Monday, February 28, 2011


A week from today, I leave for Italy. For a builder of brick ovens there can be no better place in which to observe ovens in action. I hope to discover some very old ovens and some not-so-old bakers. This blog will continue to post from across the Atlantic.
This may be a good time for any questions of comments as I will be in brick oven central.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Loaf of Bread

Most people who go to home shows and look at vinyl siding, solar panels, and the latest in kitchen cabinetry aren't drawn into distant and pleasant memories by the business displays.

I was pleased that my booth, although taking up the same space in the same noisy corridor, was different.

Among the visitors, one elderly woman came to a standstill in front of a very large photo showing freshly baked round loaves of bread in front of the wood-fired brick oven from which they had come. She seemed to be traveling somewhere in her memories, and curious, I waited a while and then asked her what she thought.
She talked about her native home, the town of Leon, in Nicaragua where she had grown up. She said that there were baking ovens that were wood-fired, (here I was able to chime in with my Spanish and I spoke the word for firewood). She described the mornings when she would bring home warm loaves and she told me that the same ovens would bake many chickens at a time and how juicy they were.
The ten minutes with this lady reminded me that few, if any, of the objects we use every day span so many cultures and reach so deeply into our individual and collective memories.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Appearing soon

True Brick Ovens and North Star Stoneworks’ David Neufeld will exhibit at the Maine Home, Remodeling, and Garden Show, Feb. 19-20 at the Portland Civic Center. You can find us right opposite “Meet the Chefs” demonstration kitchen on the main floor.
Chef friends, Mary Ann Esposito, of the PBS program Ciao Italia and Lee Skawinski will be featured on Sunday, February 20.  Link to show details is below.
Chef Skawinski presided at the Cinque Terre Harvest Weekend last September in which two of my brick ovens made their debut. Below are some photos from the event.
Sunday, February 20, 11:15-12:00  
Meet the Chefs: 
Chef Lee Skawinski
Cinque Terre, 36 Wharf St., Portland
Vignola Restaurant, 10 Dana St., Portland
Head Chef Lee Skawinski, a native New Englander, has earned an increasingly influential slot on the national culinary map. The talented chef continues to earn raves for his Ligurian-inspired cuisine from the likes of The Washington Post, Wine & Spirits, Gourmet,, Food Network and USA Today. Additionally, Cinque Terre, with Skawinski at the helm, was recently named by Epicurious to its list of "Top 10 Farm-to-Table Restaurants in the U.S." Skawinski brings over two decades of formal culinary training and experience to his post as Executive Chef of Portland, Maine's Vignola and Cinque Terre restaurants.

I'd like to thank Chef Lee Skawinski and all the staff of Cinque Terre and Vignola for the amazing feast they prepared.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brick Oven Environments

my workshop and home in Maine (outdoor cooking??)
Revised November 9, 2018:

I have been encouraging northern climate customers to consider building their ovens in a 'moderated'  space such as a three-season room, a sunspace or even right in their kitchen.  This has caught on and now more than half of the ovens I build are indoors.  These allow the bakers to avoid the bugs, rain, snow, wind, and other vagaries of the outdoors.  Because th ovens are super insulated, they don't heat up the interior spaces.
Of course, restaurants want their ovens to be the feature of the dining environment.

There is good reason to consider the room or environment where a brick oven is placed. Aside from the proximity to eating, preparation, or entertaining rooms, a brick oven can create an entire mood.
This room, know alternatively as 'The Tuscan Room' or 'The Smallest Restaurant in the World' is adjacent to the kitchen of a customer but has ample space for a table, four chairs, and the ingredients of a delicious meal.  TBO built the entire interior.
An evening eating here is an evening in another world.

The above is the oven I built in my conservatory/plant room.  Intended as a respite from the length of winter, the plants are still in bloom in November and the camellias begin blooming in February.  And I can cook in the brick oven as if I am in the Mediterranean; cool in winter and mild in summer.

A recent indoor oven in coastal NH prior to tiling the floor

The reclaimed cobblestones on the face of this oven are book-matched
(left and right stones are the two halves of the same stone).
Built for a customer from France the keystone is an abstracted fleur de lis.

TBO Ventura oven party

Brick oven in the greenhouse of a restaurant owner

Alternatively, an oven  built into an 'outdoor kitchen' can create a mild-weather entertainment space without altering the house-proper.

TBO 36 in  Ventura CA

TBO 36 and grill/range and workspace in Maine
Patio design and install by TBO

Stone building by TBO for a 54" oven at Pietree Orchard in Sweden Maine

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What is Ovenworks now

I began the business of building brick ovens by building a portable oven. This let me demonstrate the qualities of brick oven cooking and let people see, first hand, a true brick oven in action. The trailer, the oven, and my truck has since traveled all over New England. What started as 'Ovenworks' has split into two parts, Ovenworks and True Brick Ovens.
The oven on the trailer now regularly appears at fund-raisers, local food events, and can be loaned to slow-food entrepreneurs in order to try-out brick oven cooking.
The above sampling of breads were the result of an invitational bread baking day where half a dozen bakers brought loaves to be baked in the portable oven. Weighing in at 2000 pounds, the oven is the real thing.