SKOWHEGAN — The art of pasta making will be featured for the first time at this year’s Kneading Conference when the two-day event opens at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds on Thursday, followed by the Maine Artisan Bread Fair Saturday.

The conference, hosted by the Maine Grain Alliance, is in its ninth year and is expected to draw about 200 participants from around the country and Canada, said Amber Lambke, executive director of the Maine Grain Alliance. It started in 2007 as an educational weekend focused on the role of wheat production in the local food movement.

“The role of the Maine Grain Alliance is to really inspire all of the things that fit into regional grain economies,” Lambke said. “Making pastas with grains is one of those things, and we’ve not yet featured that at the conference.”

The conference opens with keynote speaker Peter Reinhart speaking on “Bread Has a Story to Tell” at 9:15 a.m. Thursday. Reinhart, a chef at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., has won James Beard Awards for his books “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” “Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor,” and “Crust & Crumb.”

“We brought him in because he has particular expertise in whole-grain baking and is an innovator in the field,” Lambke said. “He tends to experiment and always keep his eye on the next frontier in bread baking.”

Brooklyn, New York, chef Steve Gonzalez of Sfoglini Pasta Shop will host the pasta-making workshop Thursday afternoon.

Participant feedback also led conference organizers to feature a workshop this year on managing employees taught by Portland consultant Christopher Papagni.

“People running bakeries and small businesses often say the biggest challenge to running their business has to do with managing employees,” Lambke said.

Participants in the conference include professional and artisan bakers as well as at-home enthusiasts and culinary tourists, according to Lambke.

“We get the widest range,” she said. “We get folks who are novice home bakers, professionals who have been at it for years and everything in between.”

About 3,000 people are expected to attend the Maine Artisan Bread Fair on Saturday, where visitors can sample and buy breads and pastries and attend baking demonstrations.

Admission to the Maine Artisan Bread Fair is free. The cost of attending the conference is $300. Pre-registration is required.

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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