After a three-year hiatus, the Asheville Bread Festival in North Carolina will return this year on April 22-23. Established in 2004, this two-day event invites professional bakers and baking enthusiasts to break bread together, share ideas, and bond over the same love for one of the oldest prepared foods.
“Baking is a very generous community [by] sharing information … it keeps us inspired … and to create this among our own community is really special,” says Jennifer Lapidus, the organizer of the festival. “[The Asheville Bread Festival] really is a celebration of bread.”
Taking place over Earth Day, the festival’s overarching theme is sustainability. However, Lapidus notes that sustainability goes beyond farming practices and waste. “That term (sustainability) is not just the practice in the field, it’s reduced food miles, the connections with farmers, and the sustainability with the job as a baker … it is a hard profession on your body … [it is about coming up with] good job strategies and how you can care for yourself.”
To cater to this mission, the festival will feature a collection of master classes, workshops, panel discussions that highlight these healthful practices. And though the festival is catered to bakers (both professional and amateur), the public can participate in the excitement as well. Classes range in size from 12-25 people (which is the perfect team-building activity) and focus on a variety of topics from Latin American pastries and the ecology of sourdough to seasonal pizza with fresh-milled flour and gluten-free bread.
Most of the classes take place in Asheville, with a portion of them in Henderson (just a quick 30-minute drive) at Carolina Ground—a flour mill that is owned and operated by Lapidus. Mill visitors and class goers are also encouraged to take a tour of the facility while they are there.
The bread fair, located at New Belgium Brewing, is an open market that takes place on Saturday, April 22 from 8:30 a.m-12:30 p.m., where bakeries will sample and sell their goods, local and regional mills will offer flour, and other culinary vendors will have books and kitchen tools like knives and cutting boards for sale. A panel discussion about sustaining a baker’s lifestyle and a breaking of bread to follow will round out Saturday’s festivities at the brewery. The reason for the location of (part of) this festival is intentional says Lapidus. “[Bakers and brewers] have shared history and connection … It’s shared fermentation. Brewers used to use yeast that would ferment at the top [of the beer] that could then be [scooped out and] used by bakers.”
As an expansive space in the heart of Asheville, the New Belgium Brewing is a premier destination for visitors. Beyond its tasty brews, it offers an array of event spaces for planners. Its Lower Brewhouse Patio and the Brewhouse can accommodate up to 400 guests combined, the Liquid Center Riverview Deck has capacity for 75, and the Front Lawn 20X20 Tent can shelter up to 30.