All around Bread / Interview with Sascha Schäfer, Hamburg, Germany

We decided to write a review with different bakers from Ukraine, USA, Germany, Moldova and Denmark about bread, techniques of backing and new challenges in this pandemic time.

Sascha Schäfer is a one of the 95th bread sommeliers from Hamburg who we planned to invite to Kiev with work shop about artisan and modern bread. Unfortunately, we need to postpone his visit from June to Autumn, but we asked him about new reality and its impact on his own life and business as well.

During these two months we were communicating and support each other. And it was nice to see new business opportunities that were open and kindly ask you to share them with our backers and chefs.

First, I wonder to know if you received any support from the Government as worker or businessman, did you?

Since mid-March, all of our company’s employees have been on short-time work. We got our hours paid for by the company in full. Since most of us did not get the full amount of hours, the missing hours were paid 60% or 67% by the state for employees with children.

I deliberately set up the delivery service in the region where I live.

When your restaurant was close you start to bake bread (where?) and deliver it directly to the customers’ doors. How many days a week do you work with bread delivery? Where you baked it? How do you plan your schedule?

Our brewery was open all the time during the Corona crisis. We were only allowed to offer one sale outside the home. It was a big change for everyone, of course, and most of the employees were not able to work their hours to the fullest. It was of course not much different for me in the bakery. To change that, I considered setting up a bread delivery service. I wrote a message to a few people about my project which they were happy to pass on to their neighbors and friends. I deliberately set up the delivery service in the region where I live. Two days a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, I drove through the area in my free time and delivered bread. My employer of course got the money for the bread. I baked the bread in our brewery house.

The first orders were not long in coming. And over time it grew. My project with the delivery service got around so quickly and was so well received that I could no longer accept many orders from customers. At the beginning I started baking at around 5 a.m. and finished work around 6 p.m. The last few weeks I started working at 2 a.m. Orders and messages from customers came every day, which of course had to be answered. So, I couldn’t complain about too little work.

I always made sure that I had bread in my assortment, something for everyone.

Did You work with local delivery service? 

Unfortunately, it was not logistically possible to work with them. You have to say that our brewery is in Hamburg and my delivery area in the region from where I live. In between there are about 60 minutes by car. I always started delivering the bread around 2 p.m. and it was not possible to bring the bread to the regional delivery service earlier. But I see the possibility of working with the delivery service in the future. At the latest when I open my own shop.

There are many prejudices in our society, e.g. bread is not good for our diet. The wheat makes you sick and fat or that all bakers only bake bread with ready-made flour.

What kind of bread is the most popular?

I always made sure that I had bread in my assortment, something for everyone. Spelled bread, 100% rye bread, whole grain bread and, of course, unusual types of bread such as an apple curry bread or for grilling a chili cheese twist or a red wine olive Ciabatta. Every now and then I changed the range a little. My spelled chia bread and my potato crust were breads that were very popular. Unusual varieties were also very well received without exception.

Do people consume more bread during pandemic period?

I can’t say whether more bread was eaten in the Corona period. But what I can say is that I realized that it is very important to talk to the customers. There are many prejudices in our society, e.g. bread is not good for our diet. The wheat makes you sick and fat or that all bakers only bake bread with ready-made flour. Through the many conversations with the customers, I was able to get some of it out of the world.

My job as a bread sommelier is to bring bread closer to people and to explain why our bread is not just a food but also a stimulant. And I can say that I did it successfully.

I realized that it is very important to talk to the customers.

Ви розпYou told me about cooperation with hotels and other restaurants. May you give an idea about this kind of business: do they need frozen bread and pastry or fresh one? 

I think that good bread should be in a good restaurant. For example, as a small topped snack or a bread with the appropriate dips or as a side dish for soups. There are so many ways to refine delicious dishes with bread. We are currently looking for suitable restaurants that we want to supply with our breads. Whether it is fresh or frozen bread depends on several factors. It depends on the logistics. Do you deliver every day or only every 2 days? You can freeze bread very well and bake it again so that it is fresh and hardly loses quality. I think that has to be regulated individually for each customer. Anything is possible.

I never dreamed that the bread delivery service would be such a success. It was very exhausting and long days but it was worth it.

You acknowledge that corona crisis has had something positive for you. That you will find a suitable property in the next few months and ready to open your own shop. So, bread itself may be a profitable business for you for the future, does it?

I have to say that the corona crisis is not something that was or was negative for everyone. You always have to make the best of every situation. And I did that for me too. My goal was, among other things, that more people get to know me in my region and they know that I bake good bread. I never dreamed that the bread delivery service would be such a success. It was very exhausting and long days but it was worth it.

Now my plan continues to build my own bakery. I no longer offer the delivery service due to time constraints. The work in our company is almost back to normal, so I can no longer deliver.

But the whole thing showed me that I can be successful with my own shop. In the short time I have built up a customer base for the future, which are just waiting for my shop to open. It is clear to me that the focus in my bakery will be on bread. I will have a lot to do in the next few months and I am looking forward to this challenge!

Photo: Facebook Sascha Schäfer

«Я з’їв дуже багато хороших хлібів, щоб назвати найкращий» — Заша Шефер про професію хлібного сомельє