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Avery Ruzicka on the Art of Bread-Making and the Growth of Manresa Bread

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About this episode

#56. In the latest episode of The meez Podcast, we had the pleasure of conversing with the masterful Avery Ruzicka, founder and head baker of Manresa Bread.

Avery delves into the art of breadmaking, sharing her passion for milling flour in-house and the distinctive flavors it yields. She also enlightens us on the benefits of natural leavening, not just for taste but for digestion too, and offers her take on the ubiquitous all-purpose flour.

But Avery's expertise doesn't end at the oven. She's a culinary entrepreneur who's mastered the delicate balance of scaling a business without compromising on quality.

From the intricacies of expansion to maintaining excellence across multiple locations, Avery's journey with Manresa Bread is a testament to her dual prowess as a chef and a savvy business operator.

Tune in to this insightful episode to uncover the secrets behind crafting exceptional bread and the strategies that have allowed Avery to grow her business while keeping the essence of her craft alive. Thank you, Avery, for an enlightening conversation!

Where to find Avery Ruzicka:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

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What We Cover

(02:37) Avery's background

(05:08) Organization and calendars

(10:07) The benefits of milling your own flour

(24:12) Avery's thoughts on all purpose flour

(27:54) Surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you

(38:26) The importance of the retention of team members

(41:09) The reason behind Avery and Manresa Bread's success

(44:35) Delegation in owning and running a business

(52:50) Other bread programs Avery favors

(57:29) What Avery would do if she had unlimited resources


[00:00:00] Josh Sharkey:

You're listening to season two of The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, a culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, we're going to talk to high performers in the food business, everything from chefs to CEOs, technologists, writers, investors, and more about how they innovate and operate and how they consistently execute at a high level.


Day after day, and I would really love it if you could drop us a five star review anywhere that you listen to your podcast. That could be Apple. That could be Spotify. It could be Google. I'm not picky anywhere works, but I really appreciate the support. And as always, I hope you enjoy the show. In today's episode, we deep dive into making super delicious bread.


Our guest is chef Avery Ruzicka, who's the owner and of course baker of Manresa Bread. They have a bunch of locations and first of all we get a little bit of the weeds of baking bread. We talk about milling your own flour and why that's so special and the flavor profile that you can create from it. We talk about natural leavening and why that is so helpful with creating flavor as well as why it helps with digestion and her thoughts on all purpose flour and many other things.


Then we start to dig into how she has scaled this business Incredibly. When you start to hear Avery talk, it's very clear. Yes, she is incredible baker and chef, but she's also really, really good operator. And just understands the importance and the nuance of scale. So we talk a lot about the challenges and the way that she's approached scaling her business, Manresa Bread, and all the sort of trials and tribulations along the way.


I learned a lot. I think you're going to learn a lot as well, not just about a lot of really fun, you know, tips and tricks on baking bread, but of course, on what it's like to scale a business with delicious food and make sure that it stays consistently delicious across many locations. So Avery, thank you so much for the time.


I had a blast and as always, I hope that everybody enjoys the conversation as much as I did.


So nice to meet you. I wanted to say, you know, we have a bunch of bakers on my team, even though we're a tech company. So I did send a bunch of notes like, Hey, what do you all want to ask Avery? So you're going to get some pretty pointed questions about baking. So if it gets a little granular, you know, is what it is.


No, that's great. Great. I love that. Curious, by the way. I know you, you worked in New York, worked for George at Aldea, and you worked, you know, for Saint Michel. But you're not from New York, right? I think you're from, you're from the South, or?

[00:02:48] Avery Ruzicka:

No, I'm from North Carolina, originally.

[00:02:50] Josh Sharkey:

Nice. What part?

[00:02:51] Avery Ruzicka:

Greensboro. So the Piedmont. So I did my undergrad at Chapel Hill, and I went to boarding school up, actually, in, in Asheville. So. But my parents moved to North Carolina. So like I'm the first generation. So not really no real Southern accent. My mom is from Chicago. My dad's from Connecticut. And he was a professor of history of ancient history.


And so he got a teaching position at the one of the universities, specifically University of UNCG Greensboro. And so then he moved there and my mom as well. And then I was born there. So

[00:03:23] Josh Sharkey:

Wow, that's awesome. Are you are you a history buff as well?

[00:03:27] Avery Ruzicka:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love stories, right? And so history, whether it's, I mean, there's a story in anything.


And I think that that's kind of like, I love storytelling. What got me into cooking was actually wanting to be a food writer. And I had been living in France and I had one more year of college to finish back in the United States. So I'd come back and I was thinking, Okay, if I want to write about food, I should get a job in a kitchen so that I know what that's like, because I think that that's just a thing we should do, right?


If you're going to write about food, you should at least have worked in a professional kitchen at some point. And then I, so for the summer before I was going to start school again, I started working in actually two kitchens. So it was like working. like 20 plus hours, you know, I was working and I loved, but I loved it.


I was so happy and I totally fell in love with kitchens. And so then that's how I, that's why after finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to move up to New York to go to a culinary school there because I didn't want to go to the CIA after having done, you know, many, you know, I didn't, I took five years to graduate because I'd gone to France for over a year.


And so it was like, I wanted to do something that could grow some skill sets for me, but not have to be, you know, another three years or two years at CIA.

[00:04:44] Josh Sharkey:

You ended up going to ICC, right?

[00:04:46] Avery Ruzicka:

Yeah, I went to, at that point, it was the French Culinary Institute. Oh, it's fucked up. The International Culinary Institute.


But yeah, I did. It was great. I did their savory program and their bread program.

[00:04:58] Josh Sharkey:

Nice. Yeah. So random, but I heard a rumor that you love your calendar and like making sure that everything's on your calendar. Is that true? Yes.

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