Martino Martucci pictured here in his Luxembourg City kitchen with a freshly-shaped sourdough boule
(Photo : Patricia Pitsch/Maison Moderne)
In part three of our "Back to the roots" series, Martino Martucci talks about how the health pandemic gave him the time to bake, allowing him to lay the groundwork for his own business.
Martino Martucci learned the art of breadmaking through family--specifically, his nonna. Originally from Puglia, Italy, Martucci knew already by age 11 he wanted to be a chef. After receiving his diploma from a cooking school, he travelled and worked abroad, in places like Australia, Morocco and the Maldives, plus a stint working at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London.
When I visit him in his home kitchen in central Luxembourg late summer, freshly baked loaves are on his countertop. He has a bowl of fermented sourdough on his counter, and we pause the interview occasionally so he can tend to it. It's slightly hypnotic, watching how he stretches and folds the dough, and it's clear to see this process gives him immense satisfaction.
On 21 March, Martucci began making his sourdough starter based on his grandmother’s recipe, and after 15 days he was using it to bake. He couldn’t eat all the loaves so he started giving them to his neighbours.
Based on their positive feedback, he soon launched the Artisan Bread Luxembourg Facebook page. Suddenly requests were rolling in: “I was making bread every day, but for no profit.” Although he charged for the bread, it was just enough “to cover the flour and fuel [for] the delivery service”. At his peak, he was using 20kg of flour daily to produce some 40 loaves. At a point during confinement, he struggled to find flour, later sourcing 50kg bags from a local producer.
A plate of freshly baked sourdough bread served with a drizzle of olive oil. Photo: Patricia Pitsch
Although Martucci has experimented with breadmaking, he’s particularly passionate about sourdough. It’s an art which requires plenty of time for the starter to peak after feeding, gluten structure to develop through a series of stretch-and-folds, bulk fermentation process, shaping and proofing. His confinement days revolved around bread: on Martucci’s clock, the dough was prepared by evening so he could bake late morning the following day and deliver loaves between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“I could manage 10 to 15 deliveries a day, but with the oven I have at home I could make a maximum of around 30kg of bread,” Martucci says, adding that customers didn’t mind waiting and word-of-mouth marketing went a long way. “They were excited to get sourdough bread, which you can’t really get here in Luxembourg... nowadays if you buy a baguette at the supermarket, you can keep it for three hours and after a while it starts losing its structure.”
Martucci dreamt of opening a bakery based on this success but says after looking into the procedures to do so, his cooking school diploma wouldn’t be enough. “For a bakery, a different diploma is required,” he says, so “my new idea is to use bread on a menu”. He envisions opening such an eatery in the north of the country, as he longs for plenty of open space in the countryside.
For him, “making bread is not just to make food, but it comes with the past and memories I have. It brings me a lot of joy.”
Read part one of our "Back to the roots" serieshere. Read part two here.