The Manhattan Visitors Bureau and the Kansas Wheat Commission hosted their fifth biennial Festival of Breads at the Hilton Garden Inn June 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission was free with a donation of one can of nonperishable food to the Flint Hills Breadbasket.
The Festival of Breads featured live music, baking demonstrations, barbecue sessions, educational display tables, a children’s area, shopping, free bread samples and door prizes. Attendees could watch eight finalists compete for the title of 2017 National Festival of Breads champion.
“This year is even bigger and better than before,” said Karen Hibbard, director of visitors for the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau. “[This year’s festival] added a barbecue component to it as well. So for amateur bakers, you can come and learn how to bake in your kitchen, how to improve your product, as well as if you’re into barbecuing and learning how to smoke meat, you’ll have the opportunity to learn that outside.”
The Festival of Breads drew attendees for a variety of reasons. Victoria Bonney, attendee and Topeka resident, said she came because her husband enjoys baking.
“My husband is a bread lover,” Bonney said. “He likes to make bread and eat it. So we saw [the Festival of Breads] in the paper and thought we’d come.”
Other attendees appreciated the educational value of the event. Joyce Unterreiner, a teacher at Eisenhower Middle School and resident of Topeka, attended the festival to help her students.
“I want to get all these supplies for teaching in the classroom,” Unterreiner said. “It makes it more live and real. […] I’m using every one of these table displays in a kitchen lesson, a career lesson.”
Besides the educational booths, attendees could learn from live demonstrations presented by professional bakers and food stylists.
Torie Cox, a food stylist for Time Inc., demonstrated how to make a cinnamon swirl brioche loaf. She chose this recipe because she wanted to make something classic yet original.
“I wanted to do something that was unique that a lot of people hadn’t seen before,” Cox said. “I also wanted to do something that was French but was a little more modernized. I make cinnamon rolls all the time for my family, [so I said], ‘Let’s make a cinnamon roll bread.’”
Jeff Hertzberg, author of “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” demonstrated how to make his bread dough recipe and a few different ways to shape the loaves. He said he wanted to emphasize anyone can make artisan bread in a short amount of time.
“I hope they remember the basics, and I hope I convinced them to overlook the fact that you can’t really bake the bread in five minutes,” Hertzberg said. “That’s active time only. That’s the biggest takeaway. You’ve got to forgive me because I would not have gotten anybody to pay attention if we hadn’t used that marketing hook.”
Hertzberg captured the attention of some of crowds that came to the Festival of Breads.
Abbie Walker, a spring 2017 K-State graduate in bakery science and industry and former Bakery Science Club president, was part of that crowd. She helped work the K-State booth and attended the event.
“The fun part [of the festival] is seeing the different variations of what people brought to the table, like recipes and stuff,” Walker said. “Not one has been alike, and it’s amazing.”
Chris Reusz, event attendee and senior in bakery science and management, said he came with Walker because he loved bread, wanted to learn more about it and how wheat is used in our daily lives.
“We do learn a lot of the stuff we’re seeing here today in class. The thing that shocked me the most was the shampoo,” Reusz said. “They have a booth of everything that contains wheat, and there’s shampoo there, there’s charcoal over there, cat litter. There’s a bunch of things that you wouldn’t think would have wheat in it.”
Mardi Traskowsky, First Youth Division Champion of the 2013 Festival of Breads and sophomore in milling science and management, said she came to support the event and see how it has changed. She said that the Festival of Breads does more than teach attendees about baking.
“A lot of people just think their food comes from aisle seven in the Dillon’s,” Traskowsky said. “There’s a gap between people who don’t really understand where their food comes from [and those who do]. I think things like this with displays about wheat, where it comes from, types of wheat, it helps to bridge that gap between people.”