Tabor Bread Has a New Owner and a New Location
Tabor Bread is one of the major players in our local bread and bakery scene. Opened in 2012, the bakery stood out. Not only did it use whole grains like kamut, spelt, red fife, and einkorn that were fermented for up to 18 hours, but at the time, it milled all of its own grain in-house and baked all its bread in a wood-fired oven. A decade later, owner Tissa Stein, now in her mid-seventies, has decided to retire, and she’s handing over the reins to baker and manager Rebecca Tosdevin.
The bakery has changed over the course of its ten-year history. “When I arrived in Portland in 2010 [after opening a similar bakery in Petaluma 25 years ago with Australian baker, blacksmith, and wood oven designer Alan Scott], I saw that there was nothing like it here. I thought, what else to use as a fuel than the wood up here? And I imported the mill from Austria, and a mixer from Holland,” says Stein. Along with whole grain bread, the bakery also began making pastries, cookies, cakes, and lunch, “to make the numbers work,” Stein says. At night, she’d host monthly tango gatherings when the bakery was closed.
Over time, the bakery’s primary grain provider, Camas Country Mill, refined its milling process so that it became more consistent and reliable, so the bakery stopped using its own mill. And in the summer of 2021, when temperatures hit 116 degrees, the bakery ceased use of its wood fired oven. “It just didn’t feel right anymore—not just the heat, but the air pollution that’s caused,” says Stein. The bakery switched to using entirely convection ovens, which meant most loaves were baked in pans. (That’ll change with the new location, which will have electric deck ovens ideal for loaves like the boules Tabor Bread used to make.) Meanwhile, Stein started to think about retirement.
“I’m going to be 75, and the stamina to run a business like that, it wasn’t something I was going to have forever,” says Stein. “I couldn’t have asked for a better person [than Rebecca] to take Tabor Bread into its next chapter.”
We talked with Tosdevin, who started at Tabor Bread as a manager, about her background in baking, and her hopes for the bakery in its new spot at 4438 SE Belmont St.
How’d you get into cooking, and into bread in particular?
I went to cookery school in Ireland. I already had a degree in silversmithing, and I’m really into farming—I worked in farms in New Zealand for nine months with one of my sisters on a 100-acre organic farm. I got into bread about ten years ago when I worked at Lodge Bread (in Los Angeles), then joined the bread team at Milo and Olive (in Santa Monica) and helped develop and change their bread program.
What drew you to Tabor Bread?
All the whole grains. I did a lot of work with Tehachapi Grain Project in LA, and they’re very grain-forward, but nothing like Tabor Bread. I don’t think I could ever go back to baking with the flour I used to bake with from Central Milling. It’s a totally different flavor profile—there’s just so much more to it. Central Milling is a great flour company that lots of different bakeries use, but they get their flour from different places. Camas Country Mill and Cairnspring Mills, I love their ethos.
What makes working with these grains so much different than other flours?
The flavor is just totally different. It brings nuttiness, fruitiness. In the pastries, it’s really beautiful, especially spelt. It’s harder as well; it’s much more straightforward to use white processed flour, since you can get a lot more height and air. It’s harder to hydrate certain whole grains. Nicole, our head baker, is really in tune with all our grains.
How did you end up becoming the next owner of Tabor Bread?
I came on as a general manager, because turning 30, I didn’t want to do the 4 a.m. or even earlier shifts. Some of the farmers’ market bakers come in at 11 p.m. or midnight. It’s a hard lifestyle, and after almost ten years, I needed a bit of a change, but I love food, and I love feeding people. I had a great relationship with Tissa, we had a similar vision, and she wanted to retire, and I’ve always wanted to own a bakery, and it worked out really well.
Why did Tabor Bread leave its old location on Hawthorne? How’s the new Belmont Street location coming along?
Tissa sold the building. [Editor’s note: this summer, it’s set to become home to TPK Brewing, a tabletop gaming spot and brewpub.] The building was a bit restrictive. We’re not using the wood-fired oven anymore, which took up a lot of space; we have a deck oven that’s going into the new space, so we’ll have baguettes and boules, plus all the old favorites. We didn’t have much indoor seating; we’ll have much more seating when we do the buildout, plus a patio out back.
Our new location on Belmont is operating as a storefront, but we’re baking out of a commissary kitchen on Water Avenue. It’s a bit of a rat race. We’re waiting for a couple permits from the city to come through, and the buildout will take six or eight weeks or more. I’m really hoping we’ll be all moved in by June.
What else will be new in the space?
In the next year, I want to be open later, and open for dinner. I also want it to be like a general store for the community, with wine, local produce, eggs, milk. I’m not sure what the menu would look like, but my passion for food is very much comfort English food, Italian kind of things. I love savory pies, pasta, pizza, and I’m sure it would change all the time.
How’s being a bakery owner so far?
It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of moving parts. It’s hard to stay staffed, it’s hard to make money. It’s tough, but it’s extremely rewarding. I think it’ll only get easier as I get better at doing these things. I’m good at baking, but this is all very new to me—it’s very humbling. Managing 24 people is difficult, but I’m learning every day. And I have my siblings working at the bakery, too, which is really fun.