Years of experience with some of the top bread bakers in the world have brought Gural to where he is today, overseeing one of the most inventive bread shops in the United States.
“In general, my baking strength is aesthetics, coming up with slightly new shapes of finishes for breads (useful for competitions, but not so much in real bakery life) and excel spreadsheets,” he says with humility.
His favorite products to make are the traditional French baguette and croissant. “You can really see how the different steps of the baking process interrelate with these classic products.”
Gural grew up in Staten Island, New York, and some of his earliest memories involve baking — mostly baking muffins, cookies and cakes. Later, he learned to bake from a Maida Heatter book. “When I was a teenager my grandmother gave my family an ice cream maker and a book from Lenotre, which I was fascinated by, as I had never really seen such cool looking desserts. That said, I never had any idea that I would become a professional baker growing up; it was just a hobby.”
By his mid-20s, Gural was working as a recording engineer and was making pizza at home with store-bought dough. “One evening when I went to buy the dough, they had run out so I decided to make it from scratch. I started making the dough every week and from there I got into making bread at home. A big inspiration at that time was Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery, particularly their pugliese loaf and pizza Bianca. After baking at home for about two years, I took a class at the French Culinary Institute and loved it so much I changed careers and became a bread baker.”
Gural graduated FCI in 1998 and started working at Bouley Bakery in NYC. After about two years of working there and at Amy’s Bread, he went to France for a year and worked in Paris and Nice. “I would say I owe a tremendous debt to the head baker at Bouley, a Frenchmen named Marc Galigne, who was an incredible role model and he helped me find a place in France. When I returned to the US, I worked at a few more New York City bakeries before being put in charge of the bread program at Almondine Bakery in Brooklyn when it opened in 2004.”
The owner at Almondine, Herve Poussot, has become a friend and mentor ever since. Following that experience, Gural became head baker at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Napa, California, before returning to New York City to become an instructor at his alma mater, the French Culinary Institute.
Gural considers his greatest success, so far in his career, to be working at Bouchon Bakery and being responsible for the bread when the French Laundry received 3 Michelin stars.
After several years as a teacher, Gural opened Arcade Bakery in 2014. As the owner and baker, he bakes in the morning shift, does some work at the oven and more time shaping and dividing. After a few hours, he prepares the retail area and then works up front for the rest of the day.
“I love working on my feet and with my hands,” he says. “I love the craft, that it is something which rewards focus. I am also very grateful to be part of the cycle of re-transmitting the knowledge I have received from so many generous bakers to another generation.”
He enjoys working with wheat flour and sets a goal to make his bakery more sustainable.
“I try not to respond too much to trends,” Gural says. “For a while, the biggest impact was coming from anti-carb, anti-gluten dietary fads but that has settled down some. For the most part we focus on the European bakery staples with occasional twists.”
Drawing inspirations routinely from dining at restaurants and studying baking books, he is driven to succeed by his strict attention to detail. “I suppose I am not easily satisfied, but I am not sure why I am like that. I enjoy repetition and paying attention to details.”