This is the next in our series of educators featured in our Bake Twentyfive issue. Each weekday, we will spotlight a new instructor or educator in the fields of baking, pastry, and chocolate.
Martin Philip is head bread baker at the King Arthur Flour Bakery in Norwich, Vermont. He is a former member of Team USA which competed in the SIGEP Golden Cup in Rimini, Italy, and was a finalist in the selection process for the coveted bread spot on Team USA at the World Cup of Baking. In 2016 he was awarded a prestigious writing fellowship at the MacDowell Colony.
Philip lives in Vermont with his wife Julie Ness and their three children. His acclaimed book, Breaking Bread, A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes, examines the art and craft of baking bread, reaching beyond technique and inspiring bakers to explore the essence of baking as an act of love. It was published by HarperCollins in Fall 2017. Among the recipes are Philip’s ancestral family staples, including butter biscuits, his grandmother’s molasses pie, focaccia, bagels and brioche. “I bake because it connects my soul to my hands, and my heart to my mouth,” Philip says.
A native of the Arkansas Ozarks, Philip is a sought-after educator and has traveled internationally to bring baking education and his love of craft to ex-convicts, underserved populations, and recently-landed immigrants. In addition to being a MacDowell Fellow, he is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory.
Yearning for creative connection, Philip traded his finance career in New York City for an entry-level baker position at King Arthur Flour in rural Vermont. A true Renaissance man, the opera singer, banjo player and passionate amateur baker worked his way up, eventually becoming head bread baker. But Philip is not just a talented craftsman; he is a bread shaman. Being a baker isn’t just mastering the chemistry of flour, salt, water, and yeast; it’s being an alchemist—perfecting the transformation of simple ingredients into an elegant expression of the soul.
In a recent conversation about the future of whole grains, Philip cites an issue that he believes matters to the development of the artisan bread movement. “The pursuit of just whole wheat is just another fad. We are not going to have success in the whole grain movement until we look at things in less binary terms. Part of the issue is nomenclature; we need better ways to communicate what bakers are doing with whole grains.”
Philip wonders how the bar ultimately moves on whole grain content in bread. Will consumers insist on 100% whole grain for the health benefits? Or will they discover that bread flours with 80% extraction produce fantastic flavor, are more easily digestible and deliver on the whole grain promise? “The weight of the whole grain diet should not be exclusively on bread,” Philip says. In conclusion, Philip says that consumer demand for both health and flavor will have a profound influence on the future of artisan bread and how far whole grains will grow. “Taste is the carrot.”