Easy Tiger's Bread and Butter
David Norman talks about new expansion
By Virginia B. Wood,
11:30AM, Tue. Nov. 25, 2014
One major consideration driving the recently disclosed growth of the ELM Group's successful Easy Tiger Bakeshop & Beer Garden (709 E. Sixth) is the need for larger baking facilities. The popularity and wholesale demand for David Norman's distinctive breads has already far exceeded demands projected when the bakery opened in 2012.
I'll be the first to admit I was concerned about Easy Tiger's original location on the darker, quieter end of Dirty Sixth. Turns out I need not have worried. The combination of house-made sausages and charcuterie, plenty of craft beer on tap, artisan breads, and an hospitable vibe has steadily attracted crowds to the spot overlooking Waller Creek.
Early on, David Norman's assorted breads, pretzels, sandwich rolls, croissants, baguettes, and pastries developed a loyal following at Easy Tiger as well as at ELM's two other restaurants, 24 Diner and Arro. Grocery stores and restaurants soon requested wholesale orders, fueling the bakery's growth. Within the first year, the bakery received national recognition. When it was announced that a much larger Easy Tiger would become the anchor tenant at the Linc (6406 N. I-35) in late 2015, we checked in with Austin's top dough puncher to chat about the situation.
Austin Chronicle: I remember the tour of your bakery at the opening party and being so impressed with the space and the equipment. I'm not really a bread baker, but as a pastry cook by trade, I came away with a serious case of bakery envy. How has the business worked out in that space?
David Norman:Wholesale bakery sales have been so much more than we expected. We're producing twice what we estimated our capacity would be here and we've had to turn away some wholesale accounts. Right now, we have 17 bakers covering day and evening shifts seven days a week. We bake almost around the clock, with staggered-in times for mixers, shapers, bakers, etc., 365 days a year.
AC: Besides the ELM Group restaurants, what are some of the other places in town that use your products?
DN: There are close to 50 altogether – places like La Condesa, Trace, Barlata, Bufalina, Annie's Cafe & Bar, Epicerie, in.gredients, the bakery departments at the Whole Foods stores Downtown and at the Domain.
AC: Really? What do they carry at Whole Foods?
DN: They carry our pain au levain, sourdough, rye, and multi-grain loaves in the bakery department and then we supply lots of bread for the sandwich counters at both stores. We'll add the three smaller stores after we expand.
AC: So, tell us something about the new place. Will you have another one of those fancy imported ovens? I remember it was so heavy it was necessary to reinforce the floor in that 100-year-old building on Sixth.
DN: That's a TAG Italian deck oven that was installed by TMB Baking from San Francisco. We'll have another one of those and two more rack ovens like we have here for pastries and rolls. The actual baking area will be a little larger, but the main improvement will be that we'll have more space to cool, pack, and stage the breads for deliveries, as well as more space for storing flour and supplies.
AC: Will you be adding to the product line?
DN: We're going to have double the space for pastry production, so I'll be adding to that line. Still no cakes, but tarts and some other baker's pastries.
AC: What about that great white bread you made to go with the barbecue meal at Saengerrunde during the Foodways Texas symposium in 2013? Best loaf of white bread I've ever eaten. I was hoping to buy some when you get open near my neighborhood.
DN:I made that white bread special for that one event and don't make it on a regular basis at all, but it's something I'm thinking of adding when we expand. As it stands now, we make pan loaves and Pullmans from several of our doughs for wholesale that aren't on our retail shelves, but we welcome special orders with 24 hours notice.