Quantcast

This Bakery Is Transforming the Way We Eat Bread

Food
Food Tank spoke with Jonathan Bethony about what makes SEYLOU bread unique.

By Sammy Blair

SEYLOU is a bakery and mill in Washington DC built around the art of whole grain baking. SEYLOU works with local farmers to source organic seeds to bake into 100 percent whole grain breads, and creates nutritious pastries and baked goods to reinstate bread as a part of a healthy diet.


Jonathan Bethony is the co-owner and Head Baker at SEYLOU. Bethony trained at Michel Suas' San Francisco Baking Institute, worked at Washington State University's Bread Lab, and has collaborated with top farm to table chefs, including Dan Barber and Marc Vetri, for fresh ways to cook local grains. He's transformed baking using science, creativity and local food to make breads healthier for humans and the planet.

Food Tank spoke with Jonathan about what makes SEYLOU bread unique, and how the local, whole grain-focused bakery is changing the food system and the way we perceive baked goods.

Food Tank (FT): How can the practices you're promoting with SEYLOU help support communities struggling with food security?

Jonathan Bethony (JB): We are totally committed to maximizing nutrition in every product produced and sold. A chocolate chip cookie, for example, is something typically not associated with healthy eating. Rather than using conventional white flour with low nutritive value, we use locally grown organic whole millet which is high in fiber, protein and minerals. Instead of refined sugar, we use locally produced sorghum syrup, rich in flavor and containing vitamins and minerals. We use dark chocolate, which contains antioxidants and less sugar than milk chocolate chips. Because these whole foods are so flavorful, we only need half the normal amount of sweetener to make delicious products.

A common obstacle to healthy food is the cost. Though our bread cost is ostensibly higher when compared to bread produced by other vendors in the industrial system, I am confident that every dollar spent at SEYLOU goes toward real food. Our real food provides the maximum health and sustenance value possible, good paying jobs and money directly in the pockets of farmers.

Our "Pain au Levain," for example, is US$11 or US$6.50 for those on food assistance, but it is a complete food—a large, hearty whole wheat loaf full of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Unlike a loaf of sliced bread in a bag, you cannot smash this two-pound whole grain loaf into a ball the size of your fist. It will provide 5-8 servings of nutritious food and will last for a week without additives.

At SEYLOU, we are striving to provide an alternative to the commodity-based industrial food system by forming a direct connection between regional farms and consumers. The entire value chain must have the mark of integrity and be grounded in ethics and sustainability. We hope to be a hub for the Local Food movement and an intersection between this movement and those with the power to set policy.

SEYLOU is an organization committed to recognizing a greater system beyond the bakery, wherein education and active community engagement are critical to revitalizing a system in which access to quality nutrition is accessible to all.

FT: How is your bread nutritionally different than commercially produced bread?

JB: At SEYLOU we mill all of our grains fresh before mixing and fermenting them for up to 24 hours. Think of the difference between a fresh-squeezed glass of orange juice compared to something packaged sitting on a shelf. Most store-bought whole wheat products are missing a nutritious germ, often removed extend the products shelf life. Dr. Killilea, a research scientist at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute who specializes in analyzing the nutritive value of whole grain flour, considers wheat a superfood when all of its components remain intact. Within 50 miles of DC, we have superfoods like buckwheat, millet, sorghum, rye, oats, einkorn, spelt and wheat.

Most commercially produced bread consists of high-gluten white flour, otherwise known as bread flour. This strips most of its nutrition by removing the germ and the bran, leaving only the endosperm containing mostly starch. High-speed machine mixing and mechanized dough handling require high gluten content. If the flour isn't already white enough from genetic selection, it is often bleached to achieve this. You can imagine the effect of that on flavor and nutrition. There is no trace of this 'dead dust' in our bakery. We mill every grain freshly on site.

When you find bread that says it is 100 percent whole grain, read the label carefully. In most cases you will find vital wheat gluten as one of the top ingredients—a slug of raw undigested gluten added to the already barely fermented loaf.

Long fermentation is important for digestibility. Unlike our bread, most bread in a plastic bag goes from flour to loaf in a matter of a few hours, skipping out on the benefits of a long fermentation or pre-digesting period where enzymes and microorganisms such as lactobacilli break down the grains into a more absorbable state. Think of how ruminants break down grains using multiple stomachs. Traditional cultures have long known the benefits of soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains to maximize their nutritive value. Our style of baking takes the grain through multiple stages of slow fermentation to ensure the greatest health impact and a remarkable flavor profile.

Finally, we shape our loaves by hand and bake them in a wood-burning oven. Each of our loaves are made by someone who cared, someone who enjoyed themselves while crafting it. It is a piece of someone's soul. Try to find that wrapped in a plastic bag sitting on the shelf.

"We source with integrity, purchasing our grains, dairy, and produce from those we believe to be stewards of the land."

FT: Which farming practices are local farmers using to grow their whole grains and why?

JB: Unlike in the industrial system, our seeds have an identity, a story. The farmers we work with grow varieties of seeds that make delicious whole grain bread, as well as function agronomically in their organic system. Grown on organic, or better than organic farms, they have a unique character and are full of flavor and nutrition.

Since we are using the whole kernel, we are especially mindful of what comes into contact with the outer shell as it is incorporated into the flour upon milling. Most conventional grains are sprayed with poisonous chemicals such as Roundup or treated further with pesticides during storage.

We source with integrity, purchasing our grains, dairy and produce from those we believe to be stewards of the land. They farm with the intention of handing something down for generations to come. At SEYLOU, we check our intention constantly to be sure that there is a consistent thread of ethics and sustainability through the whole value chain.

FT: What influence do the farmers have on the types of bread you bake?

JB: We would be nothing without the farmers! We are in this together and our fate is tied. I try to use as many diverse crops as I can, including cover crops to support organic farming practices. We visit our farmer's plots seasonally, try to understand their needs, and maintain a constant feedback loop. In the bakery, we are constantly coming up with products to showcase their hard work. In fact, that was the inspiration for our Horse Bread, a whole grain loaf featuring legumes, sorghum, millet, camellia and mustard seeds. This spring we are featuring a "Cover Crop Granola" which includes various summer crops such as sorghum, oats and buckwheat.

FT: In what ways are you educating consumers about local farmers and the grains they grow?

JB: As soon as someone walks through the doors at SEYLOU they will find towers of grain sacks from different regional farmers to their right and left. Between them, one has a view of our one-ton stone mill. Along the wall, we have pictures of the farmers who grow our grains as well as the artisan who built our mill and oven. Each member of our staff is trained to engage each customer, providing information about where the ingredients came from, who grew them and how each product might be best enjoyed. In addition, we plan to hold special events dedicated to our work revitalizing local grain systems in the Mid-Atlantic and in Senegal.

FT: What are the social implications of taking a devout approach to locally sourced ingredients?

JB: At SEYLOU, we hope to increase public awareness of everyone in the value chain; most notably the farmer. We would like our guests to experience the feeling of investing in the future of their bodies and families. I hope to help in the effort to revitalize the trades of milling, baking and small-scale farming. I want to create meaningful jobs full of meaningful life experiences. By providing a safe, inclusive and wholesome environment I hope to connect neighbors. My intention is that we all grow and prosper together.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less