August 30, 2011
By Julia Guthrie, contributing writer
When I pulled up to the Dave's Killer Bread (DKB) bakery in Milwaukie to interview Dave Dahl himself, I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. After all, Dave is quite the local celebrity, and his large frame cuts an imposing presence even if you have no idea who he is or where he's come from. But between the delicious aroma of freshly baked whole grain bread that greeted me as I walked towards the entrance and the warm smile and handshake he gave me upon meeting him, the nerves disappeared, and I relaxed into an informative and inspiring visit with one of the best-known and admired business owners in the city.
We started with a chat in his office. He sat at a large desk that was covered with thank you cards (no doubt for the many charitable donations DKB gives out). The wall behind the desk was a collage of photos (Dave with friends and family, Dave at events meeting people, and a large photo of a beloved dog) and press clippings of his inspiring story, and one of the many awards the business has received for the sustainable practices they engage in or the many ways they give back to the community.
We talked for a while about how DKB came about and what it is today. (If you donít know his inspiring story, check out the wonderful video at http://www.daveskillerbread.com/story.shtml) While I knew his story well, I didnít know the story of how the actual "Killer Bread" came to be. Dave had been working on a recipe for NatureBake (the company his family owned and had built up over the years). The bread he came up with was good, and a little different, and his brother Glenn suggested it should become a unique line, and thus Dave's Killer Bread was born. And once it was, Dave and Glenn agreed the bread had to tell Dave's story. You see, Dave is highly motivated to share his story with others so that they will be inspired to overcome whatever it is they might be struggling with in their lives and, as Dave put it, "Without the bread, there wouldnít be the same interest in the story."
Over the course of my visit, three things became very clear: (1) Dave is on a mission to give back--to the community, to others who have faltered, to people looking for healthy food; (2) Dave knows bread, and as good as DKB already is, they're constantly working to make it that much better; and (3) Dave is as well-liked in his company as he is by the many DKB fans.
After visiting for a while in his office, Dave took me on a tour of the bakery, an impressive operation of science, art and scale. After removing my jewelry and donning a hairnet, we entered the bakery, first passing the test kitchen ("We're always working to constantly improve the bread"), and went into the ingredient room, which houses the grains, seeds, yeast and other items (many organic and many from DKB/Naturebake neighbor, Bob's Red Mill) that will become loaves of Good Seed, Blues Buns, and Sin Dawgs, to name a few.
From there Dave took me through the process of ingredients becoming bread, stages such as "sponge," "finish," and "windowpane," the stage it must reach before kneading is considered complete. (Windowpane refers to when the dough can be stretched sufficiently to have an almost transparent quality that you can see through but doesn't rip apart or create a hole when stretched.) Then the dough is portioned into loaves, proofed and rolled in seeds, then baked. After that the loaves make the two-hour journey around the cooling towers and are inspected and measured to ensure quality and consistency. Finally it's packaged in bags with Dave's image on the front and his story and their mission on the back.
Next we paid a visit to the Healthy Bread Store located just adjacent to the bakery. This is the place to go for exceptional deals on DKB and one of the few places you can get your hands on their latest offering, Good Seed Bagels. The day I was there, Dave's sister, Linda, was minding the store (it really is a family business). They had all sorts of wonderful offerings and, full disclosure, Dave was kind enough to load me up with a nice selection of DKB to enjoy.
As we wound up our visit back in Dave's office, we talked about why they chose to make DKB a vegan product in the first place. Dave said that NatureBake had always been vegetarian and that "Övegan was the next logical step. Why should animals suffer to make this bread? Itís not necessary." As a result, he found that the veg community was one of the first to support DKB and to help build their success. And for this reason, DKB has been a supporter of VegFest from the very beginning. As Dave put it, "You have to remember where youíve been." Whether that's in trouble, in the big house, or in the open embrace of the veg community, it informs many choices that DKB makes as they continue to grow and expand. Much of that comes from Daveís own personal philosophy, "I always felt I had to give back to keep what I had found."
In addition to being a Gold Level sponsor of VegFest, Dave's Killer Bread will also be showcasing and sampling their delicious offerings. Make sure to stop by, as they will have their new Good Seed Bagels, which are hard to come by, as they are only available at the Healthy Bread Store and select DKB appearances at markets and events. And you just may have a chance to say "Hi" to Dave yourself.
For more information about Dave's Killer Bread, including recipes, where to buy, and some inspirational and fun videos, visit http://www.daveskillerbread.com. For great deals on DKB products, visit The Healthy Bread Store at 5209 SE International Way, Milwaukie, OR 97222 (check the web site for hours).