Bryan Ford Talks The Artisan's Kitchen & The Sourdough Phenomenon - Exclusive Interview

For many, 2020 was the year of bread. Chances are, if you weren't buying yeast and flour to try your hand at baking a loaf of sourdough, you were diving into a new banana bread recipe. It was the year of spending more time at home and learning how to bake. And one of the main bakers who helped teach people to embrace sourdough during that time? Accountant-turned-professional baker Bryan Ford.

With Honduran roots and growing up in New Orleans, Ford is on a mission to share innovative recipes that others can achieve in their own homes. His book, "New World Sourdough," was released in June 2020, and now he's sharing even more great recipes and tips on Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Network.

Ford's new show, "The Artisan's Kitchen" will air on July 15 with the launch of Magnolia Network, and we got to learn all about it. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Ford dishes on the inspiration behind the show, where he looks to for inspiration, his thoughts on the sourdough craze, along with plenty of helpful tips and tricks for bakers just getting started, or those working to perfect their craft.

Bryan Ford dishes on his new show on Magnolia Network

What made you want to share your story with the world on Magnolia Network?

I think that it was an opportunity that, when it came up, and my book was being published at the time, it felt like a good time to further the conversation about exploring different ingredients and types of baked goods in the world. It's been a great way to do that.

Tell me about your experience and what it was like working with Chip and Joanna?

It's definitely a learning curve in terms of being on-air talent. It's definitely exciting. It's exhilarating knowing that Chip and Jo literally see everything I do, or they hand pick the recipes that they like. Stuff like that, it's very cool. It's very great to be a part of such a family feeling network. It definitely feels like there's a lot of camaraderie in terms of how they value their talent. I just look forward to continuing to work with them.

What are you hoping viewers will take away from the show. What will they get out of it?

I want more viewers to know where Honduras is, where my parents come from, where my culture comes from. I really want people to get on board with the fact that an artisanal baker can look like me, and can look like my parents, or speak the language that we speak. I really want people to learn about the cultural elements there, in addition to my Southern roots in New Orleans. I think it's a great combination of flavors.

Bryan Ford talks about the sourdough craze

Let's talk about the sourdough phenomenon that happened last year. Why do you think people all of a sudden wanted to start baking and eating sourdough? Do you think the trend will continue?

It's a very primitive feeling when you make bread from scratch, from nothing. It's a very instinctual thing. I think that humans have this instinct to want to feed themselves or their families or their communities. When people were locked at home, I think that something with very minimal ingredients ... You just need flour and water. I think a lot of people got into that obsession.

Obviously, no one timed this pandemic. My book's publication date was set in stone a long time before any of this quarantine situation even came to light. So, it was definitely a joy to see people finding ways to nourish themselves, and my book being a driving factor behind that. I definitely think bread is not going anywhere. It's thousands of years old. So I look forward to seeing people continue to bake different types of sourdough bread.

What are some of the best or most unusual things that you think people should start making with sourdough? Of course, there's your regular loaf, but what else? 

I'm currently working on a second book now. It's specifically focusing on Latin American baked goods. So, I definitely want to see and hope to see more people using their sourdough starter to make Latin American-inspired or Caribbean-inspired breads and pastries.

I often use some of my sourdough starter to make fried chicken with it, or I'll throw it in my cookie dough. You can use it for a variety of things. I love seeing people use their instincts, and tap into their passions and culture to use their sourdough starter.

Bryan Ford shares his baking tips for people getting started

Any general bread baking tips for people that are just getting started? What's your number one go-to if they're just diving in?

If you're just diving in, I think understanding that using a scale in your kitchen is the best way to measure your ingredients. It's just how a lot of bakers bake, relying on that form of accurate weight measurement. It's also way easier than using measuring cups and all that. So I think getting familiar with a kitchen scale is a good step to having a successful time baking at home.

I also think that getting familiar with the different types of yeasts and how they activate is a good start, as well as managing your expectations. I think managing expectations is very important. If it's your first time baking a loaf of bread, people really need to stop thinking that they're going to have this all-star, super aesthetic, perfectly baked loaf. Like with all things, it takes time. Just don't focus too much on the aesthetics because you're really just trying to make something that can nourish your family.

We touched on the necessity of having a kitchen scale. What are, in your mind, the top three tools that every baker should have?

A kitchen scale is definitely number one. A mixing bowl is number two, because you literally need a mixing bowl. I'm very minimalist in terms of, I don't like to tell people they need to buy things to make bread, because you really don't even need anything. And an oven. Let's just say an oven. I know it seems like a no-brainer, but you need a mixing bowl and an oven.

What is the secret to making great cornbread?

Great cornbread. Well, you're going to have to watch the episode of "The Artisan's Kitchen" to find that out.

In a nutshell, what's the secret to flaky layers in a good pastry?

Cold butter. That's in a nutshell. Cold butter, working fast, and just being familiar with the dough.

Any tips for someone that's making their first sourdough starter, if they're just beginning that journey?

Yeah. I think the best tip I can give you, use a whole grain flour, like whole wheat or whole rye, because those flours are more nutrient-dense, and they're going to inhibit that cultivation of the yeast colony a lot faster than other types of flour. Use really good quality flour if you can. Use whole grain flour, if possible.

Bryan Ford talks about how Instagram played a role in his success

Part of your journey was deciding to take a leap and quit your "day job." Do you think that Instagram played a role in your growth and success in the last couple years?

One thousand percent. It's the only social media platform I really use consistently. I definitely appreciate the way I'm able to build a community on there. I'm very much heavily invested in Instagram and using it as a vehicle to my success. But I'm also wary of the pitfalls of Instagram, with a lot of new bakers seeing these very beautiful pictures of certain types of breads. I think that can skew the expectations that they should be having before making bread.

Instagram, for me, it's definitely been a big benefit. I specifically try not to post certain parts of loaves of bread, because I don't want my followers to be worried about certain aesthetics. I try to use it in a way that fits the mentality that I have regarding baking.

Bryan Ford dishes on underrated baked goods, his inspiration, and his favorite birthday cake

What is an underrated baked good, whether you purchase it at a bakery or make yourself, that you think people should eat more of?

Underrated baked good. That's a tricky question. I can tell you a bunch of overrated ones. It's hard to say. I think baked goods from different cultures are underrated. I think Middle Eastern flatbreads or Indian flatbreads or African breads, Latin American breads and pastries, I think they're all just underrated. I think there needs to be more appreciation for the bread that's eaten in most of the world, and the baked goods that are eaten in most of the world. I think that's the underrated aspect.

If you think about flatbreads, pizza's a flatbread. Pizza is just a flatbread. That's all it is. It's an Italian flatbread. But people don't call it Italian flatbread. You know what I mean? People call it pizza, and it's such a widely accepted form of food. Whereas a naan, it's an Indian flatbread. Why isn't the obsession the same for certain types of baked goods? I think what's underrated is just trying to get different cultures to the forefront of the baking scene.

Who, or where, do you look to for inspiration as you're diving into new recipes?

That's a good question. I always just think about my parents and my family, and how I can continue to help them, and how this whole experience is really centered around wanting to make a better life for my parents and my siblings. That just pushes me to just be as creative as possible when I write my recipes.

What is your all-time favorite birthday cake?

Carrot cake with raisins.

That was a fast answer. Cream cheese frosting is a must?

Yes. It's a must. Carrot cake, raisins, and cream cheese frosting. Don't bring me another cake on my birthday. Straight up.

Bryan Ford reveals what he thinks is one of the most difficult baked goods to master

In your opinion, or maybe throughout your journey, what do you think is one of the most difficult baked goods to master?

Ooh, that's a good question. In my journey, what has been the toughest thing to master? I don't feel like I've ever mastered anything, so that ... I don't feel like there's a way to master anything, because there's always this quest to make adjustments, and continue to strive for a better tasting, more delicious product. I think making a really delicious flaky biscuit does require a lot of time and effort. It's very intricate. I might have to say that that's one of the baked goods that challenges me and pushes me a lot.

That's wonderful, especially because there are so few ingredients too. I think a lot of people think that if there are more ingredients, it's more difficult, but that's not necessarily always the case.

Yeah. That's not the case. I think understanding time and temperature and dough consistencies is one of the most important parts of baking, and not necessarily the amount of ingredients that you're using.

For more baking tips, tricks, and recipes, tune in to the premiere of the full season of "The Artisan's Kitchen" on Magnolia Network, July 15 on Discovery+.