Bill Millholland, the connoisseur behind the Baker & Nosh bakery and café, is known for his fresh breads, soups, gourmet sandwiches, and pastries. In addition to these treats, Millholland also offers intimate baking classes for up to six people at the cozy bakery and café in Uptown.
Millholland’s rich journey in the culinary world took form after graduating from The French Culinary Institute in New York. He continued to practice his craft at various bakeries in Manhattan and the Hamptons and served as chef instructor in Tuscany, Italy, at Toscana Saporita Cooking School in Lucca for nearly four years before settling at Chicago’s Le Cordon Bleu for seven years.
“When I went to culinary school, I had no idea that I would like teaching,” Millholland says. “I just knew that I was passionate about food and cooking.” It was teaching at a Tuscany culinary school that Millholland realized he really enjoys standing in front of a group of people and talking about food. “And so I worked there for about three years and just kind of quickly discovered that I really like that aspect of the food industry,” Millholland said, “not only just cooking and baking for customers, but actually, you know, getting people as excited about food as I am.”
Millholland opened his own neighborhood bakery business in Chicago about six years ago, deliberately choosing Uptown as its location. He emphasized his impression of the neighborhood as friendly and supportive. “We couldn’t have chosen a nicer, better spot,” he said.
According to Millholland, taking a baking class is highly valuable because it provides critical, tactile, and other sensory learning experiences associated with baking that cannot be experienced in the same way through a book or video.
“You can look at a YouTube video on how to make a baguette or how to make a whole-wheat loaf of bread,” Millholland explained, “but it’s when you’re in the presence of somebody that’s teaching you that you can learn the tactile stuff.” Millholland emphasizes that the greatest takeaway from his classes is learning how to really use one’s senses and knowing what to expect in terms of touch, smell, and even sound, not just how something is supposed to look; something that a receipe cannot teach you.
I had the pleasure of taking Millholland’s monthly croissant baking class and learned about his fascinating journey in culinary arts, his classes, and love for teaching, and the value that Baker & Nosh adds to the community.
Millholland’s croissant baking class enables each student to make his or her own savory croissants from scratch in plain, chocolate, almond, or savory flavors and walks them through the three-part lamination process of creating hundreds of layers of dough. He expertly explains the thoughtful selection of ingredients he uses and the chemistry behind bread-making, including noteworthy culinary techniques associated with yeast and gluten.
In addition, students are educated on puff pastry and Danish dough, with Millholland highlighting the similar baking procedures to the croissant and important differences to take into account. Students are also taught how to be resourceful in the kitchen, getting a glimpse of some of the endless possibilities to effortlessly bring together to create fancy treats with the croissant dough scraps.
Millholland teaches his students how to manage time effectively when baking, such as how the process can be gradually completed over either a few hours or a few days. He also assures that all ingredients needed can be found in your own kitchen or at grocery stores such as Mariano’s, Jewel, or Whole Foods.
After the class is complete, students proudly carry away a box of their own baked creations.
“Of all of the things that I’ve done, working in a neighborhood bakery was the most rewarding. It was certainly my least paying job in all of the things that I have done, but it was the most rewarding,” said Millholland.
Millholland offers two different classes: Bread Basics and Croissant classes. Classes are on weekdays in the evening from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm and students can choose from either a Monday or Tuesday night class. The Bread Basics class is offered the first, second, and third week of each month and the Croissant class the fourth week of each month. In addition to the existing location in Uptown, Baker & Nosh will also be expanding to a second location in Edgewater at 5600 North Ridge in the spring.