Kneaders Bakery & Café: Celebrating 25 Years with Colleen Worthington
In Episode 81 of the Kitchen Confidante Podcast, Liren talks to Colleen Worthington of Kneaders Bakery and Cafe about the story and history behind the family bakery, the importance of fresh ingredients, and her new book, Kneaders Bakery & Café: A Celebration of Our Best Recipes and Memories.
On the podcast, I recently spoke with Colleen Worthington, a founder of Kneaders Bakery & Café. More than 25 years ago, Colleen and her husband Gary “retired from retirement” and instead pursued their passion for artisanal bread baking, training at the American Institute of Baking and the San Francisco Baking Institute. Working closely with Lehi Roller Mills, they developed an exclusive flour mixture and located an ideal, traditional Italian hearthstone oven. Their first bakery opened in Orem, Utah, in 1997, and they’ve since grown to over 50 locations, spanning Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.
In this episode, we chat about what inspired them to start their bakery, the importance of using fresh ingredients, and her new book, Kneaders Bakery & Café: A Celebration of Our Recipes and Memories. Listen to the full episode, or keep reading for some of the highlights from Colleen.
How did you start and grow your bakery over the last 25 years?
Gary and I had retired, but we had this property that we knew would make a great food establishment. We applied to franchises but got rejected for “being too old.” So, we decided to do it ourselves!
We enrolled in baking school and found a hearthstone oven. We wanted to create the most wholesome product possible, so we baked European breads with just flour, water, and salt. We’d add simple ingredients such as asiago cheese, honey, or nuts for any of our flavored varieties.
We were so nervous that no one would buy our bread, but people loved it, and hardly anyone else was doing what we were doing in Utah. We started with just one location and never knew it would grow into 50 stores. It has been a great adventure.
Tell us more about your book, Kneaders Bakery & Café: A Celebration of Our Recipes and Memories
I started the book seven years ago for the 20th anniversary, and it was challenging to write. All our recipes are scaled for commercial baking, so I had to take all these huge recipes and reverse engineer them for home kitchens.
Our handcrafted recipes are designed to be successful in anyone’s home, regardless of their experience level. So, we’ve designed the cookbook to be accessible for all bakers, with variations ranging from a master scratch cake to a cake box mix recipe. Everyone has to have a starting place.
The book intersperses memories of the business with the recipes. I say that the book is not about us. Rather, it is about all the people who made Kneaders over the years. I just happened to write it and compile the stories, as Kneaders has been a huge effort with the family and community.
Over the years, we would keep a list by the register and note whenever someone would suggest a new menu item. In this way, we let the community be part of developing the menu and recipes.
At one point, we had over 60 fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the bakery. Today, our best-selling item is our turkey bacon avocado sandwich. In addition to bread, we have soup, salad, pastries, and more — and it is all fresh.
We also consider ourselves a seasonal bakery. You won’t find us baking pumpkin bread in February or June. Instead, we save seasonal recipes for a special time of year, so there are many seasonal recipes in the book, too. Things simply taste better in the season they were made in.
Listen to the full podcast episode with Colleen here, learn more at kneaders.com, and follow Kneaders on Instagram. You can get the book, Kneaders Bakery & Café: A Celebration of Our Recipes and Memories, wherever books are sold.
Kneaders Bakery & Café: A Celebration of Our Recipes and Memories, by Colleen Worthington (Shadow Mountain, 2023).