Ellen King left a restaurant job in Seattle for a new life in Chicago area. Little did she know at the time she would open a now acclaimed and successful bakery focused on foods made with artisan and organic grains.
Since 2013, she has co-owned Hewn with Julie Matthei, who serves as the bakery’s director of business.
What started out of Ellen’s home soon became a viable business with breads made using hand-cultivated starters and fresh grains from small, artisan mills who, unlike commercial grain producers, avoid stripping vital nutrients, tastes and textures from the grains and never uses pesticides or insecticides in his flours.
King’s breads are so fresh and healthy, even a doctor from nearby Evanston Hospital refers celiac and gluten-free patients to her bakery because of her breads contain no harmful additives or chemicals and are made with natural starters and leavening agents which help boost the nutrition of the food. Allowing bread to ferment with wild yeast allows a richer, more complex flavor to develop. It also allows the gluten proteins to slowly and naturally break down over time. The starter (levain/sourdough) was initially created by Ellen several years ago. Her bakers all work to feed and maintain the starter every day.
Most recently, Ellen has focused her efforts on partnering with Andy Hazzard of Hazzard Free Farms to grow and cultivate an heirloom Midwestern wheat that hasn’t been grown in this region for centuries since commercial flour processing and bread-making took over. While this year’s harvest was too small to use in bread-baking, she hopes to have enough for next season. Saveur magazine published a great article about her efforts.
The name “Hewn” comes from Ellen’s days as a former historic preservationist. Ellen learned more about dating parts of a house while taking a course on historic preservation in Maine by examining if beams were hand-hewn, or cut with a saw by a craftsman. Turns out, she also now “hand-hewns” all her bread, taking care to make everything naturally and by hand like a true artisan.
In addition to the grains, Ellen also sources local and seasonal fruits, maple syrup, honey and other ingredients the wide variety of scones, muffins, croissants, cookie and more offered daily, along with fresh Counter Culture coffee and espresso drinks.
In August, Ellen hosted a farm-to-table dinner at Hazzard Free Farms with Dames Nicole Pederson of Found and new 2016 member Claudia Jendron of Temperance Brewery, both in Evanston.
Ellen attended the Seattle Culinary Academy where she was awarded the Les Dames d’Escoffier scholarship in 2003. She, along with Dame Debra Sharpe, will be hosting the 2016 LDEI legacy award winner, Jane Copeland during her visit to Chicago for an insiders back stage pass to the deli, catering, baking and brewing business.