Keith and Nancy Kouris in their Riverhead bakery in 2012. Flie photo: Peter Blasl

Blue Duck Bakery Cafes co-owner Keith Kouris had been named one of the top 10 artisan bread bakers in North America by Dessert Professionals magazine.

The national trade magazine has been “recognizing exemplary dessert professionals in North America annually with awards for the top 10 pastry chefs, chocolatiers, cake artists, bakers and frozen dessert retailers” annually for the past 20 years. The 2015 honorees were announced Friday.

It’s a much sought-after honor in the industry.

Master baker Kouris began baking bread in 1985, when he worked in a supermarket bakery.

It was “very basic and by artisan standards, very boring,” he told the magazine for a profile. “I started making real bread in 1997” after he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute’s European artisan bread course.

The artisan bread baking course at the French Culinary in NYC inspired him to pursue his new-found passion, he told the magazine.

“It’s very humbling in its simplicity,” Kouris said of his bread baking philosophy. “I just try and do it justice, not adulterate it with the concept of making it better. When you make it right, there is nothing better,” he said.

Kouris and his wife Nancy founded Blue Duck Bakery in 1999 in Southampton. Since then, Blue Duck Bakery Cafe has expanded to full-line locations Southold, Riverhead and Greenport. Their artisan breads are produced at their Southold location and are delivered fresh daily to restaurants and grocers from Montauk to New Jersey. Whole Foods sells a line of Blue Duck rye breads.

“For Blue Duck Bakery, our challenge is to maintain our artisan standards while growing from a few hundred loaves daily to several thousand loaves daily,” Kouris told Dessert Professionals. “It is not only the end result we pursue, but the sense of pride we find on this daily journey.”

Blue Duck co-owner Nancy Kouris said she is “overjoyed that Keith has gotten the recognition he so deserves. Artisan bread baking is a passionate craft and Keith’s passion resonates throughout his business and dedicated staff,” she said.

“Part alchemy, part artistry, making a loaf of bread requires the most technique and precision among all culinary endeavors, and the men and women on our Top Ten list are among the best bread makers in the country,” Dessert Professionals editor Tish Boyle said.

The Blue Duck Bakery Café was also named one of the top twenty bread bakeries in America by Saveur Magazine in 2012 as well as having one of the best loaves with their Finnish ruisleipa.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.