Beyond his Bread and Butter
Like many children, Antoine Cantarel grew up listening to stories from his grandparents about their own childhood. These included descriptions of community gatherings around one of the first free, post-Revolution wood-fired brick ovens in his grandparents’ small French farming village.
“Once a week, they would fire up the oven and all the neighbors would bring bread and other dishes they had to cook, and, of course, they would bring wood for the next firing,” Cantarel said. “As a kid, these were just stories that were told to us because my family wasn’t using the oven much anymore.”
Flash forward to present day. Through his business, The Bread Stone Ovens Co., Cantarel is bringing these stories to life for companies and families across the world—including his own.
FROM BORDEAUX TO TEXAS
Cantarel grew up in the Bordeaux region of France. He received formal chef training as well as a degree in hotel and restaurant management before coming to the United States in 1998for a restaurant internship in the Washington, D.C., area.
Shortly after coming to the States, Cantarel met and married his wife, Brandi, and the couple embarked upon a journey across the country for their respective careers. Cantarel worked for major hospitality corporations like Marriott and Wyndham, but after 15 years, he realized he wanted something that allowed more time for family.
“I had always worked in the food industry, but when my kids were born, I felt like I didn’t have any time because I was working a lot of weekends and holidays,” Cantarel said. “At the same time, I was rediscovering cooking in a wood-fired oven.”
At the conference center where he was working at the time, Cantarel had developed team-building cooking activities centered on the wood-fired oven. The popularity of the activities prompted an idea to import the ovens.
In January 2011, Cantarel launched The Bread Stone Ovens Co., distributing and customizing both residential and commercial wood-fired ovens. Five years ago, a career opportunity for his wife, a computational biologist and professor at UT Southwestern, brought the couple and their two sons, Luc and Zach, to the Canyon Creek area of Richardson. Since, Cantarel has been able to watch his business grow and evolve.
MORE THAN PIZZA
Most people conjure up pizza when they think of a wood-fired brick oven, but Cantarel’s Four Grand-Mere handcrafted ovens are optimized for baking bread—among other dishes—in the tradition of the ovens from his European upbringing. Still, Cantarel learned a hard lesson when he began the company.
“When I started my business, it was about what I liked, not necessarily looking at the full potential of what people would like,” Cantarel said. “To me, it was a bread oven, but I quickly realized that I was one of the few people who wanted to bake bread. Most people wanted to bake pizza so I had to transition to calling it a pizza oven,” Cantarel said.
But limiting the oven to baking pizza or bread is downplaying its capabilities. According to Cantarel, many people do not realize that once the fire is gone, you can still cook with the oven for two to three more days using its residual heat. From smoking meats and roasting chickens to baking pies and cakes, the ovens can be a part of a family’s every meal.
PASSING ON THE WAYS OF THE OLD WORLD
Advances in the design of the ovens, such as gas burners and rotating floors omitting the need for cooks to flip pizzas manually, excite Cantarel. However, he is equally as energized by the shift in cooking habits he’s witnessing, harkening back to the artisan tradition of his grandparents when cooking was thoughtful, communal and unhurried.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the wood-fired oven cooking classes offers throughout the year by the company. When Cantarel first launched these group events three years ago as a way to share his passion and pass on his knowledge, the only ones that filled up were the pizza classes. This year, the three offered bread-making classes sold out, and family classes present attendees with a different dynamic.
“Parents were saying, ‘Wow, my kids are eating mushrooms, what did you do?’ And I tell them, ‘Yes, because they made it!’” Cantarel said. “It’s exciting to see kids involved and excited about what they eat.”
This excitement carries over into his own home, where his boys, now 10 and 8, enjoy baking with their parents. During the cooler fall and winter months, the family fires up the oven more often, using it to make a variety of foods, including pies, Yule logs and, of course, bread.
Just as his family has grown, so has Cantarel’s company. Originally a one-man operation, Bread Stone Ovens now employs three additional full-time staffers out of its Dallas office. And Cantarel foresees continued growth as cooking trends progress.
“People are starting to embrace the fact that if you want something good, it takes more time and that time is in the preparation and the type of cooking that you do,” he said. “The future is bright.”
Learn more about Cantarel’s wood-fired brick oven distribution by calling 469.484.4990 or visiting breadstoneovens.com.