The Asheville Bread Festival is a small, happy gathering in the mountains of North Carolina, held each year in early spring. It began in 2004 as a showcase of local bakeries, hosted by Greenlife Grocery. In subsequent years, the festival organizer added classes, demonstrations, and talks, and each year arranged for some well-known bread bakers to participate. Originally, tickets were free with the purchase of bread, which resulted in a melee as guests rushed to buy bread from the bakeries that had tickets left for the class they wanted. After a few years, the festival began charging for tickets, available for purchase in advance, to allow guests to plan ahead.
In 2012 the bakery showcase (a.k.a. bread fair) moved to a larger space at AB Tech College, a few miles south of downtown. Classes were taught in the kitchens and lecture hall at the college. In 2018 the fair moved to the New Belgium Brewery, with classes at locations around town.
I sometimes teach a “Beginning Kneading” class in which participants mix and knead a dough which they take home to bake. During the dough’s autolease, we have a lesson on tips for improving your bread. (The class is only one-and-a-half hours but I cram as much information in as I can!) I also set up a Bread Science demo table in the fair and sell books.
If you’ve never been to Asheville, it is a great place to visit! And I’m not just saying that to convince you to come; Asheville is on my list of best towns in America. The downtown is filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants (including many vegetarian options!), two hostels, a great bookstore, a craft supply store, breweries, the historic Mast General Store, and even a Chocolate Lounge. (You can tour the French Broad Chocolate Factory on Saturdays and learn how they import cacao beans direct from farmers and roast them with solar-power!) Somehow, the barrier of mountains around the city has kept out all the chain stores, which cluster unhappily by the interstate in all their strip-mall ugliness.
Get details about this year’s festival and purchase tickets at www.ashevillebreadfestival.com. They are usually available by mid-February.