Posted Jan 21, 2017 at 5:41 PM
Brandon Roderick was already a city-boy-made-good before he opened New Bedford’s newest bakery on Dec. 30, but until he found baking, the 27-year-old was taking his hard work in the wrong direction.
He remembers vividly the moment when he decided he would cook for a living. He was a junior studying for a chemistry exam in the library at Tufts University, where he went pre-med on a full scholarship. Although he loved science, the New Bedford High School graduate realized he was happier at his weekend job, as a server at a Wareham restaurant, than he was preparing to be a doctor.
“It just felt so right to close the book and push it aside,” he said.
Right from the library, he called a culinary school and got the ball rolling.
Only later would he embrace the science of baking and make it his calling. His studies didn’t focus on baking, but his mentor would pull him in to work on bread, knowing his interest in science would serve him well. It piqued his interest.
Still, when he took his first job in a bakery, it was only to make extra money by working overnight, baking for the next morning. He soon discovered it was the environment for him.
He opened The Baker quietly, with a word-of-mouth campaign online and a collection of good friends by his side. His shop, at 562 Pleasant St., is tucked into a small storefront next to the downtown police station, just steps from the public library.
Roderick makes croissants filled with chocolate, fruit, and almonds, plus other pastries, English muffins, quiche, and more – all from scratch. Each day’s selection varies, and he likes to give familiar items a creative twist, like cinnamon rolls with orange and cardamom.
Some of his friends from Boston questioned whether he should locate in New Bedford, he said. Would people in a blue-collar town be willing to pay for French pastry, and would they even want it?
So far, locals have been very supportive, he said. The repertoire and the lines have been getting bigger.
A few customers have asked if he’ll make Portuguese malassadas and sweet bread. Roderick, who is Cape Verdean, does make those things, but not necessarily for the shop. New Bedford already has Portuguese sweets. His concept is French-inspired pastry, bread, and breakfast and lunch served on that bread.”Bread is my passion,” he said.
As time goes on, he wants to add more bread to the menu. His bread starter, a fresh leavening, has its own unique story: He made it from the yeast on grapes from Westport Rivers Winery. Every day, he feeds it with water and flour to keep it going. It’s about a year old already.
For now, he makes a lot of croissants with the help of “Old Faithful,” a dough sheeter, which rolls out dough into very thin sheets. He bought it used, from people in Needham who had purchased a bakery and had no idea what the machine was, he said. It’s so heavy, he had to rent a truck with a lift gate. He and Patrick Andrews, a friend since kindergarten, drove up to Needham to pick it up.
Andrews now works as a cook at the bakery, making sandwiches.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” he said. “For the quality that he puts out, I think it’s a really good thing for the city, the community.”
Homlyke Bakery, once nearby on Union Street, closed in 2002.
Another childhood friend, Ashley Medeiros, helped with the decorating and has worked a few shifts in the shop. She said Roderick is well-educated on the French style.
“He’s worked so hard for so long to make this idea come to life,” she said.
His grandmother, Patricia Roderick of New Bedford, said she is very proud of him. When he first left Tufts, “I was very upset, because I thought I was going to have a doctor in the family,” she said. But as time went on, she saw he could make his dream a success.
“Brandon is the type that if he wants to do something, he’ll do it to the best of his ability,” she said. “That’s Brandon.”
Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.
If you go:
Where: 562 Pleasant St., New Bedford
Online: facebook.com/TheBakerNB; thebakernb.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays
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