FOOD- THE DISH- Kneaded win: ABC ices bakery prizes

At the National Bread & Baking Team Championship, held this year in Atlantic City on October 21-22, our own Albemarle Baking Company in the West Main Market took home top prize in the morning pastry and bread categories and finished third overall– in their first competition!

"Every other team there had competed before," says owner Gerry Newman. "We were just hoping to place in the top three."

For two days and 14 hours, bakers Newman and Riki Tanabe had to whip up 10 baguettes, 12 specialty breads, 40 morning pastries, six cakes, and two decorative display pieces. "It was a lot of work to do in 14 hours," admits Newman. 

In addition to winning the judges over with their potato rosemary bread and two morning pastries, one filled with apples and figs, and another with pistachio and dates, the duo also turned heads with their decorative pieces. Inspired by the championship's theme of "invention," Newman created an elaborate edible work of art modeled on an old blue print of Abe Lincoln's patented invention for keeping boats from getting stuck on sandbars.

"Thomas Jefferson was an innovator," says Newman, "but Lincoln was the only U.S. President to hold a patent on an invention." Tanabe headed off in a more abstract direction, creating a Picassoesque sculpture to represent the "inventive mind." 

Although pleased with the attention, and glad to have their work recognized, the two aren't letting the accolades go to their head. 

"It really raised the level of our game," says Tanabe, " be better chefs."

"In the end, I hope it benefits our customers," says Newman. "Our expectations of quality will be higher after this."

So will ours

New Thai on The Corner

Hiep Pham's road to Charlottesville was a long one. After getting on one of the last airlifts out of Saigon in the early '70s, the Vietnamese refugee and his wife found themselves in Ithaca, New York. After earning a PhD in plant genetics from Cornell, he traveled the world for various companies studying agricultural trends. 

When his son reached college age, Pham decided to change careers to be closer to home and partnered with a friend to start a Thai restaurant in Ithaca. With his son in medical school at Georgetown, he and his wife decided to move to Charlottesville to be closer to him. The result for us is Lemongrass, the new Thai-Vietamese restaurant that opened on 14th Street on October 26. 

"We were impressed with the people here," says Pham. "City officials just made it so easy for us to get started here."

Pham noticed the absence of a Thai restaurant on The Corner, and is trying to repeat the same success he had in Ithaca. He's also visited other Thai-Vietnamese places in town, like Lime Leaf, Thai 99, and White Orchid, and thinks he can give them a run for their money. 

"It looks like we've been well received," says Pham, getting up to seat yet another customer. Even though it's a rainy Friday afternoon, the place is starting to fill up with a lunch crowd. Considering what he's accomplished after arriving here as a refugee, it's a safe bet that Lemongrass could become a corner fixture.

Albemarle Bakery Co.'s Riki Tanabe and Gerry Newman were big winners at the National Bread & Baking Team Championship.