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breadness blog

the best reality show not on the food network

(read these in order for maximum impact…)

APRIL 24, 2021

The Breadness Blog, episode 2 ~ “So You Want to Open a ____?”

It’s a shame I don’t have a film crew to document the evolution of Random Acts of Breadness. Since I last wrote, there’s been no shortage of drama, from, of all things, ordering and taking delivery of a few pieces of equipment!

I knew when I took this venture out of my kitchen and scaled it into a commercial bakery, I’d need six key pieces of equipment: a dough mixer; a proofing cabinet (a tall enclosure with shelves that can be set to a warm temperature); a very large refrigerator; a large freezer; a high-capacity water filtration system; and an artisan deck oven with steam injection. I don’t know how many hours I spent researching all this equipment and the various places that sell it. I ended up using four different online stores to get these six pieces. Today I’m going to tell the tale of Estella, our dough mixer.

Estella is a brand of restaurant equipment that sells for an entry-level price. In this case, their 50-quart, 75-lb. dough capacity, stainless steel spiral dough hook with moving bowl, 275-pound mixer, which in a competing brand might cost over $30,000, Estella sells for a mere $1995 (plus shipping). At this price, it’s considered “disposable” equipment, meaning, don’t expect it to last more than a year or two. Not a problem, I just need something to get going and if it lasts a year or two, I’ll take it!

I found two online stores that sold this unit. Both offered free shipping (amazing since with the packing crate it weighs about 350 pounds!). But one website required me to join their “club” for $99 a month to get the free shipping. The other site had no such requirement. Interestingly, I discovered that both websites were owned by the same parent company! What a game…

I ordered the mixer and the proofing cabinet from this company. (For peace of mind, I paid about 10% extra for an extended warranty on both.) One week later, I was notified the freight company would be delivering these items to our new location on Thursday, April 8th. Pretty good for a company located back east (I found out they have a warehouse outside of Reno, Nevada, which put these items much closer to So Cal).

A note about Common Carrier freight service: unless you order a whole truckload of stuff from a company, your shipment is part of a large shipment consisting of many orders all going to different places. My two items were on a tractor-trailer truck along with lots of other cartons and crates.

On Thursday, my godson Rhys and I were waiting at the “shop” for the truck. When it hadn’t arrived as scheduled, Rhys spotted a truck in the middle of the street A BLOCK AWAY. He wondered if it might be the one we were waiting for. I walked A BLOCK AWAY to investigate. Sure enough, it was our truck. I told the driver our place was A BLOCK AWAY, pointing in the direction of our store. (The paperwork had the correct address so we don’t know why he was stopped A BLOCK AWAY.) He pulled up to our location (still in the middle of the street) and proceeded to unload each item, one at a time, using a manual pallet jack and the truck’s lift-gate. Once the items were deposited in front of the shop, I began the process of inspecting each one for damage. The proofing cabinet seemed fine so I moved on to the dough mixer’s crate (see photo at the beginning). Unfortunately, Estella didn’t fare as well. As you can see from these crime-scene photos, there was some serious damage to her protective pod.

Ouch. I had to look inside to see if that damage had affected the contents within….

Opening the back of the crate, I examined the lower area where the crate was compromised. Fortunately, Estella looked like she had escaped injury.

The driver was in a hurry and was pressuring me to sign the receipt so he could move on with his deliveries. With Estella appearing to be okay, I signed off and the driver and truck left. Rhys and I hand-trucked the mixer into the shop, and then moved the proofing cabinet inside. Note that the mixer was still enclosed in bubble wrap with styrofoam bumpers in key places. The mixer was bolted to it’s own small pallet which the crate was wrapped around and secured with nails. I was going to keep Estella under wraps as painters were coming in a few days to make the place pretty. But I decided to take off the rest of the crate and leave the wrapping in place.

The next day, I just had to see Estella in all her glory so I cut open the wrappings and was shocked to see that all was not well…

Ouch. That was some serious damage! And I had signed the receipt and the driver was long gone. Uh, oh… I called the company I purchased Estella from and they assured me all was not lost. This was concealed damage (there was no indication of damage to that corner of the crate, which meant the unit was damaged before it was crated at the factory) so they told me they could file a claim with the freight company, but it would take 3 weeks! Oh, no… They asked if I plugged it in. I told them certainly not! With damage like this, it could blow up! They told me that if I plugged it in and it worked, they would have a truck pick it up in a day or so and ship me a replacement right away. This is because they could still sell it as “cosmetic damage” for a discount. But if I didn’t plug it in and test it, I’d be waiting at least 3 weeks!

So I took a chance and plugged it in… and it worked! The company would send a truck to pick it up, but it had to be crated. This crate was already damaged and torn apart, but I couldn’t find a crating service in time, so I had to do it myself! On the bright side, not everyone can say they had an opportunity to put Humpty Dumpty back together again!

The next day, after a few hours of intense reconstruction and fortification work, Estella was ready for the road.

The truck pulled up just as I had finished this monumental task and took Estella away…

A few days later, Estella’s sister arrived. This time, the crate had only minor damage in one spot, but I knew better than to sign the receipt without a thorough inspection of the contents. But the driver wouldn’t let me open the crate until I signed the receipt! We were at a standoff. I then called the company I purchased this from and the customer rep told me to sign the slip but write on it that the driver wouldn’t let you inspect the shipment until you signed the receipt. Once I did that, the driver said, “Okay, let’s open it up!” I was flummoxed! A second ago this guy wouldn’t let me touch the thing, now he’s helping me to take the crate apart! He had some reason for doing it that way, but, whatever…

Happy to report that Estella’s sister fared much better than her sibling, and so I wrote more notes on the receipt and the driver went on his way.

Now that Estellarina was cleared for takeoff, I scheduled the muscle twins (Randy Barach and Moj Butler) to help move her to her new home atop the stainless steel mixer stand I had assembled a few days before. This was not a trivial task and I have video footage to prove it, but we’re not going to go there in this blog. Instead, you get to see our dough mixer’s new home…

And the most important part: I plugged it in… and she works!

In a matter of days, Estellarina will be mixing our first batch of artisan sourdough dough, enough to make 12 loaves for our first test batch (this baby can mix enough dough for 60 loaves at a time!).

But first we must solve “The Case of the Missing Migali.”

Until next time…

Randall Michael Tobin


NEXT UP: Breadness Blog, episode 3 ~ “The Case of the Missing Migali…”