RIZE UP INDEED
This is the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sourdough is a total THING here.
When we have an item in the store with an amazing backstory, we just have to talk about it.
So we drove a small team into San Francisco to check things out (because honestly who's going to pass up the chance to visit a BAKERY????)
We rolled up on a nondescript building south of Market - painted a peachy color with lots of glass facing the street. Nothing to tell us we were in the right spot but the occasional smell of freshly baked bread wafting by - Rize has just moved into this facility a couple of months ago, after outgrowing Azikiwee's home kitchen and the commercial kitchen he had moved into when baking in his home kitchen became impractical. In the future, there are plans to open up a customer-facing café but for the time being Azikiwee is still all gas no brakes, getting the rest of the bakery up to speed to meet the demands of a hungry populace that clamors to get their hands on the amazing sourdough bread these folks churn out.
Have you ever met someone that just radiates good vibes? Azikiwee Anderson is that guy. For Reals. A walking bear hug of a man, Azikiwee just seems like the type of person you’d want to include at every dinner party/BBQ/game night/tailgate you ever want to host. We’d wager he gets invitations to family reunions for families he’s not related to on the regular. Bet.
Watching this giant of a man talk about bread and his passion behind it instantly fills you with a desire to see him continue to grow and succeed. Never mind that every single loaf he churns out is beyond delicious, when you hear him talk about his approach to his business, any desire to “watch your carb intake” is immediately supplanted by a desire to purchase at least a loaf a day to ensure the success of the business.
Listening to Azikiwee speak, our team found ourselves unreasonably excited about giant commercial ovens, a refrigerated proofing room, and mixers with dough hooks the size of traffic cones for no reason other than the passion in his voice as he told us the stories about each piece of equipment.
Insert sudden desire to eat all the bread.
Azikiwee hires his staff based on passion – many have no previous culinary experience. His hiring mantra is that you can teach someone to bake but you can’t teach them to be a good person. He prefers to be surrounded by good people, and he is – the staff were all friendly smiles, and warm attitudes. And in my imagination, I'm pretty certain everyone’s eyes twinkled.
He refers to himself as an “aspiring chef” while magically churning out arguably the best loaves of sourdough in a city KNOWN for sourdough. The man makes ‘aspiring’ an aspiration.
The sourdough itself is tended like a precious commodity, because obviously, with extended proofing times, and a focus on developing flavors – they start with a base loaf (the OG) which is made using a proprietary blend of flours that Azikiwee himself developed, then add creative flavor elements like scallions or gochujang in their K-pop loaf, or purple yams in the brilliantly purple ube loaf that our customers offer bribes as a way of getting us to 'set aside a loaf' for them.
The ingredients are carefully sourced, walking past bins of scallions, sesame seeds, and other spices, and smelling them means your mouth might water several times as you cross the room, never mind the aroma of yeast and sourdough starter. Even now, the thought of a three-cheese grilled cheese on thick slices of jalapeno, bacon cheddar bread is making it difficult to focus on writing (we carry that in the deli by the way).
The philosophy isn’t about churning out a bazillion loaves, there are plenty of commercial bakeries that churn out high volumes of sourdough. This isn’t one of them.
The focus here is putting out good bread, amazing bread, and by that we mean sublime. After generously allowing us to interrupt their day, we were offered generous slices of a fresh baguette – a recent edition to the Rize Up line-up – that we tore into without even a smear of butter or any other condiment. We didn't need anything.
For a moment the silence among us was delicious while we each contemplated the likelihood that we could each grab a loaf when we got back to Berkeley Bowl
We couldn’t be happier to carry the Rize Up Bakery line at Berkeley Bowl!