Updated: Nov 30, 2018
I want to share with you my experience in Lisbon visiting a young, talented baker who has an extremely impressive bakery and is reshaping how the Portuguese think about bread.
While in Lisbon, I had the great honor of meeting 23 year old Diogo Amorim. To say I was in awe of his accomplishments would be an understatement. Although he had a busy day ahead of him, he gladly took the time to meet with me and talk about his bakery Gleba - Moagem & Padaria (Mill & Bakery). As I walked in, the team of bakers effortlessly working through their tasks caught my attention. The freshly baked breads sat on a wooden shelf, and on top was a large stack of what I was later told to be hand woven proofing baskets by a local basket weaver.
Diogo is young, but he has an old school heart. He was waiting for me in the back, sitting on sacks of flour. Our initial conversation took place in a narrow hallway, sacks of flour neatly organized around us, and bakers moving back and forth through the area with precision and dedication. We spoke about a number of things, ranging from work ethic to dough hydration, culture to flavor. Ultimately, I was able to walk around the production space and get a closer look at every step of the process.
At Gleba, only local Portuguese grains are used to make the naturally leavened breads. This might be impressive enough, but Diogo and his team are also milling 100% of the flour that is being used. The goal, he says, is to preserve the traditions of Portugal as well as to introduce bread as something with gastronomic potential. While he spoke at length about preserving Portuguese ingredients and tradition, he also spoke about how much he admires his team. They work so hard at the bakery, he says, that it inspires him every day. I, too, became inspired by this incredible experience.
Since all of the flour used is freshly milled, the aroma of the bakery was unlike anything I've ever encountered. Pao de Trigo "Barbela" was being pulled from the oven. On the other side, the mixer was at a slow speed, with water being added to a mix little by little so that it incorporated properly. Lastly, a few other bakers began shaping bread with a local chorizo added during the shaping process.
As the conversation wound down, Diogo graciously gave me a small bag full of a half loaf of each of his bread. This was incredibly generous. The bread lasted the duration of my trip through the rest of Portugal, tasting better each day as I used it for lunches and picnics. We said goodbye, but oddly enough we would cross paths again on the same day on the other side of Lisbon.
As I waited to enter Alma for lunch, a Michelin Star restaurant by Henrique Sa Pessoa, Diogo casually walked up to the front to drop off a bag of bread. We talked again briefly, and I let him know that he truly has succeeded at introducing bread as a more gastronomic concept in Portugal. Sure enough, a part of the meal was a slice of Diogo's bread, plated and served on its own.
That slice of bread had every right to be on the table.