Q&A, Part 1: Runner and Stone's Peter Endriss on Opening a Bakery in Gowanus, Baking at Per Se, and Working 35 Hours on a Weekend
Liz Barclay Peter Endriss at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg
It's easy to eat Runner and Stone's amber-hued pretzel absently, nibbling the thin crispy arms that cross over themselves, the soft curves of the bulbous tops flecked with salt, without contemplating the Champlain Valley Mills organic white spelt flour and the 4 percent lye dip that lends its toasty pure flavor. Then five minutes later it's gone, and you're left wondering why you didn't buy three. Come fall, the bakery will be operating out of Gowanus, at 285 Third Avenue; for now, you'll have to hit the markets to find its wares: rye breads with beautiful crusts and developed tang, buckwheat loaves packed with peaches too good to bake into bread, and canelés, squat French pastries with caramelized crusts and custardy interiors. We chat with Peter Endriss, head baker, the hands and brain behind some seriously serious bread.
How did you get into baking?
I actually was a civil engineer and changed careers. I always wanted to a cook since I was a little kid, so finally I realized I hated civil engineering and started staging as a line cook. Then I cooked for a year and wasn't super into the pressure. I went into pastry and then was waiting for a restaurant to open where I was going to be doing the pastry menu. I had some time so I staged at a bakery in Southern Germany, where my father is from, where I fell in love with the rhythm and the work. When I came back, I pursued a bread position instead of pastry and never looked back.
I like baking a lot more than pastry because it's different all of the time, so it's a lot more gratifying when you get a beautiful bread than a pastry that you've made from a recipe that turns out the same every single time. It's a little more engaging to me.
You baked at Per Se? Was it enjoyable?
Enjoy? No. But grateful for it? Absolutely. I'm glad I have had that experience. But for three years it was constant stress, unmitigated constant stress. The pressure is so high, because the quality is so high, so there's no room for error. When baking is so variable, that's really rough. But, that said, it made me such a better baker because the baguettes had to look exactly the same. I learned everything that can go wrong with a baguette at every stage, from pre-fermentation to service, and I learned that with every bread we did there. It was good for me to learn how to control dough.
When does Runner and Stone open?
September. It's the scheduled date for now.
How much of the new operation is bakery? And how much is restaurant?
It will be both. In the morning it will be a viennoiserie with a pastry line-up, bread, an espresso machine -- we'll do Italian-style coffees with Crops to Cup coffee, they are in Gowanas also. And then lunch will be like sandwiches and salads, soups, for dine-in and take out but no dinner service. And then starting with the dinner service, we'll have a bartender, wait staff, full-table service, with a full sit-down menu. My partner is the chef component, Christopher Pizzulli, he was the chef of Blue Ribbon Brooklyn. He just left so we can go full speed on this project.