Here in Nashville, Joe Gomez is a full-time filmmaker who’s also a hobbyist baker, selling sourdough loaves from his kitchen in town. Keep reading to hear his thoughts on feeding people, scaling up sourdough bakes, working in Music City and, whether making movies or baking bread, what advice he has to offer on pursuing creative work.
If you’re a sourdough baker, from Nashville, working in a creative field or otherwise curious about any of those things, you’ll love reading this interview with Joe Gomez.
Even though he considers himself a newer baker, Gomez is currently operating a small-scale cottage bakery out of his home, mostly for fun, for friends and/or to offset regular baking costs.
As a professional filmmaker and hobbyist cello student, however, he’s a perfect example of the artistic inclination that sourdough baking appeals to. Scroll down to see what he says about the parallels between filmmaking and bread-baking, how and why he got into sourdough and, if you’re local, where you can buy his French country sourdough bread (it’s only $5!).
Q: What’s your story, and how long have you been in Nashville?
I moved to Nashville just shy of eleven years ago. I grew up in California, and, even back then, it was a bit too expensive for me to try and figure out “life” they way I could here. Nashville is such an amazing and fertile place for creativity of all kinds that it really fostered opportunity to learn and try and fail and grow. I’ve always loved film and communicating through videos; even as a kid, I’d beg teachers to let me make a movie on the family camcorder instead of writing an essay. Even now, I try to bring that same approach to my work, haha.
Q: How’d you get started baking sourdough? Why? What got you interested?
When you’re lucky enough to get to make your hobby/passion into a job, you also lose it as a hobby. So I’ve been spending the last few years looking for something that I could fill that void with. I started learning cello at 29, which has been amazing, but a lot more challenging and far less immediately rewarding (I’m still terrible, haha.) I’ve always loved food, cooking and feeding my friends and family, so I started to look into baking, specifically sourdough bread. The process and the details in anything have always appealed to me. The satisfaction of the work and, of course, the end product, made it immediately worthwhile, and unlike my cello ability, I am really proud to share it with my friends.
Q: What’s your sourdough routine like? Do you bake weekly, biweekly? Do you have a certain recipe you always use? Do you vary the types/flavors?
I bake 2-3 times a week. I have a variation of Ken Forkish’s Country bread that I’ve landed on and been able to get a consistent outcome with and am able to confidently scale up and down. On the weekend, I bake for myself and try other recipes or do a bit more experimentation between hydration, bulk ferment or proofing times, and other variants like stretch and folds.
Q: Tell me about how you moved from baking to selling? What’s the experience been like so far?
I moved into offering bread, quite informally and just through my website, to be able to both give my friends a chance to get a loaf without having to invite us over to dinner and to help pay for things like more/better flours and a few tools like mixing tubs. It’s definitely unlocked this desire in me to do it more and more; it makes me really happy to get to make something for someone that either gets ravenously devoured in a day or lives with them and rationed out through their week and enjoyed in different ways.
Q: What are some challenges you’ve come across in making and/or selling bread?
I wish I could hand over every loaf still warm from the bake, but it’s just not practical, especially as I try to do more and more at a time. I still only have one Dutch oven and a handful of bannetons, so I’m kind of stuck making the most of what I can do with some algebra. I’m looking into possibly doing double batches, offset a little bit so I can bake more and without worry that I’ll miss the right window of time to get the dough in the oven, but also what variables makes for a better loaf the next day and the day after. I’m doing a small pop-up with a friend in the next month or two and want to be able to offer the best loaf possible without having to kill myself baking right up to the second I have to load the car.
Q: Nashville’s such a creative city, so many freelancers and entrepreneurs.. do you think that influences startup home businesses or the value placed on artisan work?
Absolutely! I feel there’s a special atmosphere and community here that really encourages people to go out and “do.” It’s not as cheap as it was and has grown astronomically, but it’s still a great city to cut your teeth in as much as it is one that provides fertile ground to succeed in. It’s also still small (not for long) enough that it has this storybook kind of quality to its community, like we all know a/the sign maker, the brewer, the potter, the carpenter, etc. I feel like if you tell someone you want to make or do something here, you will be personally introduced to someone else who has and is willing to give you a lot of good advice on it.
Q: Who are some sourdough bakers that inspire you? Books, websites, Instagram accounts, resources that you’d recommend?
The Instagram bread community is the freaking best. Totally without competition or bad attitudes and free flowing with tips and hard-earned wisdom. My personal guide on my journey is @alihooke, a friend and chef in San Francisco who has been a generously open book of knowledge. She’s the best and mirrors the same welcoming attitudes of people like @jimchall @maurizio @mjjtightlines @fullproofbaking and @nmuvu, just to name a few of MANY. I also love following people who’ve opened up shops like @bornandbreadfl or locally, @dozenbakerynashville.
“The Instagram bread community is the freaking best. Totally without competition or bad attitudes and free flowing with tips and hard-earned wisdom.” Joe Gomez
Q: How can someone buy your bread?
If you’re in Nashville: joegomez.net/bread! I bake twice a week, and you can swing by for it as soon as it’s out of the oven! Sorry for anyone not in Nashville, haha; I looked into shipping, but to be honest, it’s both not worth it, and I’d prefer people finding and supporting someone who is making bread in their community. Trust me, someone nearby really wants to bake for you.
I’m going to be doing a pop-up in early May with my friend Sarah (@venzieats), more details on that soon, but I’m really looking forward to it and hope to do it often. More details on that to come, but I’ll post them on Instagram the second they come together.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes! I just want to offer some encouragement from something I’ve learned from both sides of this dual-life I’m living right now. Whether in filmmaking or bread baking, an overwhelming and constantly reoccurring piece of advice that pops up is to not avoid failure. Finding what works is great, but never stop trying and testing and looking for improvement in yourself or your work. Especially in bread, with few exceptions, you can still eat your mistakes.
“Finding what works is great, but never stop trying and testing and looking for improvement in yourself or your work.” Joe Gomez
This Q + A with Joe Gomez is the last in a series featuring sourdough bakers here on the blog. Special thanks to him for participating in this Q + A and offering such a thoughtful perspective! All answers are published as provided, except with a few small edits or the addition of links. To keep up with Joe, in addition to his bread, you can connect with him on Instagram @joe_gomez.
If You Enjoyed This Post…
If you enjoyed this series, you may also want to check out the roundup of interviews with experienced sourdough bakers, the roundup of feedback from six newbie bakers or the interview with Goldfinch Bakery owner William Kruse.
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