Artisan Bread Maker Rises To The Top

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Crafting breads that rise naturally is an exercise in chemical reactions — a fermenting process having to do with cultures and timing — that can take three days from start to finish. So you can say PATIENCE is a necessity for women in business who want to bake and sell beautiful artisanal breads.

Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.

Like many other professions, artisan bread-making is a calling, Chiara Adorno of Vallejo says. But, as often happens, one’s true calling sometimes comes through more as a whisper than a shout.

So it was with Adorno, who operates TenderFork Market in Vallejo, where she has recently set up shop and residence.

“It’s an art,” she said. “It’s the tradition and the craft of artisan bread making.”

Crafting breads that rise naturally is an exercise in chemical reactions — a fermenting process having to do with cultures and timing — that can take three days from start to finish, she said.

She’s been doing it for about a year, she said.

At 57, this is not Adorno’s first profession, she said.

“I have two graduate degrees — I’m an attorney and I also went to film school — but, I always wanted to have my own business,” she said.

Going into law, which she said she practiced for 15 years, was more a family expectation than a desire of her own. She left it for film school, and even made a film, but found the opportunities for women in the field are extremely limited.
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She was living in the Los Angeles area by then.

“Making the film was probably my most character-building experience,” she said. “I was the top of the heap. I hired a 30-man crew. We were on locations. But, we did it. We pulled it off. But, the industry doesn’t care about women directors. It’s really a men’s club.”

So, she turned to a different art form — one that was familiar from childhood.

Adorno said she may have inherited an entrepreneurial gene from her grandmother.

“My grandmother Toby owned and ran three businesses simultaneously in the Hudson Valley region of New York, one being a frozen custard stand,” she recounts on her website. “My mother Doris was the light in everyone’s world … The TenderFork Market pays homage to their deep appreciation of farm-to-table deliciousness … We grew up making the cuisine of our great ethnic heritage. We were artisans and farm-to-table through the generations, before there ever was such a thing.”

But, the calling back to her food-making roots didn’t come before a two-year stint in North Dakota as a well-pad supervisor for Conoco-Phillips — another not very woman-friendly profession, the Connecticut native said.

“It was 2011 and in the middle of the recession and I heard from a friend about an opportunity in the oil fields of North Dakota,” she said. “So, I packed up, put a bunch of things in storage, sold my car and became the only girl in the field, taking care of well pads.”

Realizing she couldn’t face a third winter out there, Adorno said she returned to California.

“I chose the Central Coast, where I started making baked goods,” she said. “I attended weekly workshops by the San Francisco Baking Institute and that’s what really changed the picture for me, to making the great artisan breads I’m making now.”

Single and with no children, Adorno said she’s enjoyed cooking and baking since childhood, and even worked as a chef for a while in New York in the late 1990s.

After honing her artisan bread-making craft, earlier this year Adorno said she determined to make a life for herself in the Bay Area, and started looking in the East Bay for live/work space.

“The prices were just astronomical,” she said. A landlord who’d shown her a crummy building with a sky-high rent, mentioned that “all the artists are moving to Richmond and Vallejo,” she said. “So, I got in my car and drove here. I found the waterfront and the old Victorians, and that was it. I got a place in the Heritage District, and I love it. I know there are problems, but, it’s the only place left anywhere near San Francisco, I’d want to live in.”

At that time, Adorno said she’d been creating her breads in a commercial kitchen in Oakland, and had considered continuing doing that, despite the harrowing commute, but her landlord mentioned that Vallejo’s Dillon Bread Co. was looking for subtenants for its commercial kitchen.

“I dismissed it for a while, but, then stumbled on it on Yelp and decided to check it out,” she said.

It is from Dillon Bread’s Ryder Street kitchen that Adorno’s breads are now produced.

After 20 years in business, Dillon Bread Co. owner Kathy Maddry (mostly) retired in July, 2014, and rather than allow the facilities to sit fallow, opened it up to independent operators. Maddry said she has five tenants — including a chocolatier, a cake-maker, and now, an artisan bread maker.

TenderFork Market breads are available at two pop-up sales at 451 Ryder St., from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Adorno will also be selling her wares at the new American Canyon Farmers Market, starting May 15 and the Vallejo Farmers Market, starting June 1, she said.

Orders can also be made on, where other options, including gourmet orange marmalade, made with oranges from a small family farm in Cambria, and instructions on proper artisan bread care, are found.

“All our breads are made from scratch, in small batches, using the finest quality ingredients, local wherever possible,” according to the website. “The quality of our products is our focus, as well as the craft and the art of bread-making. For bread-lovers and foodies, we offer the finest in quality in our naturally leavened artisan breads.”

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