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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The First Cottage Food Producer in San Francisco

Earl Shaddix of Earl's Bread
Earl Shaddix' motto is, "Ready! Fire! Aim!"  Maybe that's one of the reasons why he's the first person in the City to have been approved as an at-home food producer of "low-risk foods" under state's new Cottage Food Law program.    The law, which went into effect on January 1 of this year, allows people to legally sell foods that they have produced in their home kitchens.   For a small investment on the part of the producer, they can see if they have what it takes to make money from a food product that their families love and their friends have said they should market.  As Earl says, "there's nothing like the real public to see just how good your food is."  Without the new law, Earl says he never would have been able to begin selling Earl's Bread beyond his circle of friends and family.  However, with an initial outlay of about $250 and guidance provided by SFDPH, Earl went through safe food handling certification and now produces upwards of 30 loaves of bread for sale each week in the kitchen of his one-bedroom Bayview apartment.

Shaddix has been a professional chef, restaurant owner and manager, farmer, and forager.  He is currently an area supervisor for All Clad Cookware, but actually using his cookware is still a passion.  Earl got his start in the kitchen at an early age.  "Growing up on a ranch in Livermore, I was terrified of the larger animals.  I quickly found that my mother appreciated help in the kitchen, so I was able to get my chores reassigned to kitchen duty.  I was never really interested in baking until later in life when I worked for Il Fornaio.  There, I began to understand better the importance of good bread, what it looks like, tastes like, and the culture behind it."  And no, he's not talking about the cultures of yeast living in his sourdough starter, but rather the culture of sharing that he sees behind every loaf of bread. 

As the first person to have gone through the cottage food law process, he feels that he has a responsibility to help others through it.  Two weeks ago, Earl was joined by SFDPH at an event in the Bayview that aimed to do just that.  50 people attended the seminar and learned from Earl how he got his business off the ground under the new law.  But Earl's culture of sharing doesn't stop there.  He also believes that everyone should make their own bread at home - obviously cutting into his own business' bottom line in the process - so he happily shares his sourdough starter with anyone who wants some.   

Like many boutique food producers, Earl is passionate about where his product's ingredients come from.  He puts four basic ingredients into his bread: flour, water, salt, and his time.  Of these ingredients, flour has been the most challenging for him to source.  After doing a lot of research, whenever he needs to restock, he now drives to Petaluma to get 300-400 pounds of what he considers to be the best locally grown, heritage varietal, fresh-milled organic flour available.  As for his time, "it's the most expensive part of bread making, but because I love doing it, and it doesn't really consume me, my time is not part of the price."

Earl's Bread
Of the 30 loaves Earl makes each week, he delivers 12 or so to neighbors in the 94124 ZIP code every Sunday.  For those subscribers who don't live in the Bayview, Earl also brings 8-12 loaves to work in Union Square each week.  And for those who can't do that either, Earl can drop your loaf off at All Good Pizza for you to pick up. With the proceeds from his $5/loaf bread sales, Earl has given back to the community already in the form of donations to local causes he cares about.  He's also bought a beehive, and hopes to be able to include a special gift of a jar of honey for his subscribers later this fall.

Earl says, "Earl's Bread was really just started for fun, but in the back of my head, I am thinking of one day opening a small bakery in the Bayview.  We desperately need one, but if someone opened one up before me, I would support them 100%, and may even stop baking my bread altogether."

If you'd like to become a subscriber, visit Earl's Bread on Facebook and sign up.  If you want to find out more about the Cottage Food Law and how Earl got his start, he is planning to participate in another seminar soon, and can provide you information on that as well.

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