Daniel Riesenberger has a dream: that all restaurants will eventually invest in gorgeous, artisan breads, whether they're served in bread baskets, used for sandwiches or incorporated as part of the main entree. You'll know he's succeeding when you see his Dan the Baker logo emblazoned on menus all across town. He's already well on his way.
His breads were so popular when Alana's served them on Saturdays that the North Campus restaurant quickly decided to offer them every night of the week. And at Mouton, Dan the Baker offerings make up the majority of a new Parisian brunch menu served on Sundays.
"We really appreciate Dan's passion for what he does," says Mouton co-owner Todd Hellman. "With Dan, we don't just have a baker, we have a partner for our brand offerings. He sits down with us and talks about what's trending and what would work for what we want to do."
The ambitious 27-year-old gets his inspiration from baking giants like Chad Robertson and Thomas Keller, whose books "Tartine Bread" and "Bouchon Bakery"-specifically their close-up photography of rustic loaves of bread-first gave him the baking bug.
Riesenberger's rise has been swift and steady.
During a stint in the kitchen at Northstar Cafe, a coworker gave him a sourdough culture. He started playing around with it at home. Friends liked his breads. On a whim, not even sure if it was legal, he brought a few loaves down to the Worthington Farmers Market to sell. They were a hit.
Riesenberger's father built a wood-burning brick oven in his backyard, and the budding baker started experimenting with European-style hearth breads. His foray into retail started with local markets including Clintonville Community Market, Weiland's and the Hills Market, then he signed wholesale accounts with restaurants including Skillet and Commonwealth.
Eventually Riesenberger and his team moved into an incubator baking space in the Hills' Worthington store and worked there for about a year.
"We wanted to prove it could work on a larger scale. We did what we could, and we were in everybody's way by the end of it," Riesenberger says.
Dan the Baker had grown so big, it needed its own space.
In April, Dan the Baker moved into a Grandview space that had most recently housed the French Loaf. The building came with much of the equipment Riesenberger needed, including cooling racks and stand mixers.
He added a steam-injected deck oven purchased from Spagio, which can cook a larger volume of breads and pastries, including different items on different decks.
"It allows for beautiful expansion of the bread," Riesenberger says. "Without it, the crust will form immediately. This gives the bread a beautiful, brown burnish."
These days, he's making between 100 to 200 loaves of bread each day, with an additional 200 or so pastries for farmers markets each weekend. Customers go crazy over his bacon-cheddar scones (made using Bluescreek Farm Meats' pepper bacon) and wild mushroom, ham and cheese croissants.
For Mouton, he put together a light, European-style brunch menu that features traditional and rye croissants, mushroom puff pastries and smoked-salmon sandwiches.
In time, Riesenberger plans to expand his bakehouse to include a retail space and small cafe with espresso, pastries and sandwiches.
Then he'd like to expand his wholesale distribution area, even outside Columbus.
"But," Riesenberger says, "I still want it to feel really exclusive."