Clint Cooper at Village Baking Company on the True Test of a Baker and the Magic of a Kouighn Amann
The air constantly chatters outside of the Village Baking Co. There's an almost-constant warning bell from a nearby DART station and every single car on University Drive and nearby Central Expressway are in a really big hurry to get somewhere. And then there's Greenville Avenue just a 100 yards up the road -- it's all just the usual rumpus of the city.
But once you walk inside the door of the small retail bakery, the first thing that hits you is the smell. Your senses instantly mellow. Then, after you ascend the four steps and your eyes sweep over the mounds of fresh pastries and breads, all that rigmarole outside completely disappears.
Clint Cooper has provided bread to many local restaurants, hotels and grocery outlets for close to a decade. His previous bakery in the Design District didn't have the right set-up for retail sales, so he focused on wholesale accounts and peddled his baked goods at local farmers' markets on the weekends. But even then the bread wasn't straight from the ovens.
That's all changed now. This summer Village Baking Co. packed up the oven mitts and moved into a new spot where customers buy fresh warm bread.
Recently, I chatted with Cooper about his baking background and the most amazing pastry I've ever eaten, the kouign amman.
How are things?
Well, I broke my ankle a week ago playing basketball. So, that's making things a little challenging, just when I opened this retail spot and I'm doing all these other things (he laughs). It's fine; I just have to hobble around.
You have a big family to take care of also, right?
Yep, we have four kids, all under the age of 7. (He laughs more.)
When did you first get into cooking and baking bread?
My mom always cooked, and my grandmother is French, and I just picked it up from them. Then, I worked at a great little artisan bakery in Amarillo, of all places. I was going to actually buy it at one point. Then, I went to culinary school just for baking and pastry at the San Francisco Baking Institute. After that, I traveled around in Europe a bit -- in particular France -- and I did some apprenticeships there.
Why did you chose baking in particular?
It's not a romantic story. I was a consultant for five years; I got a finance degree in college. I just wanted to do something in the culinary world, but I knew I didn't want to be a chef because of the hours, although now we run 24 hours a day, so that didn't really work out. But, I'm more of a morning person and thought it fit my lifestyle better. Then, once I started really studying it and getting into it, it fit my analytical side. Baking is all about procedures and formulas.