Michelle Nicholson, owner of Flour Girl Bakery and Cafe in Hebron, is competing in the World Bread Awards USA taking place in Las Vegas this weekend.
"It is a big deal!" Nicholson said. "There are going to be really big bakers there. I am really excited to see them."
Nicholson said she never thought she would be here. She started baking about three years ago, in 2019, when she wanted to learn how to make sourdough bread.
"Fortunately, I was good at it by the time the pandemic hit," Nicholson said. "And then no one could get bread anymore. There was no bread in the grocery store, you couldn't get flour, you couldn't get yeast, you couldn't get anything. And here I was with a restaurant depot card and sourdough starter."
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Starting off as a cottage baker, Nicholson used her home kitchen to bake the sourdough bread. During the pandemic, she would leave the bread on her porch and people would drive by to pick it up. It didn't take long for word to spread.
"It just spiraled out of control and of course it didn't work to stay in my house we were baking way too much," Nicholson said.
Nicholson eventually moved her business to a church kitchen before, finally, opening her Hebron bakery and neighboring café this year.
Tiptree's World Bread Awards USA were not held in person during the pandemic. Instead, they held the Bread Heroes Awards, celebrating bakers for their generosity to their community. Nicholson was named the first runner-up in the Northeast for the Bread Heroes Awards in 2021, earning her an invitation to compete in the World Bread Awards in Las Vegas from Sept. 18 to 21.
"I am in awe that I get to participate," Nicholson said. "The people that are going to this competition are the best bakers in the world and I can't believe I have the opportunity to stake my sourdough up against theirs."
Nicholson is entering two different types of sourdough bread into the contest. She leaves Sunday morning and is inviting people to follow along on her social media page.