Q&A with Charlie McIntosh of Amelia’s
In the coming months, Charlie McIntosh will don an apron and assume his head baker role at the soon-to-open Amelia’s, an Italian-style hearth bread bakery in a Fletcher Place mini-restaurant complex at 653 Virginia Avenue.
McIntosh is no stranger to the food scene in Indianapolis. Over the past decade, he has logged time as a line cook at Wolfies Grill (20999 Hague Rd., Noblesville, 317-984-6952) and stocked gluten-free this and organic that at Whole Foods. He worked in the bakery at the old Sunflower Market in Broad Ripple. And downtown java fiends might recognize him from his days handing out fraps and mochas at the Starbucks on Monument Circle.
Trisha Lindsley: You’re a self-proclaimed food guy. How did you get into it?
Charlie McIntosh: I grew up in the progressive and liberal Mennonite church in Paoli. The church pitch-ins served excellent food.
TL: How did the bakery concept come about?
CM: My uncle, Tom Battista, travels a lot. He’s the stage manager for Jimmy Buffett, among other things. He’s very into restaurants and has a huge passion for food. Over a meal, we talked about starting with a sandwich shop but realized we couldn’t get good bread in Indy. So we decided to start with the foundation—so that others can make good sandwiches.
TL: Do you feel like you’re ready for the job?
CM: Bread making is so technical and scientific. Everything needs to be precisely weighed, measured, and temped. I like that part of it. For nearly a year, I’ve been apprenticing, scouting, and taking classes. First, I went to The Baking Education Center at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont. It was an intensive course. They teach students how to set up a financially successful bakery. From there, I went to San Francisco to the Baking Institute at TMB Baking to study artisan bread. After those studies, I apprenticed at the acclaimed Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe in Louisville. I didn’t sleep much—some days started at 1:30 a.m. We’ve also taken trips to New York City to see how it’s done there. We really enjoyed the practices behind Grandaisy Bakery’s European-style bakeshop.
TL: How will Amelia’s be different?
CM: We will pay homage to our Italian heritage. Tartine Bakery in San Francisco is one of our influences. They specialize in natural fermentation (versus using a commercial yeast). We’re setting up our shop so that our bread will ferment naturally and slowly. This way, the bread develops more flavor. And using a natural starter means it will build a subtle acidity within the dough. Natural starters also help increase the shelf life of the bread. Not as much as, say Wonder Bread, which is laden with preservatives. But you get what I’m saying.
We put a ton of research into finding the perfect equipment. We decided to go with an Italian oven called a Tibiletti. It was expensive, but if you want to do European-influenced bread right, it takes the investment. We chose the Tibiletti because it provides nice, even heat. And you can inject steam into the ovens, which keeps the skin from forming on the dough so the bread can fully rise to its full potential. Otherwise, it would immediately form a skin and you’d end up with a tight, dense loaf. We’re after a good crust and a soft crumb.
TL: Where will you get your flour?
CM: We are currently evaluating a few places, but we haven’t decided on a specific one yet. We’re looking for a company that grinds its own flour and that doesn’t adulterate it with chemicals
TL: What will you sell?
CM: The bulk of our bread will be commercial, but we will do some retail. We’ll offer five to seven varieties: Stirato, or a stretched baguette; a Semolina bread made with durum wheat; a rustic country; a scored city loaf; and a Pullman loaf, our take on the Wonder.