keep the momentum going? How do we pay respect where respect is due and honor traditions? I'm ready to talk."