Howdy bread friend! My name is Kyle Kuehner and I'm the Founder and Head Baker of West Won Bread right here in Napa, CA. Thanks so much for taking the time to read a little about my story and that of West Won Bread. Enjoy!
My life in BREAD started in 2014 in, I suppose, an unusual environment. I was working my 9-5 desk job in administration as the academic manager of a private English language school in downtown San Francisco. One of the teachers shared with me a loaf of sourdough bread he'd made at home. It wasn't so much the flavor that blew me away, but rather that he made this bread at home. I guess, before this I'd never really given much thought to the bread making process. Bread to me, up till then, was pre-sliced and whole-wheat or nine-grain, and a requisite at my grandparents' dinner table. "The bread that won the West," my grandfather would always say. It was this loaf of homemade sourdough that got me hooked and started on my own journey of learning how to make naturally leavened sourdough bread. I dove in and started making bread at home every week, over and over again, learning as much as I could through the process and through all the books I could find. After a year of home baking, and the dreariness of my day job weighing me down more and more, I decided to quit my job and learn how to be a bread baker. After a couple stages at bakeries in the city, I landed a job at Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland. My three years at Firebrand were an absolute dream situation, a complete education in not only bread making, but also what it takes to run a professional production bakery.
Having the opportunity to work under founder and Head Baker Matt Kreutz I learned exactly what it takes to be a baker, hard work and an unrelenting passion for craft. I worked every position in the bakery from packing the bread for deliveries up to baking on three different wood-fired ovens. After moving to Napa from San Francisco, and for a year continuing to commute to Oakland 5 nights a week to bake from 9-5 (pm to am) I decided to make a change and work closer to home at Model Bakery. My goal, from the beginning when I quit my desk job, was to eventually run my own operation. At the beginning of 2018, after our first son was born, I knew now was the time to make it happen.
Under the banner Royal Artisan Breads, which was quickly named after our loyal wire-haired griffon puppy, I began selling at the Napa Farmers’ Market. Overwhelmed by such a welcoming and supportive community, Napa and especially the farmers markets have been crucial in my growth as a baker and business owner.
FOR ME, WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT BREAD IS THE CRAFT, THE WORK, THE PROCESS. I LOVE WORKING WITH MY HANDS TO CREATE DEEPLY FLAVORFUL BREAD FOR PEOPLE TO ENJOY WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY. I LOVE LEARNING THE CRAFT EACH DAY I BAKE. EACH DAY IS NEW IN THE BAKERY. THE CRAFT IS THE SAME, AND HAS BEEN FOR A LONG TIME, BUT EACH DAY IS DIFFERENT, LIKE LIFE, LIKE THE LIVING SOURDOUGH CULTURE, EACH DAY IS A NEW START.
Entering our third year in business we are taking some big steps for our small business and will be opening our own brick and mortar retail and production bakery / cafe in the heart of Napa. Coupled with this growth is the rollout of our new branding as West Won Bread, the name coming from childhood memories of my grandfather exclaiming daily about the dark, dense, and seeded hunk of bread he’d have accompanying every meal, “This is the bread that won the west,” he’d say, slathering a piece with butter. This memory of a simple occurrence around a modest food bringing such joy and pleasure is what we strive for with every bread that goes home to nourish you and your family.
Our whole family, Kyle, Elise, Otto, Rollie, and Edie welcome you through our doors and into our service of good bread and good feelings. Thank you!