When Adam Duke and his then-girlfriend (now wife) moved to Charlotte, there were a few things they missed about home. Hailing from New York, the poster city of deli sandwiches, quality bread was a slice of home they couldn't do without. Luckily, Duke, who studied at Syracuse University and went on to work for a pastry chef, had more than a love for eating bread; he had a knack for making it.
"I worked under a pastry chef and before we did any desserts in the morning, we'd have to make bread," says Duke, who was immediately drawn to the somewhat finicky craft of bread-making. Once in Charlotte, the need for a job and good bread prompted Duke to carve out his own niche and launch Dukes Bread. Initially, Duke sold his made-from-scratch breads from a small shop behind Common Market in South End. Now, four years and many loaves later, Dukes has its own storefront in Plaza Midwood (1217 The Plaza), where patrons come weekly to stock their pantries with artisanal rounds, like gorgonzola, rustic sourdough, rosemary asiago focaccia and sweet cinnamon cranberry.
Creative Loafing: For you, what's the attraction of bread-making?
Adam Duke: I love bread. It's so different from everything else in the culinary scene. It's a living thing; you have to react to it. You can't really follow a recipe or write down how to make bread. You have to react to it and it's intimate in a way that you have to get to know the dough. When you first start working with it, you just have to do whatever it wants, and eventually you learn to make it exactly the way you want it. A lot of chefs have a hard time with bread. It just takes a kind of crazy person to be able to do it, I guess.
How is Dukes different from conventional, store-bought bread?
Well, the stuff you get in the store typically contains a lot of chemicals and preservatives, and it has to be that way just because of logistics. We make our bread fresh every day, and we don't sell the old bread. It's flour, water, yeast, salt and our starter. Our flour is super high-quality, it's certified GMO-free and unbleached with no chemicals or additives — really awesome flour and just basic ingredients.
This is a question we all want the answer to. What's the secret to making great bread?
Really, it's just developing flavor. You've got to just take your time with it. That's really where I think a lot of stuff falls short ... Super-traditional methods take around three days to really develop crazy flavor. We try to do a little bit of that. We have our own starter that we use, that we let develop for 24 hours, and it just leaves a really nice flavor. It's something different that you really don't get in the Charlotte area.