Sea Wolf Bakers
This Summer Sea Creatures met up with Kit and Jesse Schumann, the brothers behind Sea Wolf, baking in off-hours out of Boat Street Cafe, and providing bread to The Whale Wins as well as The Walrus and the Carpenter:
Sea Creatures: Where do we start? I guess, tell us about Sea Wolf's start?
Jesse: (laughs) Well, Kit and I have been talking about it for a long time in different forms. Ever since I finished baking school, more or less. We've been constantly reimagining it for the last 4 or 5 years.
Kit: I imagine a lot of businesses start out as a twinkle in the eye...
Jesse: It was a time and a place thing. We've imagined doing this out of our parents' garage. We've imagined building our own space. We got a spot in Bellingham that we'd love to do it--across the street from our old day care.
Jesse: It was Kit saying, 'you gotta move to Seattle. You gotta move to Seattle.' He kept talking to you guys (Sea Creatures) until it came together.
Sea Creatures: Why baking? Why a bakery?
Kit: Out of college I got a non-profit job, office management...I did some volunteering and really had no idea--you know, it was the just-out-of-college-trying-to-figure-out-what-you-fall-into...really, I had no intention at all of cooking or baking. Really, personally, I've been the younger brother, and I've followed in Jesse's footsteps in a lot of ways.
Jesse: (laughs) I think of Kit as the lead creative talent. Kit has been the inspiration behind Sea Wolf--I mean the one who is making this happen.
Kit: The decision to get a job at a bakery, Bread Farm, up in Bow Edison--I still think one of the best bread bakeries and one of the best business I've worked for...really that was the formative experience for me. I was surprised that you could make a living doing something you really love and you can be creative...I don't know of another career where you get to experience so many things as in food.
Jesse: I started in politics in Oregon, but I was always sort of casting around for a craft. Our grandfathers, our dad, our mom, our grandmothers--they were all very capable, crafty people. Eventually I got out of politics. I enrolled at the San Francisco Baking Institute, and it was fantastic.
Sea Creatures: What makes Sea Wolf different? What makes it special?
Jesse: The attractiveness of the bread is important to us. Good-looking bread signifies the quality of craftsmanship that went it making it. If you have a strong ear it means you hit the fermentation just right, you scored well, you baked at the right temperature. If you have nice high volume it means that it was well shaped...there is no reason for good bread to be ugly bread.
You're not just mixing dough; you are actually molding something, crafting it.
Kit: Cooking has educated how I see baking. Baking is a form of cooking. You can really be creative with styles and ingredients...
Just as an example, we've been baking a vollkornbrot which uses grains that have been soured--just slightly fermented--that are sprouted, that are toasted and all mixed together and baked into really dense, really hearty, really savory loaf of bread. It's something a few years ago I never would have thought of making. There are a lot of different types of vollkornbrot. I think ours is pretty awesome, pretty extraordinary, pretty unique.
It is a creative outlet for us--doing something super traditional in a way it hasn't been done before. I don't want to be just another bakery. I want to be something that is really exciting to be a part of.
Jesse: We are really interested in Scandinavian, eastern-European--some of the outlying bread traditions that aren't represented.
There is a lot of room underneath Seattle's big bakeries. There are a lot of pockets for artisan, specialty, and craft breads.
French bread is pretty well represented. You know baguettes and white sours. There are breads like the vollkornbrot, or heavy ryes, full grain breads. There are really interesting, fun things out there.
Sea Creatures: I have to ask, where does the name come from?
Kit: (laughs)...I work at The Whale Wins which is the sister restaurant to The Walrus and the Carpenter which is the sister restaurant to the Boat Street Cafe. Nautical themes abound. 'Sea Wolf' seemed perfect. Also, I had just watched a movie rendition of Sea Wolf, the Jack London book. The pieces fell together.
Sea Creatures: What's it like working with family? Is getting to work together part of the appeal?
Jesse: Oh yeah! We are a family business first and foremost. This has been a shared vision for a long time. Our dad is like, 'just let me know, if you need any help. I'll come sweep the floors.' Our life long neighbor is our accountant. We've worked and lived together before...
Kit: (laughs) yeah, we can work together. We can't live together.
Jesse: It is one or the other. We can live together or work together but not both, but yeah, it is real important to us to be in this together.
You can find Sea Wolf's incredible Seattle Sour Boule on bread plates at The Whale Wins and also at The Walrus and the Carpenter. Kit and Jesse are planning to open up in their own location in 2015. Stay tuned.