Sourdough School 

Ron Mendoza of Ad Astra Bread Co has fired up monthly classes to help you bake like a pro at home. 
PUBLISHED ON
March 26, 2024

Words by Becky Duffett

Photos by Kelsey Wisdom

Video by Grant Kinsey

Ron Mendoza is a true sourdough starter.

When the Ad Astra Bread Co founder—one of the Monterey Bay area’s most beloved bakers—opened his new Alvarado Street shop last fall, he always imagined offering sourdough lessons to the masses. Now, in his stunning new space, he’s finally able to fire up monthly classes so fans can learn how to make the wildly popular loaves at home (if they’re lucky—spots sell out fast).  

“The fulfillment of starting something from nothing, and then pulling out this big deep crusty loaf of bread for your friends and family, there’s nothing like that,” Mendoza says. “That’s conviviality and community.” 

Mendoza is a former competitive skateboarder who rose through fine dining at Patina in Los Angeles, the French Laundry in Napa, and Aubergine in Carmel. He’s been on the local bread scene for years, since he started baking out of Other Brother Beer’s kitchen in 2019. Ad Astra Bread Co officially opened its first storefront in October 2023, building out a light and airy open kitchen that spans 3,000 square feet. It showcases sourdough with a dramatically dark crust and creamy crumb, plus baguettes, croissants, and other pastries. Ad Astra’s goods can also be spotted at more than 20 local restaurants, from the star table bread at Chez Noir to the burger buns at Alvarado Street Brewery

As the former executive pastry chef at Aubergine, Mendoza enjoyed teaching a few classes on macarons and tarts. So far as he knows, there aren’t any local bread classes, aside from the pro pastry program at Monterey Peninsula College. And he sympathizes with anyone who’s interested in sourdough and trying to decipher recipes—despite 20 years experience in fine dining, Mendoza says he learned to bake sourdough at home, just like the rest of us. So for his classes, there are no sourdough secrets—he’s spilling it all. 

Classes launched in January 2024, and they’re offered one weekend a month. They’ve been selling out in less than half an hour from when registration opens, so keep an eye out for announcements on Instagram, or email the bakery to get on the waitlist. Those lucky enough to snag a spot will be joining 10 to 12 other students on a Saturday or Sunday evening in the bakery on Alvarado Street. Mendoza recommends wearing your comfiest kitchen clogs (or sneakers), because class is completely hands-on. Students get to experience each stage of the process: Feeding the starter, mixing the dough, shaping the loaves, and baking them off. 

In real time, it takes two days to naturally leaven and cold ferment this flavorful sourdough. So, there is some “TV-style magic” involved, starting one dough and pulling out another rise. But that means students get to go home with the sourdough starter, the dough that they’ve mixed, and the loaf that they’ve baked, as well as a bench scraper, basket, and tea towel—all the tools to keep rolling. “Everything but the flour,” Mendoza confirms. 

Many students send back photos of their bakes, and Mendoza responds to any followup questions. “I’ve worked for chefs who withheld recipes, and I’ve never understood that,” Mendoza says. “I give out all the information. That’s what everyone walks away with. Like, ‘wow, you literally let us know everything.’ Yeah, totally! Why not?” <img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/6457f19f1c1e1601e2c9c3f6/6487a9355b63a6818c705cea_CC-Icon--20.svg"alt="CC"height="20" width="20">

__

Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. She was the deputy editor at Eater SF, and her work has appeared in Bon Appétit, EatingWell, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater SF, and Edible SF. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett

Share this article

Copy link
Pinterest