Easy Tiger Interview with Head Doughpuncher David Norman
(Interviews like this are featured in Sojourner Tours' monthly newsletter called "After the Sojourn". Subscribe now so you can be "in the know" about all things French in Austin and abroad.)
France in Your Neighborhood
Living French-Style After the Sojourn: "Austin's Best Croissants & Baguette, Easy Tiger"
Lisa & Francis don't hold it against the master baker that he studied in Germany, they swear that Easy Tiger makes some of the most authentically French breads in Austin. Check out this Austin hotspot for fresh breads, beer, and a game of ping-pong by the river!
Which breads to Lisa & Francis recommend? Francis recommends both the butter croissant and the chocolate croissants, which are perfect for a typical French Sunday breakfast treat (buy them Saturday to enjoy Sunday…or get them earlier and pop them in the freezer). Lisa's favorite is the walnut bread, which keeps for several days: a lightly toasted slice with butter transports her to Besancon France, where she bought a similar bread from the artisan baker at Boulangerie des Carmes when she was young.
Kayleigh, Sojourner Tours Intern, had the pleasure of interviewing Head Doughpuncher David Norman about his career, his passion for food, and Easy Tiger.
Kayleigh: What is your baking background?
D. Norman: I started baking bread after returning from my junior year abroad in Munich, Germany, because I missed the great bread I had there. After finishing my studies, I took a position at a small, French-inspired bakery in Gainesville, Florida, and turned my hobby into a job. After a few flour-dusted years, I realized how much I enjoyed baking and have made a 30-plus year career of it. My first head baker job was at Grand Central Bakery in Seattle. From there, I moved to New York City, where I worked at TriBakery, Ecce Panis and, finally, at Bouley Bakery. I also taught the professional baking program at the French Culinary Institute. In 2002, I moved to the Texas Hill Country with the woman who would later become my wife to help run the culinary program at a guest ranch. We built a wood-fired brick oven on site. Then we moved to Austin, and I hooked up with some great partners to launch Easy Tiger.
Kayleigh: What is the culture of Easy Tiger? What kind of atmosphere do you think it has?
D. Norman: Easy Tiger is all about our message of “Slow Down, Stay Awhile.” In that sense, you could say that there is a certain French quality to Easy Tiger – that wonderful way the French have of lingering, making an occasion out of even a routine meal.
This extends to the food and bread we make, as well, all of which takes time to make.
Kayleigh: Originally, Easy Tiger was going to be a French bakery rather than a German bakery. What caused the change in style?
D. Norman: From the beginning, I have drawn on several baking traditions for the bread line at Easy Tiger. In fact, we make more French-style breads than German breads. We have pain au levain, walnut levain, miche, a pain aux céréales (we call it multigrain, but it is a French bread) and baguettes, of course. On the German front, we have a German rye and our pretzels. We also do a number of Italian-style breads.
When we decided, based on finding the perfect location, to combine the idea of a beer garden restaurant with the bakery, we did shift our focus a bit, but Easy Tiger is decidedly a beer garden, not a Biergarten. By that I mean, in a very American way, that we meld diverse food influences and are not strictly a German restaurant. Sure, we have bratwurst and sauerkraut, but we have a variety of other sausages and food, with the common thread that it all goes great with our 30-plus offerings of American craft beer.
Kayleigh: In what ways has the French perspective on food influenced your own personal view?
D. Norman: French baking has greatly influenced American artisan bakers, myself included. Because French baking (and cooking) is technique driven, it serves as a solid base no matter what type of bread you are making. Beside the techniques used in the making of bread, the French way of eating bread – namely that it is nearly always on hand and that a meal is unthinkable without some bread on the table – has had a great influence on me. Growing up, bread meant either toast or a sandwich wrapper.
Kayleigh: Tell me a little bit about your new cookbook. How accessible is it for amateur bakers?
Norman: My cookbook, to be called Bread on the Table, is about bread and how it integrates with the eating styles of several cuisines. It has bread recipes and techniques covering France, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia and Texas, along with menu suggestions and recipes for foods to go along with the breads. For instance, in the French chapter, there is a recipe for pain seigle paired with oysters and mignonette. I have worked hard to make the bread recipes accessible to even novice bakers by drawing on my teaching experience, while I think the variety of breads and some unique techniques from each bread culture will make it an interesting addition to the seasoned baker’s library.
Kayleigh: Where do you eat or buy your own bread in Austin?
D. Norman: Doing the research and testing for my book got me baking at home again, and I have continued to enjoy that. Otherwise, I grab a loaf from Easy Tiger. There are more and more great restaurants in Austin baking their own bread these days, such as Emmer & Rye, Dai Due and L’Oca d’Oro.
709 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78701