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Rolling in the dough

Meet Boudin bread sculptor Juan Gutierrez
By: Danelle Wacker Special to The Press Tribune
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While most kids grow up sculpting Play-Doh, 36-year-old Juan Gutierrez was raised playing with sourdough. The Boudin baker was raised in Mexico where his father worked as a baker making bread. Now, Gutierrez is the man behind the sourdough turtles, turkeys and teddy bears, which are the most popular, that decorate the Boudin SF eatery at the Fountains. Q: Why does Boudin make bread animals? A: “It is part of the training to be a bread chef at Boudin. You go to training in the San Francisco store and we learn the basics and how to make bread animals. We are taught how to make alligators, crabs, turtles, lobsters, fish and bears. My favorite animal to make is the alligator. During training the master chef asked me to make an alligator and the customers all liked mine the best. It was a great feeling to know I had done better than the head baker.” Q: What is the most challenging shape to build? A: “I once had a customer ask me to make the Golden Gate Bridge. I worked off of a photo I liked and it ended up being 2 feet by 1 1/2 feet. It took up an entire pan on its own and took me a half an hour to make. Most animals are very easy. Normally the smaller animals like turtles, bears or crabs take about 10 minutes. The turkey is also harder. In San Francisco they have a stencil we can use. At the Fountains I have to figure it out on my own.” Q: Why do customers purchase the sculpted bread? A: “We have lots of holiday shapes like turkeys, rabbits, hearts and Christmas breads like trees and stockings. Lots of people order them for their kids for fun or for parties. People like to make the animals into dip bowls to make their parties fancier. I make the bread animals for displays daily, but I can make animals for people by request when they come in, too.” Q: What are your hobbies besides bread? A: “I have three daughters and I love spending time with them. We love to watch cartoons together. I also love playing futbol, or soccer as you guys call it.” Q: Where else have you worked besides Boudin? A: “I have worked at Italian and Mexican restaurants, but I’ve only been a bread chef. Bread is my specialty. Boudin has been my favorite experience because I love everything about working with bread. What can I say, it’s my life.”