kneading a change
Houston entrepreneur on how he cooked up a new career
Four years ago, while looking to escape the daily rigors of his corporate work stress, Houstonian Tasos Katsaounis began to bake bread between Zoom calls.
And while for many during the pandemic it became somewhat of a cliché to bake sourdough at home, Katsaounis was getting a head start on developing the ingredients for Bread Man Baking Co. – a Houston-based artisan bread business that can now be tasted in restaurants all throughout the city.
“You know, there’s just something about the idea of growing something from nothing,” Katsaounis, CEO and founder of the company, tells InnovationMap. “I really feel like for the first time in my 26 years of working professionally, that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm super passionate about what I do every day.”
At the end of 2021, the company expanded from its 5,000-square-foot kitchen and moved its operations into a new 40,000-square-foot facility on the northeast side of Houston, close to the Budweiser and Kroger distribution buildings. At the time of the move, it had 17 employees and this year it has since grown to 42.
While in growth mode, Bread Man Baking Co. had to change its entire production process, investing in state-of-the-art industrial bakery equipment to allow them to produce at scale. The company now also uses cutting-edge breadmaking machinery to emulate Katsaounis’ Yiaya recipes from Greece to get the “hand shaping,” homemade effect in the dough.
They have also developed the capability of flash freezing their product to preserve the product’s integrity for distribution purposes without filling it with chemically based preservatives or conditioners that are traditionally used in the food industry.
“We are all about innovation and evolution, but it’s bread at the end of the day,” he says. “You have to look at it from the standpoint that there’s no way for us to triple our production and maintain quality and the integrity of an artisan bread product without innovating, without evolving, without adapting. We believe in the artisan process.”
Bread Man Baking Co. naturally ferments a majority of its products and bakes the bread in a stone deck, a traditional hearth oven with steam to obtain the coveted crusty bread that patrons desire.
The bread is sold in 65 restaurants around Houston – including Postino Wine Cafe's four locations, Georgia James, and the Tiny Boxwood concepts. The company is now also distributing to Whole Foods and H-E-B retailers, pushing out bread to five states total.
“We’ve done all this in the last six months since moving into our new facility,” he says. “It's been fun to watch. Every month is a new high sales month and we're just like, let’s keep this going.”