Baker Jonathan Bethony is looking pensively into the giant mixer that’s activating, enlivening, and strengthening a batch of dough at Seylou Bakery & Mill, the new production facility and cafe officially opening Thursday, November 30, in Shaw.
“The dough is forming bonds,” says Bethony, who co-owns the bakery with his wife, Jessica Azeez. “We form the same kind of bonds as people. I want this to be a place that brings it all together and fosters community and conversations between farmers, bakers, and customers.”
Seylou is the first and only D.C. bakery to operate an in-house mill. Whereas most other bakeries get bulk deliveries of flour, Seylou gets bulging sacks of wheat berries and other whole grains from local farmers.
Bethony oversees the breadmaking, milling the grains, fermenting the starter, forming the breads, and baking them in an imported wood-fired oven. What emerges are intensely earthy loaves ingrained with Bethony’s essential passion and spirituality.
“My approach is not better or worse than other bakers’,” said Bethony, who left a prestigious position at Washington State University’s Bread Lab to open Seylou. “This is what I like to do.”
Mark Furstenberg, James Beard Foundation Award-winning owner of Bread Furst bakery in Van Ness, is delighted Bethony has come to town.
“He’s a genuine purist baker with talent and taste,” Furstenberg tells Eater. “By purist baker, I mean he wants to do things in the most elemental way. He wants to buy grain in its berry form and mill it himself. He wants to bake it in a wood-fired stone oven and he wants it to be all whole-grain. He wants to recreate the most traditional kind of leavened bread and do it perfectly.”
Furstenberg is most enthusiastic about Seylou’s potential to help increase the supply of and demand for local bakeries and quality bread. “From my point of view, what’s really wonderful about [Bethony] is that he is creating another neighborhood bakery in Washington, which for me is very gratifying.”
Making classics with whole-grain flour, Seylou pastry chef Charbel Abrache skillfully defies convention. Abrache’s whole-wheat croissant is as airy and supple as the white-flour standard. Millet canelé, sorghum brownies, and millet chocolate chip cookies are masterfully executed. The breads are vegan and some pastries are gluten-free.
Seylou is projected to operate on a limited schedule from 1 p.m to 4 p.m, Thursday, November 30, and Friday, December 1. It’s expected to assume normal weekend business hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) beginning Saturday, December 2.
This doesn’t necessarily mean bread is available all day. On November 29 and earlier preview days, loaves sold out well before closing time. The bakery plans to add a pizza and salad special on Saturday nights beginning in January.
Status: Scheduled to open at 1 p.m. Thursday, November 30. 926 N Street NW, Suite A; website.