Episode #7 – Greg Wade shares insight from his appearance in the documentary “Sustainable” and explains why he’s dedicated to creating some of the world’s healthiest fresh baked bread.
On this episode of Agrihood Radio we’re talking with Greg Wade from Publican Quality Bakery in Chicago, Illinois. Greg plays a major role in the Netflix Documentary, Sustainable.
Today he’s discussing the importance of responsible farming and the impact it can have on a global level. He also shares insight and tips on how to choose quality bread over conventional store bought bread.
Greg’s dedication to the food system supports a regenerative way of farming and agriculture practices. He is making every effort to move the value of the food chain forward.,
Creating relationships and connections with various farmers, consumers and chefs is good for society as a whole. This isn’t just a soundbite, it’s the driving force that fuels Greg’s passion for making the world a better place!
We also talk about how most bread contains bleached and enriched flours and lack minerals, essential oils and vitamins. Leaving the consumer with bread that contains a significant amount of complex sugars.
Greg discusses how we as a society need to do be regionalizing our food systems. This is the goal of Publican Quality Bread. Not to be in every restaurant in Chicago, rather keeping it special and unique while ensuring his employees are happy and not overworked.
Publican Quality Bread’s focus is to create something of quality, integrity, flavor and nutrition. Keeping it special is important to Greg Wade.
He encourages other people to do the same, whether it’s down the road or in another city, state or country. He wants to support good people doing good things all over the world.
Enjoy our interview with Greg Wade!
Brett: Hey. Good morning, Greg. How are you doing today?
Greg: Good morning. Very well. How are you?
Brett: Good, man. I watched the documentary Sustainable, and one of the things that sticks out in my mind is that you’ve been around bread-making since the age of five years old. So is it fair to say that this is in your DNA?
Greg: I’m not quite sure if that’s completely accurate, but I certainly been around bread long enough from youth to start to kind of getting into my brain there, yeah.
Brett: What I picked up on is that your passion for what you do is like off-the-charts, it really is. And the only way somebody couldn’t recognize that passion you have for what you do is if they never saw that documentary. And by the way that documentary is eye-opening and very, very inspirational. And I have found behind every passionate person there’s an undeniable driving force, would you agree with that?
Greg: I would 100% agree with that.
Brett: Okay, so now I have to ask you, and by the way we appreciate your time, I know you got a lot going on right now at that bakery, so thank you for your time. So I’m going to go into this list pretty quickly here. What’s the force that has you waking up at the crack of dawn and going strong all day long every day for that bakery?
Greg: Well, I think that bread itself is a labor of love and once you kind of get hooked on it you can’t really get away. It’s a super immersive, tactile, and sensory experience of taking care of these grains and these starters and this fermentation and this thing that’s very alive day after day. And then eventually choosing at the appropriate time to kill it, so it’s like this relationship that develops with your products that you … like if you devote enough time into it you start to reap these rewards of quality and consistency and things that are very, very difficult to achieve with bread-making and especially when you’re talking about natural sourdough starter and natural fermentation and whole grains and things like that.
But the other thing that kind of keeps me going is our dedication to the food system and a regenerative way of farming and agriculture practices, and trying to play our part with moving that whole part of the value of the food chain forward, and making these relationships and these connections with various farmers and consumers and other chefs and things like that and trying to just create a better world. It’s really, really what keeps me going.
Brett: I 100% agree with that, and I’m glad you said that because now we can go into this next one, is that your bread and I had no clue; again, this documentary was so inspiring and enlightening. I seriously watch that thing … I think I had watched it three times in the last 10 days. So if you haven’t seen it … really, because it’s an eye-opener. And as many people listening right now know our family is looking for an Agrihood, a farm-to-table community to raise our son in right now. So we’re getting all the knowledge we can possibly acquire, and then we’re sharing it with the world. So you’re a rockstar in the bread industry, and thank you for being who you are. My question to you is this – you’re doing something pretty different there with Publican bread, you’re actually taking the einkorn, which not too many people know about, I had no clue about the einkorn. Share with that how that puts your bread in a league of its own?
Greg: So I’m glad that you brought up einkorn specifically. So Marty the farmer and Will also the farmer from the documentary, they do work as a team there on the farm as a father-and-son team. They are growing einkorn, and what’s special about this is einkorn and also emmer are the kind of the parent, grandparents of all modern wheat. It’s those wild field grasses that eventually became all the different types of wheat that we know today.
And what’s special about this is not only the heritage but also the way that they’re growing it. And I think that as far as what you’re talking about with maybe more ease of digestibility and things like that, einkorn does have fewer chromosomes which is apparently easier for us to handle, it’s not as complex of a plant. But really the base of the issue here I think is the need and desire to know where your food is from and what it actually is, right? And I think that that’s kind of the crux of the situation is that where like commodity wheat today is grown very chemical-dependent, and then once it is milled there’s even more chemicals and gel conditioners and emulsifiers added to it after that.
So the point of trying to seek out somebody that’s growing einkorn or seeking out somebody that is growing these heritage wheat is they’re really not going to be growing it in that chemical-dependent way, and that’s what’s important is not only knowing that the heritage and identity of the crops that we’re consuming and growing, but also the way that they’re grown.
Brett: Yeah, and then you touched upon something that I want to bring more attention to, you had said that there was a study done, and that the people who are celiacs or gluten intolerant had einkorn and they weren’t affected as they would be if they had a wheat bread. Was that accurate?
Greg: Yeah, so again, like the crux of the matter here is knowing what is being grown and how it’s being grown. So luckily wheat is not a GMO crop, but the commodity wheat system does grow things in a very chemical-dependent way, they’re adding liquid nitrogen to the soil to grow the plant faster and have it be higher protein, they’re dumping Roundup or glyphosate on it at the end of the lifecycle to dry it out so you can harvest the whole thing all at once, several crops all at once. And then the mill is adding things that are potassium bromate, to bleach the flour which is a carcinogen, Datem which is a mono byproduct of fat production which is a preservative and tenderizer but it also mono and diglycerides which are healthy for us.
So really what we’re kind of trying to get at here is like, yes, like the people did have our bread with einkorn, but the point is that really any of our breads are really okay not for celiacs but for folks who have gluten intolerance. And it comes because we’re sourcing our ingredients naturally, all of our flour is organic or transitional organic. We do want to support those farmers through the transitional period, so they actually do make it to organic. And all of our whole grains are heritage and identity preserved and they’re grown in a land raised sort of way, where they’re saving the seeds year after year, they were developing this crop for this land.
So it starts with quality flour and quality ingredients, unadulterated and just completely natural. And then our process at the bakery is a 60-hour, six zero, fermentation process. So through that long fermentation process you’ve got a lot of really complex starch, complex sugar breakdown, you’ve got complex protein breakdown which both of which give IBS symptoms, and which can be confused for an intolerance, okay? And so that’s kind of the overarching theme here is that we’re taking very natural products and we’re fermenting them for a long time, all of which leads to something that’s very not only delicious but also digestible and healthy.
Greg: So for us it’s not specifically that einkorn is the holy grail, it’s the fact that …
Brett: It’s the process that you’re using it in.
Greg: Right, it’s the natural ingredients and the process that make it healthy and digestible and delicious.
Brett: You have Publican bread doing it the right way, on one side of the coin – top notch, 100% on board. Then you flip the coin over, then you go to the grocery store and you see … If you take the time to read these ingredients, first of all you’ll be there all day trying to figure out what they say and go down that list. And then you start to research them and like you said earlier they’re not the best thing for the body, and then here’s what tightens me up is that the FDA considers forms of aluminum and all the other stuff in that bread, they call it GRAS, Generally Recognized As Safe. How safe is that for the body in your opinion?
Greg: I would argue not great. You’ll see a lot of bleached and enriched flours, and the whole reason that flours are enriched in the first place is because in World War II, this was just after the advent of the roller mills, and the roller mill separates the endosperm from the bread and the germ parts of the wheat kernel which is just those … the starch is just carbohydrates, and that’s what white flour is made out of. So you’re not getting any minerals from the bread, you’re not getting any essential oils or vitamins from the germ; you’re literally just getting complex sugars.
And so World War II came around, they’re testing all of these people being recruited for nutrition, and they found people to be very, very deficient. So what they started to do is just instead of go back to milling and making bread the original way, they decided to just add those nutrients and minerals back to the flour. But because it’s a separate additive it doesn’t … from what I understand, there was a seminar about nutrition I saw the other day, it doesn’t absorb into the body in the same way. So it just seems like this incredibly convoluted system of separating everything out and then trying to add back in what we’ve taken out, but in a really ineffective way.
And then as far as the different additives and dough conditioners that you’re kind of speaking of, arguably many of them like as you said are generally regarded as safe, but as things like calcium sulfate which allows dough to slide down factory bakery machines really, really easily, or like I mentioned earlier datum which is still able to be in “heart healthy breads” because the way that the labeling system is set up is that trans fats only have to be listed when they’re triglycerides, but datum is made out of mono and diglycerides, so it can still be packaged in your bread as heart healthy and safe. But you’ve still got these trans fats in there that are just kind of like hiding, because they don’t have to be listed in trans fat.
So you’ve got kind of this whole system built around really just terrible product being propagated. And when people say that they have a gluten intolerance or they eat something with gluten and then they feel bad, I don’t disagree with them, I’m saying 100% I believe you, but what’s the actual causative here is it the two proteins and wheat that mixed together to make that elastic substance that catches the gas and give the bread its nice chew and leavens it and things like that, or is it the tile grout, which is actually making you feel bad?
Brett: Great way to raise awareness. You have five ingredients in most of your bread, correct?
Greg: Yeah, well, I mean, so flour, water, salt, sourdough and starter. It’ll go up or down depending on how many grains we put in, but it’s still like … or sometimes honey, but it’s still recognizable things. We actually went through this phase when we’re trying to like think about packaging our bread where we can actually have icons, you can have an icon for wheat, you can have an icon for honey. I can’t particularly have an icon for calcium sulfate, who’s going to know what that looks like as far as like a simple image, you know? So being able to look at the bread and say, “Oh, look, I know wheat, I know salt, I know water,” all those things you know versus trying to decipher the back of a package of a loaf of bread.
Brett: So you’re a bakery in Chicago?
Brett: Okay. People come to you, they know they leave that bakery with bread they know that is good for the body, they feel good eating your bread, they’re supporting your great cause. Now let’s talk about this on a national level, because as you and I both know your bakery is there in Chicago, there’s millions of people in the world who don’t have access to that bakery. Okay, so you’re on top of that list as far as quality, integrity, doing things the right way. In my opinion most of the bread the in grocery stores is trash. So do you agree with that?
Greg: I would 100% agree with that.
Brett: Okay, so now let’s talk to the general masses, because not everybody lives in Chicago, in between what you are doing, what the international grocery stores are doing, is they’re a happy medium? If you can’t get Publican bread from Greg Wade, what would you suggest is … I can’t even say close second Greg, but what’s a viable option in your opinion for the masses?
Greg: Well, I think there’s tons of good bakers out in America right now that are doing things really, really well. And they’re kind of all over the country, you’ve got Grayson Gill down at Belle Guard Bakery in New Orleans, you’ve got Josey Baker out at the Mill in San Francisco, you’ve got the folks at Elmore Mountain Bread up in the New England area, you’ve got Dan the Baker in Ohio, Columbus, Ohio. So there’s tons of folks doing things the right way all over America.
And I think what this kind of speaks to, and I think that it also kind of goes hand in hand with your Agrihood kind of desired way of living which sounds amazing by the way. I was looking it up before I had this interview, and kind of the point is especially with the whole local food movement in general, you want good people all over doing good things. So we want to celebrate the things that we do well in each region. And people can do them well in each region. I’m not going to go ahead and say that I’m the end-all-be-all baker, because we’ve got tons of really amazing bakers in America right now. But you want to find out those local people that are doing it really well for your area.
The point isn’t particularly to just always have my bread, you want to celebrate your region, celebrate what you’re able to grow there, celebrate your local community, and that’s what I would really suggest is finding those folks in your area that are doing something extremely well, whether it’s trusting your baker to be producing your bread or trusting your butchers to be sourcing your meat from farms that are treating the animals well and not growing them with hormones and different …
Greg: Antibiotics and things like that. So, and trusting your farmer to be growing your produce, so like I think that what we need to do is be … kind of regionalizing our food systems. The point for us at Publican bread is not to be in even every restaurant in Chicago, we want to keep it to a place that it remains special and unique and keep our employees happy and not overworked and things like that. The point is to be creating something that’s really out of this world stellar with quality and integrity and flavor and nutrition and being able to provide it for a good fair amount of people, but we want to again keep it special. But that doesn’t mean that other people can’t be doing the same thing down the road or in another city or in another country or anything like that. We want to support good people doing good things all over. And there’s plenty of them, we just got to seek them out.
Brett: Greg, speak to the kid listening right now, who just got out of college with a degree he’s not going to use, she’s not going to use, she said, “You know what..I went to school, I come out of school four or five years later, this is not what I want. I’m listening this guy Greg Wade talk about his passion he has for bread. I don’t have the same passion for what I went to for. I want to do what he’s doing.” Maybe it’s being a baker. Can somebody duplicate what you’re doing and maybe start small with the integrity you have? You’ve come a long way, man. I know you started … everybody starts at the starting line, but you really took off, you’re at a place right now where you’re changing the world with that documentary. And on a daily basis in Chicago there when people come to your store, your bakery, they know they’re getting top quality bread. Speak to the kids that are listening right now that want to follow in your footsteps, and they want to do something they have passion for and help make the world a better place.
Greg: Well, yeah, so I think like the whole point of the matter is to actually care about something, right? I think that like there’s a huge problem in America right now where especially with young folks that caring isn’t cool, that you don’t know what you want to be passionate about, or that you’ve got this fear missing out on these wild parties or different lifestyle or experiences or things like that, and you don’t want to commit yourself to something that is arguably a lot of hard work, that is maybe not particularly as cool as going out every night.
But the point is to find something that you’re passionate about, it doesn’t have to be bread, it can be something food-related, it could be something policy education for your local area or anything. The point is to find something that triggers you, that you’re able to get behind, that you’re going to be able to devote yourself to and just really just dig in and tackle it and be okay and be proud of the fact that you’re contributing. I think that like it’s really important to be a productive and contributing member of society, and a lot of people are like, “Oh, well, I don’t want to sit in an office, I don’t want a desk job, I don’t want this, I don’t want that, so because of that I’m just going to completely go off the grid and I’m just going to travel or I’m not going to buy into their system.” But for me what better way to kind of stick it to them than to find a way to find something that you’re passionate about that you’re able to improve the lives of others and yourself, and hopefully for generations to come and make a living off of that.
I wake up every day and I’m like, “Holy crap, how in the world did I end up in this position where I get to do something that I love, that I get to improve the world and the lives of people around me, and I get to make this amazing product all the time? How did this happen?” Because when I was growing up in high school or middle school or whatever, they have you take this aptitude test saying that you fill out thing and it’s like, “Okay, you can be a banker or you can be a lawyer and like that,” neither of those things are bad professions, but they don’t really tell you that if you get really good at science and chemistry you can design fireworks or if you get really good at gymnastics you can be in Cirque du Soleil, like they don’t tell you those things, they just say like, “Okay, here’s your normal route, you’re going to end up in a desk job and you’re going to go to college,” and whatever.
But they don’t tell you that if you get passionate about something that you’re really, really interested in and you get really good at, you can really do anything that you want.
Brett: The school system, I’m listening to you thinking this guy’s saying everything that I feel the current school system is, antiquated. It was designed by factory workers back in the day, created by factory workers back in the day that could not find compliant workers, so they built this system called the public school system and now fast-forward all these years later, all these years later what we’re missing, Greg, is creativity. You go to art class for 45 minutes maybe during your school days. There’s no creativity. And what you’re doing right now is creating, it’s an art what you’re doing, and I think the human mind needs that stimulation, most of us do, okay? I can’t speak for everybody on the planet, but most people need some type of stimulation, and often times that comes through creativity. So what you’re saying is exactly 100% correct and spot-on.
So let’s get to the point here, I’m going to Costco, I don’t have a bakery in my area right now, we travel quite a bit for work. I’m going to go to Costco; I’m going to look for a decent loaf of bread. I sometimes depending what part of the country I’m in when we’re traveling I can get myself sourdough, the sourdough bread. It comes out of San Francisco; I can’t think of the exact name of it right now, it’s a San Francisco sourdough. What should I be looking for on that packaging to make sure that bread is okay to be eating for our family?
Greg: Well, I would just take a look at the ingredient label, and unfortunately it will take a fair amount of Googling like what those things actually are. But kind of do your diligence and like just find a product that’s listed, do you know what that is? And make your own decision; are you comfortable with that being in your food? The really big ones for me are that you’re going to be looking for something that is unbleached, so no potassium bromate, and it will say unbleached flour. And you want to look for something that’s as many recognizable ingredients as possible is what I would really suggest.
Yeah, look for things that are whole grain, which a side note – many whole grain flours in the grocery store are actually not whole grain, because it’s just the endosperm milled back together with some of the brand or germ is still not in there, they still separate it out, they mill it separately and then they add it back in, so it turns brown when you added water to it. So if you’re looking for flours what we’re trying to have like a big market push for something for relabeling of whole kernel flours. So this would be flour that has the entire wheat berry or rye berry, anything like that, milled all together, stoned milled and then that’ll be the entire thing all together.
But like I said for me the big things are you want unbleached flour and then do your research as far as what other things are in there, and you’re being able to make your own conscious decisions that way. That being said, I would also really suggest learning how to make your own bread, because one of the most rewarding things that you can possibly ever do, it’s like it’s challenging at first, but like if you are patient and really diligent about the way that you’re doing it, then you’re going to eventually be successful and it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to make your own bread.
Brett: Right on. The reason I brought up sourdough, Greg, is because after doing some research they say that fermentation process in that sourdough has … it’s good for the gut.
Greg: Oh, totally. So sourdough itself is a natural preservative. So sourdough breads will keep longer on the shelf. And it also has something called a phytase, it’s a enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. Phytic acid is a nutrient blocker in your system. And let’s see, also the long fermentation process will break down FODMAP, the fermentable complex sugars that is essentially all white flour and breaks them down into simple sugars, which absorb into our system in a better way. It doesn’t just like your blood sugar; it’s got a low glycemic index. And then I was actually just talking to this nutritionist the other day, and she said that there’s something called branched chain amino acids.
Brett: Right, BCA.
Greg: Yes, which is also what kind of keeps down the glycemic index. So there’s tons of really good things, and luckily in my opinion the sourdough is the tastiest way to make bread. But luckily it’s also the healthiest, so you’ve got the complex sugar breakdown, you’re able to absorb all the nutrients that you’re putting in there from hopefully using those really nice whole grains. And then you’ve got these other things such as the branched chain amino acids, also just making them a lot healthier. But luckily it’s a pleasurable pursuit and easy to get behind because it tastes really good.
Brett: It really does. And right now while it’s fresh in my mind, how can people get a hold of you, how can they find you?
Greg: So you can follow us on Instagram, my handle is @gregwadebakes, we’ve also got a Publican Quality bread Instagram. And then any inquiries can be sent through our website publicanqualitybread.com.
Brett: And I’m sorry the Instagram handle cut out, what is it Greg?
Greg: My personal one is @gregwadebakes. There’s also a Publican Quality bread Instagram accounts. And then through our website you can send us inquiries, it’s PublicanQualityBread.com.
Brett: And you’re encouraging everybody to get out there to support their local bakers, support their local farmers. And for the kids listening right now who want to have the passion you have, who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to be around breads since the age of five, there’s still a possibility to get this done in a way that they can find something that brings fulfillment just like you have found.
Greg: Yeah, it’s never too late. Just pick something and be okay with being passionate about it. You can take literally anything and just get behind it and be good at it. You’d be okay with contributing.
Brett: Greg, when you’re not making bread what are you doing, man, sleeping?
Greg: Yeah, well, I do like spending time with my fiancé and my dog. My dog’s name is actually Emmer, so kind of going with us being there. And I do serve as the vice president of a nonprofit called the Farmer Chef Alliance, a nonprofit focused on cultivating a healthy food system through education for chefs and farmers. And I’m also on the steering committee of something called the Artisan Grain Collaborative which is actually a really, really cool project of farmers and bakers and millers, and everyone along the value chain for grains, trying to create a better regional grain system.
And this one is actually like I’m really stoked on this project because it’s everyone talking together, because we’re all trying to push the change forward. And there’s this things that farmers and millers are going to understand about growing and producing the flour that I’m not going to understand as a baker, but there’s other end-user things that they need to know that they’re not going to know unless they’re talking to folks like myself.
So kind of the way that we’ve set this whole system up is that we’ve got farmers, we’ve got plant breeders developing varieties of grain for farmers in our various areas that will be resistant to the different pests and weather conditions that exist here. So the farmers then grow them and track their soil conditions and growing conditions, and things like that. And then the grain itself goes to a grain testing facility we had built with the University of Illinois Extension, and we get a lot of hard data about the grain, protein, and absorption and falling numbers and all this sort of super science-y stuff about flour.
And then the grain is then milled and sent to bakers like myself to perform functional and flavor analysis tests on it. And what we’re trying to do is link up the soil health and getting hard data there from doing soil tests and SAP analysis while the plant is growing, trying to correlate that data with the data that we find in the lab, and then trying to also correlate that with different flavors and performance function, functional performance tests at the end-user level. And then all the information gets cycled back to the collaborative, so we now have a much more educated way of choosing what we’re growing, where we’re growing it, and where it is ending up.
Brett: Perfect. Feel the weight of my sincerity when I say this, we appreciate everything you just shared with us, we appreciate what you’re doing out there in the world, the vision you have, and the way you’re making a difference on a daily basis. So Greg, thank you again for your time. We appreciate that. If there’s anything you want to share reach back out with us, we’ll definitely post it. And let’s stay in touch.
Greg: Thank you, Brett. I appreciate it.
Disclaimer: Agrihood Radio transcripts are prepared by a transcription service. Refer to full audio for exact wording.