SCRATCHbread's Matthew Tilden Has a New Home, Needs a New Oven, and Is Planning to Open a Retail Bakery

For signs of true devotion, look no further than Matthew Tilden's arm.
For signs of true devotion, look no further than Matthew Tilden's arm.

Earlier this week, we reported that SCRATCHbread's Matthew Tilden had found a new home for his burgeoning bakery after outgrowing the facilities he'd previously used at Toby's Public House. Yesterday, Tilden provided some more details about the former DUB Pies space he's now occupying in Columbia Street in Red Hook. Suffice to say, he's got quite a bit on his plate.

"Everything starts to pull together this weekend," Tilden reports. He got the go-ahead on the 1,700-square-foot space last week, and just e-mailed his past wholesale clients to let them know that he's going to start baking bread again, soon. With any luck, he'll be supplying focaccia to Brooklyn Larder a week from this coming Monday.

"I'll be doing a trial run this weekend at the Brooklyn Flea," he says. "On Saturday, I'll take in some of the bread I haven't done in awhile. I'm going to get my hands wet and see how the equipment at the new space will man up to the type of abuse I'll put it through. I need to see what the limits are to the space. Once I have cash flow, there are no limits."

Tilden has a pretty limitless vision for what he'd like his company to become. "Part of whole idea with SCRATCHbread is that it's about the food movement," Tilden says. "If I can help the cause in any way, I will." He's met a woman who makes vegan baked goods, and would like to work with her, and to promote her work to a wider audience. He'd also like to open a creamery -- he already makes his own creme fraiche for his sour milk salt and pepper biscuits, and has a "real serious line" of frozen custards. Plus, he wants to hold "Scratch gatherings," interactive food parties that subvert the principles of standard catering, where "you show up with food that's being destroyed in hot boxes and steamers. This would be chefs showing and producing food live," with audience involvement.

Tilden's ultimate goal is to open a storefront in his new home. "It's so ideal," he says. "It's in between my two favorite neighborhoods," Red Hook and Carroll Gardens. "I know they could all benefit highly off a great artisan bakery. There's such potential there."

First, though, he needs a wood-burning oven so that he can bake his much-lauded sourdough bread at 700 degrees F. So he's trying to plan a public fundraising campaign to raise $10,000. He's been approached by private investors, but has turned most of them down, he says, because "they were all selfish," looking to make money without, Tilden felt, caring about the company and its principles. "I've been very careful," he says. "This isn't about me making a ton of money. I know I'll make money down the line. It's about something I believe should be in the culture right now, especially in Brooklyn. I feel it will help define Brooklyn."

In addition to funding, Tilden's also looking for workers. "I need as much talent as I can get; I have something here that needs an army to produce," he says. "If I have enough people around me, we can produce what the brand needs to produce, and I can manage my time and help tech people the simplicities of something as beautiful as bread." Anybody who's interested in working for him, Tilden adds, can contact him through the SCRATCHbread website.

Right now, all Tilden himself wants to do is work. "I don't do good not working," he says. "All I've ever done is work on average 100 hours a week."

Which is why his neighbors are causing him so much consternation. The backyard of Tilden's Bushwick apartment is occupied by Roberta's, and watching them build their new bread oven is "making me grind my teeth," he says. "It's killing me. I've got to get this going before all these other people try to jump on this movement. It's about so much. If it kills me, I'll figure this out."


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