Dan Gildor is on his third career. He spent his 20s in technology but that didn’t quite suit him. So he went to law school and spent the next two decades in environmental law. But while he still feels passionate about protecting the environment, the attorney part of it wore him down.
“I’ve always believed that the happiest people are those that are doing what they have a passion for,” he said. “The more I spoke with people, the baking thing kept bubbling back up. Other entrepreneurs encouraged me to go for it, that you only have regrets afterward if you don’t do it, so I dove in.”
Gildor is the baker-owner of Marina Bay Bakery, a bread business he’s been running out of his Richmond home since May 2018. Baked goods fall into a category of foods that are not likely to be easily contaminated, so Gildor has a class A permit, which allows him to sell his wares directly to consumers at farmers markets or by delivery. He currently sells his loaves at farmers markets in Richmond, Orinda and Corte Madera and online, delivering his products in the East Bay (for free in West Contra Costa County and for a $6 fee elsewhere).
What distinguishes Gildor’s bread from some other bakers, he said, is his devotion to making 100% whole wheat breads, using a natural sourdough starter and heritage varieties of wheat sourced mostly from Oakland-based Community Grains, but also from heirloom companies like Capay Mills and Central Milling.
Speaking of the concept of terroir in wine, he said, “you can shape the flavors of bread from where you get your source material. There are so many wheat varieties that people don’t know about. My breads showcase the flavors of identity-preserved wheat.”
Gildor can trace his love of freshly baked bread to when he was living in Israel as a child. His family used to get rolls straight out of the oven delivered to them by moped.
“They were these long rolls, and we’d cut them open and put butter and jam on them and it was like the best thing,” he recalled.
By seventh grade, his family had moved to outside Boston, and he was forced to take home economics in school, but there, a funny thing happened; he found that he really enjoyed being in the kitchen. He and the two other boys in the class beat all the girls’ teams in making a three-course meal that the principal judged was the best.
“I discovered that I had a talent for cooking then and enjoyed it and I especially liked eating what I made,” he said. As a young adult, Gildor always made his lunch to take to work to save money, and calzones and other stuffed breads were his go-tos.
“I’m more of a cook than a chef,” he said. “In terms of bread, I can identify which flavors and techniques I like.”
Currently, he’s offering four varieties of his 100% whole wheat organic breads and two gluten-free varieties. He also makes scones and pita bread.
“Our business is a bit schizophrenic in that we do both whole wheat and gluten-free,” he said. He decided to offer gluten-free since his wife abstains from gluten.
His gluten-free sourdough bread is also vegan, and is made with sorghum, millet, brown rice flours and potato starch; the whole-grain version is an option without potato starch, as some customers have potato allergies, too. (Those with gluten sensitivities will want to note that Marina Bay’s products are not made in a gluten-free kitchen.)
In the whole wheat department, his signature loaf has notes of molasses, cinnamon and hazelnut, while his Summit loaf is more of a classic whole wheat sourdough. His online shop also offers a rye sourdough, a walnut-raisin loaf and pita bread that are all whole wheat.
Meanwhile, his scones are both gluten-free and vegan by default, so everyone can eat them. Gildor doesn’t openly advertise that fact unless asked, as he knows the non-gluten-free will discriminate.
“Our one orange-cranberry scone serves all three segments of the market,” he said. “With those, we’re trying to cover as many people as we can.”
So far Gildor is primarily running Marina Bay Bakery alone, with his wife helping sell at the farmers markets on weekends. Eventually, he hopes to scale up to renting kitchen space and maybe opening a bakery of his own one day.
“I want to build out a whole portfolio featuring different wheat varieties that have different flavors,” he said, naming the ancient grain Einkorn and Sonora wheat as two heirloom varieties. “I just want to bake things at the level and quality I’d be happy eating.”
And then in the future, he hopes to open a café, where mostly sandwiches will be on the menu.
“It will all relate to bread somehow,” he said.
Marina Bay Bakery bread can be found online or at the Richmond, Orinda and Corte Madera farmers markets.