Joel Newman talks baking bread, quality work and the importance of community

Joel Newman talks baking bread, quality work and the importance of community

Photos by John David Clark

Senior pastoral ministry major Joel Newman has his own special bread recipe, and community is the key ingredient.

Newman has dubbed his sourdough, no-knead delicacy “Communal Bread” in hopes that it will bring people together. Newman said John Mark Comer, pastor of Bridgetown Church in Oregon, inspired the vision of the bread through his discussions about the communal quality of food.

“The pastor talks about how one of the best ways to connect with people is around a table,” Newman said. “Somehow, food sets us at ease so that we can talk with other people.”

Newman said he strives to satisfy the hunger for companionship through sharing his bread with others.

“I believe that community is something that everybody wants and needs, and it can help us fix a lot of bad things about ourselves, such as feelings of isolation,” Newman said. “I have this vision of people having a dinner together while eating my bread.”

Senior anthropology major Torah Harding-Laman said Joel’s recipe is dense and filling, and because of this, there is more than enough in one loaf to tear and share.

“Joel is very community-minded. He’s always having people over at his house and planning events and night hikes. He tries to bring people together all the time,” Harding-Laman said. “He definitely shows that through his bread business.”

Lee alumnus Will Schmid is the designer behind Communal Bread’s branding logo and product information stickers. Not only did he execute the graphic design necessary to produce the logo, but he even created a custom font.

Newman explained that, during the hours he spent with Schmid collaborating to create the logo, he learned to not be afraid of making decisions.

“One of my favorite parts about branding was that a lot of it was like, ‘What if we did such and such?’ I loved it because I think we are scared to make choices sometimes,” Newman said. “Another thing we said a lot was, ‘Let’s just try it.’ So instead of saying, ‘Oh, if we did this change, it’d ruin the whole thing,’ we would just say, ‘Let’s see what it looks like, and if it looks great, fine. If not, we can still continue.’ I think if more people took that attitude towards life, then it’d be a lot less stressful.”

Schmid explained that the drive he displayed in creating the logo is reflected in Newman as well. He said that Joel’s passion compels his work and is evident in the quality of his product.

“He’s very passionate about excellence and having the best flavors and bread. In whatever he does, he wants it to be the best,” said Schmid. “His focus was originally coffee, and that meandered into bread. He’s always been really enthusiastic about the science behind making both.”

Newman said he prefers not to cut corners and refuses to lower the quality of his product in the name of lower prices. For him, the best way to serve people is to provide a quality bread at a slightly higher price than to give an average product with an average cost.

“At the end of the day, I want my product to be great,” Newman said. “I want people to enjoy it and get something out of it.”

One of Newman’s bread consumers and his employer at The Mill Coffee, Grant Currin, said that the quality of Newman’s bread reveals his knowledge of bread making.

“I love Joel’s bread. I’ve bought two loaves—one back when he was selling it informally and one as Communal Bread,” Currin said. “It’s really delicious, chewy and has a nice, nutty flavor. He knows a lot about coffee, and he brings that knowledge to bear in the shop. It shows that he knows a lot about bread, too, because the bread is just delicious.”

To find out how to purchase Communal Bread, contact Joel Newman through the Communal Bread Instagram account: @communal.bread.

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