Matthew Tilden—the man behind the ridiculously rustic Scratchbread, each craggy, densely delicious loaf tied with a bit of twine—bubbles over like just-fed sourdough starter when asked about his approach to food. The CIA grad first transformed nutty wheat into fat, salt-topped focaccia at Chestnut and dreams of applying artisanal, back-to-basics foodstuffs far beyond the breadbox. A Scratch product mantra, he says, might go something like this: “It’s supposed to be quality, it’s supposed to be simple, it’s supposed to be freaking delicious.”
It’s definitely the last of those, as evidenced by demand for his loaves: South Slope Sour, Parma Country (topped with fennel seeds and Parmigiano-Reggiano), Whole Wheat Spelt Nut, Chai Sticky Bread and his candied orange, rosemary and gray sea salt scones are snapped up at Bklyn Larder, Blue Apron, Get Fresh, Cafe Grumpy and Toby’s Public House, among a handful of other shops.
Because Tilden believes a commodity can create a community, he uses about 80 percent organic flours and sells his loaves at a price he hopes more people can afford: around $4 to $5 a loaf. Not cheap, but below what it would be at some fancy shops, thanks in part to a lack of packaging beyond that twine—”so you know two hands touched it”—and a bare bones business model based on one man working 120 hours a week on borrowed time and equipment: Scratchbread operates in the off-hours using the brick ovens at Toby’s Public House, an upscale pizza tavern in Greenwood Heights. (Tilden also works with the grow-your-own educational group BK Farmyards when he can.)
Tilden says he’s willing to forgo sleep right now to move along his goals for getting more great foods to more people. That’s good stuff indeed—but, we have to admit, we’re really just in love with his loaves.