By Scott Etkin
Like many of us, Adam Simon has baked his share of bread during the pandemic. Unlike us, though, he has turned his love of baking into a small business. He delivers a Country Loaf, Chocolate Malted Rye Cookies, Maple Cardamom Knots and more to customers in the 10025 zip code (115th Street to 91st Street along the West Side), and, starting on April 15, 10024 (West 91st to 79th Street).
Adam was taking some time off from the hedge fund where he was a partner when, in 2019, he came across a New York Times article about baking sourdough bread. He decided to give it a try.
A self-described foodie, but with no professional cooking or baking experience, Adam immersed himself in learning everything he could about the details of baking. Over the past few years, he read over a hundred baking books and blog posts and watched countless YouTube and Instagram videos. “I can get obsessive when I get into something – I go down rabbit holes,” he said.
In his home kitchen on 110th Street, Adam experimented each time to improve his recipes, creating a little havoc along the way. Steam is needed in the oven to expand the dough – called an “oven spring” – but this reaction can be so hot it can crack the glass in the oven door. “Let’s just say I’ve had to replace more than three,” he said.
Eventually, Adam sought out to learn from the pros. He brought his bread to the owner of Silver Moon Bakery, the longtime UWS favorite on Broadway and 105th Street, and convinced her to let him be free labor. “OK, get here at 4am on Friday,” he remembers her saying. With the help of the bakers there, he learned to shape and mix. In a similar arrangement at Runner & Stone in Brooklyn, he practiced mixing and scaling the ingredients.
Adam’s doughy obsession also led him to visit all the top-rated bakeries in NYC. But he felt that premium bread was missing from the market – especially sourdough, his favorite – and he saw a business opportunity.
To test the level of interest from potential customers, Adam walked some samples over to nearby apartment buildings. He left a bread basket and a flier about himself with the doormen in the lobby – most of whom were happy to accommodate – and gave them a piece, too. The orders started coming in and his business, Sourdough Gambit (the name refers to his other passion, chess) did its first delivery in February 2022.
Adam says that what sets his bread apart is his use of the best ingredients, such as organic flour from “farmers who care about sustainability and the environment,” and an obsession to detail. The recipe for his Sesame Loaf, for example, calls for not just sesame seeds but also Chinese sesame paste and toasted sesame oil. Sourdough is just three ingredients – flour, water and salt – but at the same time it’s “wonderfully complex” and “the possibilities are endless.”
Adam bakes out of The Entrepreneur Space, a food and business incubator in Long Island City. With more than 100 orders per week, he recently made some hires off Craigslist to help with the making, and he uses Task Rabbit to help with the deliveries. In the coming months he’ll expand his range of deliveries to include 10023 (West 79th to 59th Street).
A typical bakery might have 50 products, he said, but he would rather stick to a handful of breads and sweets that he can do well. In addition to selling online, starting in mid-May Adam plans to have a stand at the Down to Earth farmers market on 110th Street near Morningside Park.
“The dream is to open a retail bakery storefront, but, at least initially, that investment is not something I’m comfortable with.” So says the finance guy.