If eating fresh is one of the many New Year's resolutions you plan to keep, then a visit to Our Daily Bread is in order. The bakery, located in a small shopping strip off of Catawba Avenue in Cornelius, is manned by Romanian-native Gabriel Dumitrescu. Though he opened the shop at Lake Norman four years ago, he's been baking for decades. Prior to 2000, he lived in Romania, where he learned to make bread from his father who was also a baker.
At Our Daily Bread, Dumitrescu takes orders and supplies clients with bread on a day-to-day basis. Though the shop isn't open daily, on select days (see website for dates) items are available until they sell out.
For Dumitrescu, 48, being a baker is more than just a job. He passionately stresses the importance of natural ingredients and "living," fresh bread. Italian, sourdough, wheat, white, rye, baguettes and more can be found. "Bread is supposed to be good," says Dumitrescu, who loves creating both new and traditional things out of dough. At the bakery you can also order kürtskalács (chimney cakes), a sweet crispy Romanian treat.
Creative Loafing: You grew up in the baking business — your father was a baker. What are your first memories of baking and how did you know you wanted to be a baker?
Gabriel Dumitrescu: I don't remember exactly because I grew up in a bakery, so it's hard to remember the first contact with baking. But, I do remember as a teenager saying, "Never ever. I don't ever want to work again in a bakery." Out of four brothers, only I had the patience for baking and my father knew that. Over time when we tried different things in the bakery, I was always innovative and keeping up to date. As he said all the time, "You're going to take over the bakery," and I said "No, I don't want to." I decided to tell him I was going to learn to do something else and not be a baker in my life. But after years and years, I decided that not everybody can be bakers or chefs. It's hard. Everybody likes to cook at home, but for this we have patience. I do this because it's in my blood. My father knew what I could do, so he said I would take over. I was in school and had a seven-year education, but I decided not to work in the bank because I took over the family business in Transylvania. I was like 24 or something when I took over the bakery and kept up the quality. Even today, I keep that quality here in Cornelius.
The oven you use was custom-designed by you and modeled after the old oven your family used in Romania. Can you tell me what's special about it?
It's a special brick made of clay. The technology on this oven is like 100 years ago. The ovens were like that, except they put wood inside to heat it and then would take it out and put bread inside. Here, you can't use the wood, but I have a gas pipe that heats it on the other side like the wood would. When I reach the temperature that I need inside, I stop the fire, so when the bread is put inside there is no fire. It keeps the temperature very well inside. You can't do a big production and you have to wait for the proper temperature and then bake, so you have to have patience. You have to wait, it's not quick.
What's a dish or something that you like to eat with bread in your downtime when you're at home?
I cannot eat Romanian stuffed cabbage [sarmale] without bread. I don't know if you know this dish, but it's cabbage with meat inside that's cooked very slow. It's a nice recipe and tastes good with bread. It's a good dish in the winter time.