Update: As of late 2019 Bryan Ford is no longer involved with Ironside Bakery and is pursuing other projects outside of Miami.
A few short months ago, Bryan Ford was hoping to turn bread into "bread." He'd recently begun posting bread recipes to his blog and his Instagram account, Artisan Bryan, which had only a few thousand followers and was filled with stunning, portrait-style photographs of burnished country sourdough loaves and burping yeast starters.
Now, Ford — a 30-year-old Honduran-American who was born in the Bronx and moved as a newborn to New Orleans — has a book deal, a handful of bread consulting gigs that have taken him as far as Central America, and is helping the Toscana Divino Hospitality Group revamp its breakfast and lunch spot in the Ironside complex into the more ingredient- and craft-focused Ironside Bakery.
Ford and the crew are revamping the menu, testing bread and pastry recipes, and will shutter the place the first week in July for an overhaul before reopening under a new flag around July 10.
"Ironside Cafe needed an identity," says Toscana Divino Hospitality Group founder Tommaso Morelato. The company's namesake Brickell restaurant opened in 2012 with the help of local, publicly funded business booster the Beacon Council. Later, Toscana Divino parlayed its popularity into a pair of restaurants for residents of luxurious condominium buildings in Bal Harbour and Key Biscayne, as well as Ironside Pizza and most recently Toscanino, a small grab-and-go lunch spot in downtown Miami.
At Ironside, however, there seems to be a new level of ambition in the sourdough, baguettes, muffuletta bread, Viennoiserie, and salads, sandwiches, and toasts in the offing.
"There are no bakeries in our area, so we wanted to offer something with very high quality and something very personal," Morelato says.
And Ford seems to be the person to give Ironside that oomph. His Instagram now has 20,000 followers, and his baking exploits include sourdough beignets from New Orleans and sweet, coconut-flake-topped pan de coco from Honduras. Of course, it was the sensual sourdough pictures with crumbs seemingly floating out of detached hands that drew in the bread-obsessed parts of the world that have lately been delighted by the testing of focaccia, baguettes, ciabattas, and hand-laminated Viennoiserie.
For years, however, baking and cooking were mostly a hobby for Ford. He attended Loyola University, where he met his now-wife Alycia Domma, a personal trainer who has supported him in every way possible during his recent rise. Together with some friends, the pair hosted cooking classes before transitioning to small dinners and eventually catering fraternity and sorority parties for hundreds. It was deeply fulfilling, but Ford never took it as seriously as he might've wanted to; he ended up pursuing an accounting degree and becoming a certified public accountant. All the while, however, he remained attached to the memory of frying garlic in his dorm.
In 2016, Ford and Domma moved to Miami; they married the following year. Ford was still crunching numbers but was also circulating around town, slowly turning a hobby into something more while delivering a few loaves to some businesses and small markets. Late last year, he decided he'd had enough and in September volunteered for a stage at Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery. At the same time, he was helping mix, roll, boil, and bake bagels for Matteson Koch's El Bagel. He was sought out by Toscana last month and has since been baking bread for all its operations, which will soon move into a 3,000-square-foot space nearby that used to house a gym and is set to become a hybrid bakery-garden-think tank-educational center.
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"It will be a place both the public and the professionals can come and hopefully get some training, some knowledge and have a chance to collaborate and learn from each other," Morelato says. "It's a very broad vision, but it will also be the place where we make all the bread, all the pasta, and all the gelato for all of the restaurants."
Is Ford worried about stepping into a high position in such a large operation? Definitely not.
"I went from someone that hated accounting and worked in it for seven years," he says. "So when it comes to scaling up or transitioning, I don't fear that. I slaved away in something I hated and was able to do it, so I'm not worried about jumping in the hot seat."
Ironside Bakery. 7580 NE Fourth Ct., Miami. Opening July 2019.