It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that Chef David Willocks, co-owner (with his wife, Wendy Braun) of Newport’s The Baker’s Table, is very serious about bread.
“One of our goals was to make 100 percent of our bread,” Willocks says. “The restaurant opened close to three years ago, and since that time we have prepared every single loaf, every roll, every cracker. We haven’t purchased bread from anyone, and that’s something that I take a huge amount of pride in. I think it’s a really big deal.”
But even as a kitchen professional with years of bread-making behind him, Willocks found himself, like so many of us, getting really into sourdough last year.
“During COVID, we were forced to go to take-out only, so we had more time to focus on baking,” he explains. “At some point we realized, you know, our bread is really, really good. It deserves its own space.”
And so was born the concept of The Baker’s Table Bakery. Opening this fall across the street from the restaurant, at 1001 Monmouth St., the second space will give Willocks a place to showcase his culinary passions, as well as the ethos behind his process, in a more accessible space.
“We really think the future of artisan bread-making is connecting the farmers and the millers,” he says. “Sourcing local vegetables, local dairy, local eggs, local meats is integral to what we do as a company, as a restaurant. But we think that the future of baking is connecting to grain. We’ll be using locally grown and milled grains. The really hard part is how can we find local farmers and millers who are connected so we can be as authentic as possible with the farm-to-table narrative?”
Willocks explains that the bakery will handle bread for the restaurant in the new space, as well as produce five or six different varieties of sourdough daily for purchase. They’ll also sell sweet and savory pastries, locally roasted espresso and grab-and-go sandwiches on house-made brioche—including a butcher’s sandwich that incorporates the restaurant’s whole-animal meat program. “It’s going to be a really dynamic, amazing, sort of European-style cafe feeling morning experience,” he notes.
With indoor seating for 24, the bakery is also envisioned as a celebration of bread-making, featuring an open-concept design built around the process of baking. “We’re going to have the bread oven in the middle of the room,” says Willocks. “The shaping table’s in the middle of the room.” Interested observers will be able to pull up a barstool to watch the loaves being shaped, and loaded into and out of the oven. “If coronavirus taught me anything, it’s that people are excited about bread,” laughs Willocks. “It’s a really incredible opportunity for people to take part and see what they’re eating.”
Thoughtfully prepared artisan bread is enough of a challenge, but Willocks took a look at his four-tier electric bread oven and asked, what else? The answer was clear.
“During COVID, we had to re-think everything that we were doing,” he explains. “What kind of food can we offer people that people want to take home? What kind of food can we offer that people just want to chill out and eat on their couch? The obvious answer was pizza.”
The Baker’s Table Bakery will close every afternoon at 2 p.m., then re-open at 4 p.m. as a local pizza spot. “At night, the lights get dimmed, put on some funk music and the pies are coming out right in front of you,” he says.
Of course, pizza toppings will be locally sourced farm-to-table fare, with fresh produce and house-made sausage filling the menu. And for refreshment, the bakery will offer pours of sustainably produced Italian wines. “I think that’s really exciting,” he adds. “Italy has the most indigenous wine grape varieties of any country in the world.”
If all this seems like a lot, it is. But for Willocks and Braun, The Baker’s Table (and now The Baker’s Table Bakery) is about more than just quality cuisine. While it’s true that the restaurant is a national success, picking up two awards (from Eater and USA Today) in the first year, the couple is hyper focused on the impact they want to make in their community.
“We love Newport,” he says. “We live here. My wife and I live five minutes away from the restaurant and bakery. And we’re really proud that we own two businesses where we live.”