Don Guerra Is on a Mission to Bake Bread That Blurs Borders


“Sometimes I’m like, ‘Wow, I birthed this thing out of my garage,’” Mr. Guerra said, laughing. “Look how many cool things came out of garages: Steve Jobs, the Ramones. In other places — for example, Mexico — man, you’re a legend if you can kit your house out and you have a little storefront on the side. That person is really respected.”

In 2016, after eight years in the garage, Mr. Guerra opened his current location in a small 1960s-era shopping mall. The prep area is almost exactly the same size as his old garage; the dimensions make him feel most like himself, he said.

Mr. Guerra and his wife separated three years ago, in part because of disagreements over his early hours and a punishing workload. (She is still the co-owner of Barrio Bread and manages its human resources and its finances.) This year, Mr. Guerra oversaw the opening of Barrio Charro, a daytime spot in Tucson that serves sandwiches and baked goods, a collaboration with the Si Charro! restaurant group. And he started Barrio Grains, a packaged line of the whole grains and flour mixes that go into Barrio’s breads, produced by Hayden Flour Mills of Queen Creek, Ariz.

Mr. Guerra also has a new obsession. He is figuring out how to get a 50-pound sack of organic heritage wheat north across the border at Nogales, in Arizona. He has reached out to small farmers in Sonora, including Jose Luis Lámbarri, a farmer near Ciudad Obregón, 400 miles south of Tucson. Mr. Lámbarri grows Yaqui-50, a soft wheat reputed to taste sweet and nutty.

Despite encountering countless bureaucratic hurdles, Mr. Guerra seemed energized, buzzing with hope about the prospect of getting his hands on it, grinding it in his tabletop mill, mixing it into his doughs.

“Crossing borders, feeding this grain to my people in the form of bread,” he said. “To me, that’s power.”



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