Florence Nightingale believed that nursing was her calling and similarly Beth Thorp, former nurse founder of Nightingale Breads in Forestville, turned the making of bread into her life work. Her shop is named in honor of the famous caregiver.
Beth recently shared with the team at 20 Mile Radius that she would be passing the bakery on to a new owner. And while we are sorry to see her leave her passion she assured us that Jessie Frost, the new young and vibrant owner and baker, will honor her legacy and continue to make amazing breads and more.
We recently had the chance to sit with Jessie to learn more about her love of baking, how her career took shape and her plans for the new evolution of Nightingale Breads.
Tell us a little bit about you? What is your history in West County? How did you come to work at Nightingale?
I grew up in Two Rock Valley, just west of Petaluma, from the age of two until I turned 19 and moved out of the house into a tiny apartment in Petaluma. I always liked cooking with my parents and my mom enjoyed baking zucchini bread and sugar cookies for holidays. The go to for me was a lemon bar recipe from my mom’s classic Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.
After graduating from Petaluma High I enrolled in the SRJC’s baking and pastry program. At the time, I was just scrolling through the course catalog trying to decide what I wanted to pursue and not really focusing on a lifelong dream. I learned a lot in a very short time and at age 19 got my baking and pastry certificate and started looking for a job. Brickmaiden Breads was hiring in Point Reyes, and that interview resulted in about 6 years off and on with a stint at Fat Angel Bakery in Fairfax, but I always came back to Brickmaiden.
Brickmaiden is similar to what we do at Nightingale — wood fired breads in a traditional Alan Scott oven. I was very fortunate to have an amazing mentor, Celine Underwood, who truly is an incredible baker and friend. She taught me so much, and took me on as a young naïve baker and engaged me in the bread making process. By the time I left, I had been involved in every aspect of production, and got to see what running a successful, community supported business looks like. That experience has really set me up for owning Nightingale.
Why did you decide to buy the business?
When baking finally became my career, I knew I wanted to have my own bakery. It was so far off though, and not really a fully formed idea even in the last year. Mostly because I’ve been trying to get my bearings as a 20 something year old living in Sonoma County. The housing struggle is real, and you don’t make much money as a baker. So, I wasn’t ideally set up for getting a business loan with no savings and no collateral. But when Beth decided she was ready to sell, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me.
Beth has made the business such an important part of the community, and it’s in such a perfect setting. This is exactly what I would have wanted to build if I started my own business. Being an integral part of the business I already felt like it would work out well for both of us, rather than seeing someone come in and change the whole thing around.
What are you goals with the business moving forward? Will we see any changes or will it be status quo?
My goal for Nightingale is to keep making quality, artisan breads for Forestville and the surrounding communities. I can’t promise to keep things exactly the same, so there will be a few tweaks here and there as well as some new additions to the menu. Cookies and scones will hopefully be making an appearance, but I’d still like our main focus to be bread.
What is your favorite bread to make?
My favorite bread to make is sourdough, by far — any and all sourdough. There is something so soothing about the process, making bread in a similar way that so many people have done before us. As a baker, sourdough is a really good challenge. The fermentation process is alwayschanging with the weather, the flour, etc., which keeps you adapting and thinking about the process.
Can you give us some Beth accolades and talk about her contribution to Forestville and West County?
Beth is a pillar of this community. She really built this bakery from the ground up, and the people of Forestville and West County love her for it. People tell me all the time that they feel like she was the sign of something happening in this town, bringing people together to support the bakery and giving the town something to be proud of. She is kind and generous, and somehow she is able to remember all of her customer’s names, and makes everyone feel welcome and cared for. All things that I hope I will be able to emulate. She really is an awesome lady, I am so excited for her to enjoy a retirement, she’s worked tirelessly for 10 years to make this bakery what it is, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue her legacy.
We asked Jessie to give us one of her favorite recipes. While a bread related recipe was not a requirement, we hoped that she would come back with an idea for leftover bread. She gave us this…
When bread is a few days old, the best thing to do is toast it. Especially with a baguette, which don’t tend to last as long. You can usually revive it by spritzing with a little water and putting it in your toaster oven, or a regular oven at 400 degrees. While there are not exact amounts in the ingredients, this is what we would call a “wing it” recipe. For one loaf of sourdough or French baguette you will 2 to 3 tomatoes.
- A nice crusty loaf of sourdough or French baguette.
- Fresh local tomatoes
- Chopped fresh herbs
- Goat cheese
Slice the loaf to your liking and toast. While the bread is toasting, slice the tomatoes thick and liberally season one side with salt and pepper. Once toast is just barely getting golden but still a bit soft, remove from heat. While still warm, spread the goat cheese on. Layer on the tomatoes, and then top with whatever fresh herbs you have available, basil or thyme would be great. Delicious!