If there is one man who contributed to a great extent in the revival of brick ovens, it is Alan Scott. It led to the resurgence of hearth breads and the genesis of micro-bakeries in America and rest of the world. Alan Scott was an Australian blacksmith and a metal crafter who migrated to California in the mid 1960’s. Fostering communities was to his core and was always there for the community.
In the early 1980’s a friend of Alan, Laurel Robertson was putting together a brick oven to test one of the naturally fermented bread, a desem bread for her new book ‘The Laurels Kitchen Bread Book’. This bread baked in her gas oven wasn’t coming too good. Alan was asked to do the forge work for the iron fittings of the oven and he helped build the first oven for Laurel Robertson and her community. The bread was dramatically transformed once it was baked in the intense heat of the brick oven and so was Alan! It inspired him to create appropriate ovens to bake these hearth breads and he went on to become a renowned oven builder, a baker and a teacher in his own right.
The genesis of Tartine too had an Alan Scott touch 6 years prior to the formal opening of the Tartine bakery in 2002 at San Francisco. After a year of working and learning in France, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson had returned to Northern California to make their own bread. They contacted Alan and he immediately offered room and board in return for help around the farmhouse and the ranch. Chad baked bread few days a week in Alan’s oven and one day sought his advice on how they could get started on a small bakery. Straightaway on trust and generosity, Alan offered to build an oven and loan money to get going! Soon Alan was directing friends and neighbours help build the big 6×8 foot wood-burning masonry oven next to their house for the Bay Village Bakery at Point Reyes Station.
Alan Scott had even opened a jewellery store in Denmark before coming to the United States. Had he not come to the United States; Laurel Robertson not baked a desem bread; Daniel Wing (Alan’s partner in writing the book) not come to be with his wife who temporarily relocated to Berkeley; The seminal book “The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens” would not have been what it is today. It has led thousands of people across continents to build their own small ovens and still continue to inspire many more.
Alan Scott passed away on 26 January 2009 at the age of 72.