By Naeisha Rose
Renowned Rockaway Park baker Sarah Owens won the first-ever Tiptree World Bread Awards, a competition that gathered the bread-baking world’s elites last week and pitted them against each other in different categories.
Owens won both her Wholemeal/Wholewheat category and the overall competition for best bread in the Nov. 14 competition in Manhattan, according to the American Bakers Association. She walked away with a Tiptree hamper, a trophy and a $1,000.
“I was totally and pleasantly surprised,” said Owens. “It’s such an honor to be in a room with so much talent and … the level of the judges to give me this award against all this talent, it was a thrill.”
Master Baker Stephen Hallam, the managing director of Dickinson & Morrison, a bakery that was founded in the England in 1851, hosted the ceremony, and was the chair of the judges, which also included Tracey Zabar and David Zabar of Zabars, a historic New York food emporium, according to British Food is GREAT, which organized the event that was supported by ABA.
“The field was incredibly competitive,” said Hallam.
The remaining judges comprised of legendary bakers Zachary Golper of Bien Cuit Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, and Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread, according to Food is Great.
Owens was happy for both the overall win and for winning in her category as a representative of her wholesale bakery firm Ritual Fine Foods, which serves the entire Rockaway peninsula, according to the winner. Cuisine by Claudette’s in Rockaway Park and Edgemere Farm carry her food.
“Obviously there is some skill by the baker,” said Owens, but “I have to attribute [the win] to using very, very good Northeast stone-ground flour and that is what I think makes my bread good enough to be an overall winner.”
She also dedicated her win to the farmers and millers that make the organic flour.
“It’s a testament that in the northeast, we have the ability to make really great bread because we have an incredible community of talent behind us,” said Owens. “It’s not just me, it takes a lot of people to make a loaf of bread.”
She started her career as a horticulturist and worked at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, but started baking in 2010 when she started suffering from digestive intolerances to whole grain.
Owens had a friend that went the route of Western medicine when he suffered from digestive issues, but he felt worse after being on several medications with side effects, and decided to change his diet, and this, her background as a horticulturist and no longer wanting to be poked and prodded while spending months waiting for a diagnosis led her to baking with natural ingredients.
“After a series of elimination diets and visits to doctors, who wanted me to go to the pharmaceutical route, I decided to take a more holistic approach,” said Owens. “I started including more fermented vegetables in my diet and especially fermented grains like sourdough.”
Owens would get so much of a joy from baking that she shared her bread at work at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and many co-workers were willing to pay for her services.
“This baking endeavor led to a business and a book deal, then another book deal, and another,” said the award-winning author of the James Beard prize, an accolade given out to those in the cuisine, culinary education and culinary writing arenas.
She started her business in 2010 and registered it 2011, according to Owens. In 2015 she wrote “Sourdough: Rustic Recipes for Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories and More” and her award-winning book “Toast and Jam: Modern Pairings for Rustic Baked Goods and Sweet and Savory Spreads,” which was released in 2017.
Her next book “Heirloom: Time Honored Techniques, Nourishing Traditions, and Modern Recipes” will be released in September 2019.
“It dives a little bit more into time-honored techniques and nourishing traditions,” said Owens. “It will take a closer look at ingredients and their cultural heritage.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose