Three summers ago, I moved to Washington Island, Wisconsin to work as a server at the island’s most characteristic restaurant and hotel. I could write endlessly about how great a summer I had, how amazingly beautiful and serene the island is, and how close I became with my coworkers and roommates. (Read more about my experiences here.) But this is not a story about me, it’s a story about a woman with an intense passion for baking artisan bread, and her most recent dream.
Heidi Gilbertson is a baker like no other. When I worked with her at The Washington Hotel, she was up long before the rest of the island mixing, kneading and baking loaves upon loaves of bread and other pastries. She would stay up just as late as the rest of the hotel staff making sure everything was in line for the next day. And somehow, she still found time to let me borrow her kayak, walk her dear dog Tazo, and sneak me some of her magic guacamole in the middle of my busiest shifts.
Her passion is evident in her baked goods; she quickly gained a cult following, on the island and off. (My personal favorites: whole wheat loaf with Washington Island flax, power bars, and an almond-mascarpone berry cake. Oh man.)
Soon after I left the island at the end of the summer, The Washington Hotel closed. But that didn’t stop Heidi from baking–she quickly moved her work to a small space just off the ferry landing on the island and opened up her own bread-baking business. Enter Island Bread Company.
When I visited her at her small shop last summer, I was excited to see Heidi working away as lovingly as ever, rolling out the goods I have literally dreamed about an several occasions. But the space lacked one thing: a wood-fired brick oven. Though Heidi’s raw skills make her an incredible baker on her own, the brick oven she had access to at The Washington Hotel put her loaves over the top.
But women as passionate as Heidi don’t settle for second-best: Heidi is currently relocating her bakery to a new location on the island, and this time there’s room for an wood-burning oven. All that stands between her and building this dream oven is a little help from her friends: you and me. Take a minute to help me give back to a woman who continues to inspire me, and whose bread creates a very special community of all those who have taken part in it.
Watch this video about Heidi and her wood-fired brick oven dreams.
Check out her Kickstarter page to support her project.
Find more info about Island Bread Company on this Facebook page.
Share this post with anyone who loves artisan loaves, passionate bakers, Washington Island, the tasty tRuth, or any combination of the above.