Chef's Choice: Matt Herren, 222 Artisan Bakery and Goshen Coffee

click to enlarge Matt Herren (foreground) and Goshen Coffee's DJ Fisher - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
Matt Herren (foreground) and Goshen Coffee's DJ Fisher
Which came first, the coffee or the bread? For Matt Herren, co-owner of Goshen Coffee and 222 Artisan Bakery, beer came first. He brewed huge amounts of home brew while working at coffee houses in his native northern California and Seattle. When he moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, with his then-wife and co-owner of Goshen and 222 Debbie Sultan, his focus shifted to coffee. Specifically, becoming the first single-origin, 100%-organic roaster in the St. Louis area.

When he couldn't find a coffee roaster that suited his needs, he built one himself. How did he do it? "The same way I build everything -- I just did it," Herren, 38, said as we we strolled his wooded backyard on the edge of Edwardsville, drinking cans of Ska Brewing's Modus Hoperandi. And no, he's not telling where he found the impossible-to-find beer.

click to enlarge Herren's self-built backyard brick oven. - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
Herren's self-built backyard brick oven.
Herren built the brick oven behind his storage shed while undergoing cancer treatment. "I wanted to make bread after I found out I had cancer, so I started baking, and it was bad. I thought I'd build the brick oven, but my bread was still bad."

"You built this while you had cancer?" I asked. The oven's bigger than some of the places I've called home, and sturdier.

"Yeah. I mean, between treatments."

Post-recovery, he got some baking instruction in San Francisco. Now, his hand-built home oven mainly functions as a pizza oven for the 400 or so friends he invites to his place once or twice a year.

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