Greg Wade understands the hands-on artisan approach to breadmaking. As the head baker of Publican Quality Bread, he is in charge of the wholesale bakery under the Publican family of restaurants. He is a master of whole grains and long fermentation, and was recognized with James Beard nominations for “Outstanding Baker” in 2017 and 2018. He discusses his culinary journey with Filthy Lucre.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I knew I wanted to be a chef when I found out I could get paid to be around tasty snack treats all day.
Where were you trained and how difficult was your training?
I went to the Illinois Institute of Art for the culinary arts program. For me it was rewarding, it was one of the types of programs that you would get out of it just how much you put into it. I put in a lot.
Where do you find your inspiration?
When I first started cooking, my inspiration was the food itself, being around it, getting to taste it, being immersed in the sensory overload that is cooking. After years of cooking, and spending a significant amount of time with my farmer, my inspiration now comes from being an active member of a better food system. I have learned just how broken our food system is in America and I strive to be part of the solution.
What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
My hands. Everything in breadmaking is tactile, from the feel of the flour to the elasticity of the dough, to the crackle of a fresh baked loaf.
What advice would you give an inspiring chef?
Being a good chef is not all about how good your food is. It is much more about your role as a leader in the food community, where you source your ingredients from, how you treat your staff as an employer and how you can all work together to put out the best product possible.
What was your funniest kitchen accident?
Any of the times I had a bunch of flour and water in our 80 quart mixer and accidentally turned it on high instead of slow mix speed. I’m usually covered in flour but those are times when it takes extra long to get everything clean.
Who in the food world do you most admire?
Farmers. They get almost no credit, have very little self worth, but without them we wouldn’t eat.
What is your favorite food to cook with?
Whatever’s in season, I get a weekly grocery crate from my farmer and it’s really exciting to see what he brings each week. I will admit I get pretty tired of root veggies by the end of winter, but I’ve been working diligently to can and preserve as much of the rest of the season’s fresh veggies this year so I can hopefully supplement with that.
What food do you think is the most challenging to cook with?
Wheat flour. All flour is not created equal, especially when you are sourcing from one field from one farm. Being able to create a consistent and delicious product with it takes some patience.
What do you like to eat when you are at home?
Lots of veggies, whatever my farmer brings. Also anything my fiance wants to cook, I love it when she cooks for me.
What do you love most about your job?
I really enjoy being able to share bread with all the different folks that enjoy it. Especially now with so many people being gluten intolerant, the way we make bread with our natural ingredients allows most of them to enjoy something they haven’t been able to in a long time with no issues.
What would your last meal be if you were on death row?
Spicy ramen. Like, really spicy. Or maybe Publican Quality Meat’s porchetta sandwich. Or ice cream. Or maybe all of it, I mean I’m gonna die, right?
Visit publicanqualitybread.com to learn more about Greg Wade and Publican Quality Bread.