When I visited Flour Bakery’s Hope Williams and Greg Wilson, I didn’t expect to need to know a secret knock. Located above a bar on Red River in Austin’s gritty music district, Flour turns out flaky, buttery croissants, crusty artisan breads and deliciously nostalgic “reminiscents”— reimagined versions of the treats we loved as kids, but now wouldn’t touch with a guilty, ten-foot pole. Instead of the overly sweet pastries filled with frightening ingredients from our actual childhoods, Flour Bakery offers treats like the whimsical smart tart, a handheld pie with a buttery shortbread crust surrounding strawberry preserves; cocoa bombs, dark devil’s food cake with an Italian meringue cream filling; and cadets, golden sponge cake filled to bursting with a delicious creamy center, all available at the Sunday HOPE Farmers Market and various coffee shops and cafes around town. We caught up with Hope and Greg to hear what inspires these two to keep dreaming up floury goodness for the lucky folks in Austin…
*photography by thomas winslow
Tell your brand story in five words.
Hope: Good, honest ingredients and technique.
Greg: Thoughtful in every aspect. Word.
What inspires you?
Hope: Beauty inspires me. If I have to be in an ugly environment day after day I find myself waning. A shot of beauty in a movie, or some time outdoors can bring my spirits up again and give me fresh energy.
Greg: The brilliance that comes out of our kitchen inspires me. I am amazed that we are taking simple, time-honored things and producing art. It can only come from time and honesty. Sharing that with others is inspirational.
What was your first job?
H: Switchboard operator at 14 years. Before that, from the time I was about 11 or 12, I was pretty proud of my “job” at home keeping the grounds on our 2 acre property. I earned eighty dollars a month during summers by mowing, pruning, gardening, wedding, etc. I worked hard, was proud of myself and really loved it.
G: Ugh…Arby’s I think. I was 15 and somehow they had me closing the store so I would get home around 3AM with a bag of leftover sandwiches to share with my mom who was waiting up for me.
What has been your greatest mistake?
H: Not trusting my instinct. I backtrack more after ignoring my inner voice than for any other reason.
G: In business? I find a new one every day. Probably underestimating how well Flour would be received and being slow to scale to meet that demand. In life? Not trying to figure out how to be true to myself a lot earlier.
What gets you to work every morning?
H: What else am I going to do? Pursuing this business is a choice I have made and to do anything else will compromise it. As much as we want to romanticize our choices, sometimes our answers have to be that simple. We work to survive and hopefully we find a job that makes that certainty more enjoyable.
G: At this stage, I am still torn between my day job and Flour. But the motivation for both is when we get an email, or tweet, or someone tells us that this thing we created was the best they have ever had. That moment when someone takes a bite and stops walking because they need to take a moment and appreciate what we have done. I will never get used to that or take it for granted.
Words of wisdom:
H: Trust yourself. I’m learning this in my life as well as in baking. If I’m making a recipe and I think to myself, “Something doesn’t seem right here,” it will most likely prove to be true. To listen to that inner voice and stop and question when you hear a signal is a great habit. It saves me a lot of kicking myself for ‘stupid’ mistakes later. Also, rest. At least some.
G: Develop your vision and be true to it. Think about every aspect. See it in your mind. Compromise on the ones that are flexible and stay true to the ones that aren’t. And don’t allow fear to determine your actions.
How do you measure success?
H: If you are happy and can spend time with people you love, and you don’t have to worry about survival, I think you are successful. If you can add to that seeing beautiful things, eating good food, having a pet and indulging yourself once in a while, you are very fortunate.
G: Making a positive impression and impact on the people and places within my sphere of influence. Also, finding the elusive contentment I have heard so much about.
What is your biggest motivator?
H: My motivation for hard work? The idea of someday spending my time as I wish—travelling and being with loved ones. My motivation for excellence? I can’t live with anything less.
G: Being proud of developing a vision that is true and something of quality. Making a positive contribution to the people who share that vision and the community it serves.
What’s your favorite ingredient?
H: Flour, of course. And next to that, salt. I’m not even kidding. Those two things are awesome.
G: Despite starting a bakery, I tend to lean toward the savory side. Lately, Siracha, salt and vinegar have really appealed to me.
Who is your culinary idol?
H: Would it be hokey to say “my mom”? Because seriously, I refer back to her and what she taught me in the kitchen as a little girl more than to anyone else.
G: Chef Chad Robertson of Bar Tartine in San Francisco and Chef Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York are doing things right and are models for our food. Locally Chef Bryce Gilmore at Barley Swine and Chef Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio are doing amazing things with technique and process.
Where do you get culinary inspiration?
H: When I was very young I was really into the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Books. I was inspired by the detailed descriptions of their meals as well as the thought that everything on the table came from their own land. I loved that thought. I can’t replicate that, but I can use local, unprocessed products and old, honest techniques, and that gives me some of that same feeling.
G: My partner.
What other businesses do you come back to again & again?
H: If a product or a business is doing things better than others in their field consistently, I notice. I will make it a point to stay loyal to that brand. This applies to everything from my favorite sandwich shop to my brand of electronics/computers to orange juice.
G: My ethic is that every dollar spent (or not spent) is a vote. A vote on the product. A vote on the process. A vote on the people and what they stand for. I will not say I use every vote wisely. But I try. So, like Hope, when I find people and places doing things right, they get my vote.
What flavors inspire taste memories for you?
H: It’s hard to pick just one. But I’d venture that I can’t eat a really great fresh cantaloupe or watermelon without thinking about being back home or on vacation with my family.
G: Things that would be in my lunch box at school. I grew up in the straight-up homogenized 70’s when high-fructose corn syrup was the modern way to get away from all that horrible natural sugar. But a pomegranate will always bring me back to autumn when I was ten.
It’s Wednesday night at 6:30. What’s for dinner?
H: I’m gonna say tacos. Tacos are always a good call.
G: I eat out too much, so it depends. But I can’t seem to get enough Tika Masala and piles and piles of naan.
What’s in your fridge right now?
H: Milk, eggs, orange juice, jams, cheese, tortillas. I think that’s about it. I don’t eat meals at home a lot but always have the basics to build a small snack.
G: A whole lot of condiments. A half-pint of Ben & Jerry’s Crème Brûlée Ice Cream. A half bottle of Grey Goose. A void that wants to be filled.
What is your favorite cookbook?
H: My mom took the time to handwrite family recipes in a cloth bound spiral for me years ago. I use that book more than anything. Once when we were moving, the box it was in fell out of the truck and I cried bitterly over it. Amazingly, I relocated it. That was 20 years ago. I still love and use it.
G: The one Hope is creating as we develop our recipes. Our rule of thumb is we won’t sell anything we don’t absolutely love. Her book is filled with them.
Click here to get the recipe for our Flour Bakery Kitchen Inspiration, the Turkey, Apple, Triple Cream Brie & Chutney on Croissant
*recipe by Elizabeth Winslow for CamilleStyles.com
see more of Elizabeth’s work on Haymakers
Share this Post