Against the Grain’ Bakery Rises Up in Chestertown

By Lindsay Haislip
News Editor

Something new and different now stands in Chestertown as a destination for fresh baked breads, pastries and more. Against the Grain, LLC has recently opened in November on High Street, and has already been wildly successful. Owner and baker, Douglas Rae said, “we’ve been basically exploding, even in the off-season. That’s the paradox, as we were hoping it to be fairly slow so we could ease into it and I could get used to running a business.”

“Business has been better than we could have imagined,” he said.

Rae’s hope was to bring something new and different to Chestertown. “This is my home town. It’s a place where the product didn’t exist, so I really wanted to bring this to a small town and make it a shrine for good bread,” he said.

The bakery, pulling from mostly French influence, “stay[s] within a construct of French, German, and Italian baking,” Rae said. It offers everything from artisan-baked breads to pastries, yogurt, coffee, and muffins. “Quality is really the utmost importance,” said Rae.

“We’re basically just trying to get people to reconnect with what it means to really appreciate something really well made and slowing down,” he said.
“Our idea is that fast food is not good and if it’s good it’s not fast food. It’s just never possible to make something very fast, and make it really cheaply, and have it be good tasting, or at the very least, nutritious,” Rae continued.

Against the Grain really sticks to its name in making its products. “We’re just trying to do something substandard but not in a bad way-a surprising way, unusual,” he said.

They use organic whole-wheat flour in their breads, which is much more nutritious than typical white breads. They also focus a great deal on the fermentation process needed to gain the best flavor out of their grains. That is where they look to bring the best taste to their products.

“Most methods bread bakeries, or bakeries in general, use today are very fast and very efficient. They use a lot of mixes that are premade, and they just have to add a few things to make a product. We make everything from scratch. This is basically the way people were been baking before the Industrial Revolution, so it’s a lot slower, a lot more whole grain flour was used,” said Rae.

The importance of slowing down to enjoy what the bakery has to offer is also a part of what the bakery stands for. It’s not just about the food, but also the experience.

“We want to feel like you can slow down and hang out with friends, family, whoever, and generate some memories, whether it’s a good time with laughter, or good heart-felt conversation,” he said. “We’re trying to reconnect people and make them feel a little more grounded at least at one point in their lives, because things can get so hectic and chaotic and really fast paced,” said Rae.

Against the Grain’s goal is to make a difference in the community with its products and educate the community about what it means to be an Artisan bakery. “We call ourselves an artisan bakery and basically we use very traditional methods to make our bread,” said Rae.

“I like being involved in something that has a lot of history. Being involved in tradition I think is something really cool-keeping something alive. I think there’s so much value to that,” Rae said.

The bakery has plans to offer more to students coming in the near future. They are planning a sort of “Against the Grain After Hours” concept where they will open the doors to students to come in to a relatively quiet area, enjoy baked goods, coffee, Wi-Fi, and a comfortable area to study. “I just want to give an outlet,” said Rae, “for students to get off campus if they want and come here.”

Against the Grain is truly going back to the traditional methods that we’re moving away from as a society.

“We’re losing that tradition, so I’m trying to keep that tradition alive through this bakery,” said Rae. “Basically we just want to educate customers about what a good product is-a good bakery is, and provide that consistently and be a part of the community, and be environmentally obvious with what we’re making for our customers., obviously.”

February 25, 2011
Volume LXXXI Issue 16

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