GTPulse: Traverse City Baker Appointed to Bread Bakers Guild of America Board

Common Good Bakery is on fire, figuratively speaking. The three-year-old Traverse City bakery was just named the best bakery in Michigan by culinary website Eat This, Not That. Not only that (ha ha) owner Jason Gollan was also just appointed to the board of directors for the Bakers Guild of America, and for good reason, the guy knows his stuff.

A recent influx of Brooklyn-dwelling writers trying to make sourdough bread has been spanning over my Twitter timeline for the past couple of weeks and I had to know, what’s the deal with sourdough? Why is the slightly fermented dough suddenly everyone’s white whale?

“It’s a catch-all phrase. It’s like saying beer. Like most of our breads are not particularly sour. So, how nerdy do you want to get? Pretty nerdy?” he said.

Bread was what Jason cut his teeth on when he first became interested in baking. After a youth predominantly spent in New Hampshire, Jason moved to Colorado to study English literature at the University of Colorado. He wasn’t just studying the Romantics during his time there, he was learning how baked goods were made through a restaurant job.

“I cooked my way through my undergrad degree and then kinda did that while getting the baking bug. I started as a dishwasher in 1990 at an Italian restaurant. Everything we made there was from scratch. We made all the breads and rolls and all our pizza dough and all our salad dressing. So that’s sort of where I learned how amazing this business is.”

The kitchen at that Italian restaurant during his formative, undergrad years was what sparked Jason’s interest in baking, but it was a cookbook that laid the foundation for his knowledge.

“I kinda had a working knowledge of it but had no idea what was actually happening. I’m an inquisitive person and in the early nineties, there were zero books about baking that really told you what actually happens. There wasn’t Amazon, you know, there wasn’t YouTube. There was the library or the bookstore. So I found a few books that I thought would help. One of them was called the Tassajara bread book.”

The book was exactly what Jason had been looking for; something that explained what was happening while baking, not just how to do it. Bread was what Jason learned and experimented with first.

“I would play around with bread and give it to my friends. Bring it on dates and scare off girls,” he joked.

Jason is far from scaring off anyone now. The bakery has become not only a neighborhood and city favorite but a statewide one too. His new role as a board director for the Bakers Guild of America will help him educate the public on baking with other baking experts.

“The Guild’s mission is an educational one. So they do classes across the country every year. We’re going to have one in Traverse City for the first time ever this summer, laminated dough pastry.”

Where does a little bakery that’s enjoyed so much success go from here? Jason said, “I’ll show you,” and took me to the back where he showed me rows of baskets filled with resting dough. 

“This is sort of a trick answer, but what I’m going to do is I’m going to come to work tomorrow. I’m going to bake this bread perfectly. We’re just going to keep showing up because that’s all you can do.”

Categories: GTPulse