Doug Anderson, owner and master baker of Hi*Rise, on what it takes to make ordinary bread happy bread
This is part one of my chef interview with Doug Anderson, owner and master baker of Hi*Rise. Read part two of my chat with Anderson.
At 32, Doug Anderson decided he wanted to work in a restaurant -- something he'd never considered while growing up on a ranch in Rapid City, South Dakota, the son of a cattleman who couldn't cook to save his life. "More or less, we ate because it was time to eat. The expectation was that there was food on your plate, so you'd better eat it or else," says Anderson, the owner/baker of Hi*Rise. "My dad was awful in the kitchen, but my mom did make really good cinnamon rolls -- the best on the planet, actually. But with five kids in the house, it really was all about just eating rather than the experience of eating."
That changed for Anderson many years later, after he'd moved to Denver in the late '80s and was a stay-at-home dad who began experimenting in his own kitchen, making pizza crusts and messing around with cookbooks. "We didn't want our kids in daycare, so I stayed home during the day, doing stuff in the kitchen, while my wife worked, and I eventually got to the point where I wanted a night job -- specifically, a job in a restaurant, since I'd never worked in one before," explains Anderson.
He had a keen interest in baking, so he got a gig baking bagels at the original Mo's Bagels in Boulder, where he eventually became the baking manager, churning out 300 dozen bagels every day just to feed the students and faculty at the University of Colorado. "I'd get in early in the morning and bake bagels for five hours straight," remembers Anderson, who stayed with Mo's for six years before leaving to take a job managing a Spicy Pickle while simultaneously searching for a store to call his own. "I wanted to learn the business side of running a restaurant, and the Spicy Pickle provided a great place to do that, but all the while I was there, I was looking for locations, and I kept coming back to the Ballpark neighborhood, because I just loved the feel of it," he says.
At the same time, he was also nurturing a need (knead?) to learn more about bagels, so he spent a week in New Jersey holed up at the Bagel Factory -- a bagel shop owned by a friend of a friend. Anderson was so impressed by the craftsmanship of those bagels that he asked the owner if he would considering selling the recipes to him. Instead, the owner simply handed them over, quoting from The Godfather. "He said, 'Someday, I'll call upon you to do a service for me, but until that day, accept this as a gift,'" Anderson remembers. His recipes at Hi*Rise are still based on those of the Bagel Factory, which include measurements, he says, like "half a coffee cup of salt."