A personal Sunday staple and a definitive community gem— Sub Rosa Bakery is no longer a hidden Richmond secret. This wood-fired bakery has changed the way the city consumes bread, that is to say— defining a new standard of bread, one sesame rye loaf at a time. We're honored to have had the opportunity to chat with the brother and sister duo behind the wood-fired bakery, Evin and Evrim, about the philosophy behind Sub Rosa, rituals for grounding, and what the next decade holds.
1. What was the initial inspiration and philosophy behind Sub Rosa?
Evrim: The initial impetus behind Sub Rosa was the search for great bread. I wanted a bread that I could bring home and enjoy with dinner and found Richmond had very limited options. Much after, inspiration came from other bakers whose bread I tasted. It was like entering another dimension and it encouraged me to wonder: "what I am doing with my life?" Now, our philosophy is to take everything we care about in this world and make our bread with that. To serve what we ourselves would want to eat. To always know it can be better, but to do our best with what we have. Also, if failure is not an option, it’s probably not worth trying.
: The inspiration for me was trying my brother's bread. It tasted right and ***"honest" (see MFK Fisher quote below), the way food does when it achieves the perfect balance of flavor and texture, made with the best possible ingredients. I had also wanted a career change and being a lover of great pastry and dessert, was inspired to create pastries that matched, in style and ethos, both Evrim's bread as well as the memories of the best pastries I had eaten over the years.
***Fisher believed in honest bread, wine, etc. If you cut yourself a slice of bread from the loaf you just made, "it will smell better and taste better than you remembered anything could possibly taste or smell, and it will make you feel, for a time at least, newborn into a better world than this one often seems."
2. What do you find nurtures your creativity and what are your creative outlets?
Evrim: Seeing and tasting what others are baking really gets our creative juices flowing. Or a great meal. Often all we are trying to do with a pastry is recreate an experience we had somewhere else. I (evrim) personally find that music nurtures my creative spirit. I often think of food and bread in terms of song and soundscape. Singing (& at times drawing or painting), they're less creative outlets for me and more like meditations but they serve that creative spirit. I think rock climbing is like that for my sister (Evin). Also, it must be said that a huge amount of our energy goes into running the business both in the office and the kitchen.
Evin: I agree with Evrim. I would also add that other bakers we work with or likeminded bakers at other bakeries and their creations inspire us. More than creating new items, the Japanese mentality of trying to perfect and achieve the best version of what we already do nurtures and drives me as a baker. (less in a creative way and more in a creating excellence kind of way) Getting food from local farmers inspires me to want to make pastry that best showcases those (hard worked for) ingredients. Rock climbing has become an ideal outlet for me both because it gives me a separation from home and work, which, living above the bakery can feel one and the same ( I often travel to WV to do it) and its meditative component refuels me for baking back in Richmond.
3. How do you feel your process influences your customers and your team?
Evrim: I feel our process plants seeds in people's minds: why wood fired? why mill your own grain? Why organic? why such a limited menu and only seasonal availability for much of it? The processes, which beg these questions, do not have simple answers. They are connected to concerns much larger than just our little corner bakery. I think the staff and the customers that see and understand this feel something extra special about our work, because then it is not just a commodity or a product. It is a living thing. And with living things there is always more than meets the eye...
For our team, I would add that it creates nuance in an art that can be very tedious. Milling our own flour and baking in a wood fired oven keeps the job more interesting and challenging as the baker has to quickly adapt to change. It creates a more dynamic and less static process. (For example, the temperature of the oven is slightly different everyday and we get in different grain throughout the year.)
4. What is a goal of yours in the new decade?
Evrim: One major goal of the coming decade is to bolster our support of regional farmers who grow grain. We'd love to see our region blossom with the diversity we've seen in the other areas of the food world. So, we plan to expand our milling operation significantly, as well as bake more breads for the wholesale market , to fulfill this need. We would also like to take that local grain and find a way to get it into public schools. We’d love to collaborate with other bakers on this. Why shouldn’t children be eating nutritious, delicious bread and pasta, grown, milled, and baked in Virginia? Our goal is to help open that Pandora's Can of Worms!
Evin: Another goal of ours is to expand our bakery's catering program and try and offer catered breakfasts for various businesses and residence around Richmond. It would be great to cater wedding breakfasts as well! We would also like to use more of our freshly milled flour in both our bread and pastries. (We already use 80% in our classic loaf and 33% in most of our other loaves but would like to change that to 100%. If we could make a croissant using 100% freshly milled flour, that would be a great achievement!) Finally, if we can continue to make bread and pastries as consistently as possible over the next decade, that would be a success!
5. How do you ground yourself in the midst of the busy? How do you nurture and foster self-care?
Evrim: Over time we have increased the amount of time we give ourselves to “take time off” and it is revolutionary. I nurture self-care most by spending that time with my family, cooking when I have the energy. Cooking is very grounding for me. I am also grounded by my commitments to my spiritual path. And of course there’s always deep tissue massage.
Evin: Giving ourselves time and space to be away. Trying to cook and eat healthily at home and spend time with loved ones, including my dog June...and of course...rock climbing!
6. Boketto means, "to gaze into the distance without thought." At Boketto, we interpret these "Boketto Moments" as times when things seem to come together effortlessly, when a moment is filled with enough tranquility that it allows you to simply be. How do you make time for yourself to just be?
Evrim: In Turkish there is a word “keyif” which strictly defined means pleasure but I believe Boketto is a lot closer to the mark because when properly used it really means the active enjoyment of the fleeting moment. In our society and culture it seems especially difficult to create those circumstances, to simply enjoy what’s happening in front of us. Usually I have to have a tool to help me: a cup of tea, a walk to in the park. Having a daughter has helped; they demand so much awareness of the moment. And the more aware we are of the moment, the better the keyif. Beyond that elusive form, my spiritual path involves traditional ceremonies that give me a context for “simply being” that, over time, become part of life’s rhythm and a place of respite.
Evin: One of the reasons climbing really took off for me a little over 3 years ago is that it allowed me to just be in the moment more than anything else I've done. Also, a lot of climbing outside involves just being out in nature for hours on end. This alone is usually enough for me to "gaze into the distance without thought."
Some of the time you're climbing, some of the time you're belaying, and some of the time you're just waiting. Waiting on the rock to garner enough mental and physical energy to go back at it, waiting for your partner to start climbing again after he/she needs to rest on the wall...and then when I'm actually doing the climbing everything else fades away and I am just focused on breathing and moving upward, which is great training for everyday life as well!
Image via Garden & Gun.