Interview With Matthew From @MatthewJamesDuffy on Instagram

Welcome to The Sourdough People, where we celebrate the art and craft of sourdough baking. Today, we are thrilled to share an exclusive interview with the renowned sourdough expert and educator, Matthew James Duffy. In this insightful conversation, Matthew takes us on a journey through his culinary career, from his initial steps in the culinary world during his business degree to his global explorations that shaped his baking techniques and philosophies. He shares memorable experiences working alongside iconic chefs like Daniel Boulud and his love for sourdough baking that captivated his interest. Matthew also delves into his role as an educator at Centennial College, where he tailors the curriculum to enhance students’ learning and keep pace with evolving industry trends. Follow Matthew on Instagram at @MatthewJamesDuffy to stay updated on his sourdough adventures and educational endeavours.

How did your initial steps into the culinary world, driven by necessity during your business degree, shape your approach and passion for the craft?

I really just fell into it.  I wanted to learn how to cook as a life skill and how to cook with local, seasonal ingredients.  I thought cooking at a high level (fine dining/Michelin) was the best way to learn the craft. 

How instrumental was your time at the University of Guelph in Hotel and Food Administration in laying the foundation for your culinary journey?

While at University I was working at a high-end catering company.  The chef and sous chefs, along with my mother encouraged me to sign up for my red seal papers and start tracking hours.  This combined with the restaurant course I took at UoG really solidified my passion of being in the kitchen. 

What were some pivotal moments at Stratford Chef School that deepened your love and understanding of sourdough baking?

100% it was when I worked for Neil Baxter.  While in school I was more interested in culinary side but while working for Neil (the head chef of the School and of a restaurant Rundles) in the summer between semesters I had the opportunity to work the pastry/bread station.  While it was never my goal, I quickly fell in love with the process.  I loved being the first person in the restaurant in the morning and seeing the place come alive.  I loved the process of going from levain to loaf and everything in between.  Trying to get 1% better with each bake and chasing the perfect bake had me hooked. 

How did your culinary explorations across various countries, from Italy and Spain to Japan and Denmark, influence your baking techniques and philosophies?

Every step of the journey helped.  I learned about the way different cultures prepare and celebrate bread along with how different bakers and pastry chefs prepared breads for bakeries and restaurants.  The chef I worked for in Italy was extremely knowledgeable on classic Italian style breads which was a great learning opportunity for me.  While in Denmark I saw someone mill flour and bake a loaf with it for the first time and that changed the way I saw flour.  Treating it as a live/fresh ingredient and focusing on using fermentation to get the best flavours alongside how to work with rye and make some traditional Danish-style rye bread was an eye-opener.  Ontario grows a lot of rye and has a similar climate to Denmark so it was a transferable skill.  

Can you share memorable experiences and lessons learned while working in Michelin-starred restaurants and alongside iconic chefs like Daniel Boulud?

Daniel Boulud is the best chef I ever worked for without question.  Extremely professional, highly knowledgeable and passionate about French Cuisine and food he taught me more than just how to work in kitchens.  He wasn’t afraid to do any job whether washing dishes, sweeping the floor or talking to guests.  He also has a HUGE personality and taught me a lot about being on camera and just how to work in the food media world.  I still talk to Daniel to this day and he was one of the most influential chefs of my life. 

What aspects of sourdough baking captivated your interest, and how have your global experiences enriched this specialization?

I love the entire process.  The management of the starter to the baking of the loaf.  I have a very obsessive personality and I tend to go ‘all-in’ on anything I am trying to learn.  Sourdough is no different.  Every step of the way I have been acquiring knowledge from all the bakers that paved the way before me.  So many people have contributed to my understanding of dough and each country I have lived in taught me about how a culture can celebrate bread.  While they all do it differently, they all love to break bread. 

Can you discuss the diverse insights and techniques acquired from different work locations like Café Boulud NYC, Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, and El Bohio in Madrid?

Each restaurant was a totally different experience.  Cafe Boulud cooked everything for a lot of people.  The place was so busy that we would get crushed cooking on the line every night.  Eventually, you start to learn the station and the dance but there are no shortcuts in the kitchen.  Everything is cooked the best way at the highest level.  Noma was a completely different experience altogether.  The focus on local cuisine and terroir coupled with innovation continues to inspire me.  This was an amazing part of my career journey and I will always be grateful to Rene for allowing me to spend so much time in his kitchen.  Learning a different way to look at products and how to celebrate the farmer who grew them is something I now do with my kids and hope they share the same passion for local food that I do. 

What were the most impactful takeaways from collaborating with renowned bakers, such as at King Arthur Flour and San Francisco Baking Institute?

King Arthur Flour is an amazing school.  I studied there with Jeffrey Hammelman and I learned so much from him even though I had read his book over 5 times.  He actually asked me if he could take a picture of my copy when he signed it, as he had never seen such a used copy before.  After taking the class I really wanted to go back and to my surprise in 2022 they invited me back to teach a class in their kitchen.  This was truly a career milestone as so many bakers I look up to have taught in that room and I am grateful to have had the opportunity. 

How has your transition to being an educator at Centennial College been influenced by your multifaceted global experiences?

This transition has been great.  I have been able to enjoy life, inspire and mentor others all while continuing to develop my skills.  I share stories, experiences, knowledge, and of course techniques with my students every day.  

As a Professor and Program Coordinator, how have you tailored the curriculum to enhance students’ learning and keep pace with evolving industry trends?

We work directly with industry professionals to link the program learning outcomes to essential employment skills.  I have recently moved on from Coordinating the baking program after doing it for 5 years and currently coordinate the Food Media post-graduate program.  I still get to teach artisan bread all while sharing my passion and knowledge for food media.  

How have you integrated international experiences, like trips to the UK and Las Vegas, into the academic curriculum to enrich students’ learning?

When I first started at the College I wanted to help develop opportunities for students that I had while training to be a chef.  Attending conferences, workshops, classes, and visiting bakeries/restaurants can really help students develop their networks and grow as chefs/bakers.  Not only do they get a great hands-on learning opportunity but they also get a life-learning opportunity.  Learning does not always need to happen within four walls and seeing students go out of their comfort zones to learn, meet and develop skills is amazing.  I recently got to travel to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with a group of students where we were invited to cook at the 50th anniversary of the Canadian/Vietnamese diplomacy.  While there is lot they can learn in the classroom remember this was a trip they will never forget regardless of if they stay in the industry or not.  

Could you delve into the philosophies and daily operations that underpin your sourdough micro-bakery?

We have a unique situation.  We are constantly developing new recipes for my website, newsletter and YouTube along with sharing the journey on Instagram and Tiktok.  Being able to bake new products and share that with my local community is amazing.  There is no overhead pressure to pay rent/employees (although I do have two part-time baking assistants) and I get to be creative and try whatever I want.  We love being connected to the community and my wife and I enjoy being able to share the bread with everyone. 

How do you leverage your strong online presence for community building, knowledge sharing, and promoting the art of sourdough baking?

I am not exactly sure how I leverage it but I just want to continue to help other bakers.  SOOO many helped me along the way and I am just happy to see others crushing it and being successful with their bakes and bakeries. 

Looking ahead, what are some trends, innovations, or personal aspirations that you are excited to explore in the world of baking and culinary arts?

I am currently in the final stages of my first book and I can’t wait to be done with it.  It has been YEARS in the making and I am finally seeing the pieces come together.

With the richness of your journey, what legacy do you wish to leave in the culinary world, and what advice would you offer to the upcoming generation of bakers and chefs?

There are so many things I could share but I hope they can just enjoy the journey.  Ask lots of questions, take notes and push yourself to continue to develop your skills.  Skill stacking and getting 1% better each day.

Closing Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this insightful interview with Matthew James Duffy and gained valuable knowledge about the world of sourdough baking. We are grateful to Matthew for sharing his experiences and expertise with our community.

To stay connected with The Sourdough People and join our vibrant community of sourdough enthusiasts, follow us on Instagram at and sign up for our email newsletter, which is followed by thousands of members of the sourdough community. Additionally, we invite you to use our intake form to send us interesting, unique, or fun story ideas or topics for features on our website. After all, we are community-focused and love helping you improve your sourdough baking skills.

Thank you for reading, and happy baking!

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