HEAD BAKER OF BLACK BEAR BREAD CO. IS A SEMIFINALIST FOR A JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARD

 

 

A local baker has been nationally recognized for her outstanding efforts. Named a semifinalist in the 29th annual James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards in the Outstanding Baker category, Debbie Swenerton, head baker of Black Bear Bread Co. in Grayton Beach, said she never expected that type of recognition. Swenerton’s passion for baking stemmed from an early age by following in the footsteps of her mother, who was also a baker. She said it was an honor to be recognized for something she loves. “It’s very humbling,” Swenerton said. “This is just a different level. … It’s the Oscars of the food world.” Before coming to Black Bear, Swenerton was a pastry chef at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. It was there she fine-tuned her craft, she said. “I actually moved to Florida to slow down because my job was pretty intense in Utah,” she said, adding that a Facebook post prompted her and her husband to visit Florida, where they bought a house on the spur of the moment and moved here. Swenerton said she was anonymously nominated for the award. According to a press release from the James Beard Foundation, there are 21 Restaurant and Chef Award categories. The finalists in each category will be announced at a press conference in Houston on March 27. “This came out of the blue, which is even more of an honor for Deb,” said Dave Rauschkolb, managing partner of Black Bear Bread Co. ”(She) deserves every bit of the recognition that she is getting.” Rauschkolb added that Swenerton showed up at the perfect time during the brand’s infancy. “This is just one of the many elements of how the planets aligned to get our bakery and café going,” he said. When Swenerton is away form the oven, she said she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her husband and dog. However, she said she often finds herself baking off the clock and spreading the love with her friends and neighbors. “I love making people happy,” she said. “You give them a warm loaf of bread or you give them a cake or pastries, and people’s eyes light up.” Looking ahead, Swenerton, who was modest in her achievement, plans to keep doing what she’s become known for and continue to watch the Black Bear brand grow. “I love to bake, and I love to share it with friends,” she said. “Spread the love and the calories.”

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