22-year-old Jyan Isaac gets up at 3:30 am on the days he bakes for his acclaimed (LA Times, Food & Wine Magazine), brick-and-mortar Jyan Issac Bread, on 16th and Ocean Park in Santa Monica.
Like so many in the profession, Jyan was set adrift as a team member baker at artisanal bakery Gjusta when the pandemic unleashed its wave of damage, particularly to small businesses, back in 2020. However, with a more fervent dream up his sleeve, Jyan, 19 years old at the time, put one foot in front of the other by starting a private business baking sourdough loaves out of his parent’s kitchen.
What began as selling his bread around the neighborhood, escalated to Isaac hand-delivering to his Instagram followers from a closed-down pizzeria, to a full-fledged ratcheting up and working out of his own location, Jyan Isaac Bread, barely two years later with six full-time bakers and 20-25 employees.
A sourdough devotee from the start, and inspired by revolutionary baker Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery since middle school, Jyan shares how sourdough has long been his bread of choice. ‘There are a lot of aspects that led to sourdough being my specialty; the creativity behind all the different ancient grains (*Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread and was used at least as early as ancient Egypt) that are available nowadays. I love all the flavor profiles you can create. I have always been very tactile, so working with my hands is really important. The process of making sourdoughs is also very grounding, like a meditational-therapeutic all-day process. There are so many variables involved that are constantly changing. All of this is fascinating. For instance, any weather change makes the fermentation
different. So, you have to be in tune and adjust accordingly.’
With the game-changing evolution of pristinely procured antique grains and milled flours, like that of Cairnspring Mills Flours (See feature also included in this edition of CW Mag), on the rise, die-hard craft bakers like Issac are leading the charge. On the thrust of turning the wheel back to the days when bread was actually good for you, Jyan shares, ‘The nutrition aspect is also one of the reasons I love sourdough. It goes way back to the old ways of making bread. Traditional sourdough has a very long and slow fermentation process compared to more commercial breads, which take many shortcuts to make the bread really fast. Because these more commercial doughs do not have the time to break down, they’re very hard for the body to digest. This is why so many people have become gluten intolerant.’
Continuing his very educative bread-nutrition breakdown, Isaac continues. ‘At my bakery, we ferment overnight. It’s a very natural and slow
fermentation. The grain breaks down properly, so it’s easy for your body to digest. Because of this fermentation process, our bread offers a similar probiotic function to Kombucha or other fermented foods. It’s just the way bread is supposed to be made.’
With ‘flour-power’ the foundation of all great baked offerings, Jyan, whose company is currently building a big commissary kitchen in Culver City and moving all production there early this summer, comments on his hearty use and appreciation for Cairnspring Mills. ‘I use Cairnspring Mills because they offer the freshest flour on the market. With a lot of high-quality artisanal flours, you know they’ve been sitting around for quite a while. With Cairnspring Mills, you know the flour you get from them has been milled generally within the same month I get it at the bakery. This freshness greatly affects our bread.’
A straightforward, modest ‘old soul,’ it’s clear, Jyan is a young craftsman deeply in his groove and also someone who’s clearly not afraid of hard work. When asked what qualities he feels make up a great baker, he offered, ‘It just takes passion for the craft because you have to constantly keep learning and getting better at the process. There’s just so much to learn and it takes a really long time. Even to this day, I’m learning about the process, little things here and there. You just have to take things slow and stay open.’