These California Grain Geeks Want to Boost Your Immune System With True Whole Wheat

But that’s not necessarily what’s on your local supermarket shelf

Mark Bittman & Melissa McCart
Published in
10 min readAug 24, 2020


Closeup of a round, dark brown loaf of bread on a wooden surface.
A loaf from The Mill, made by Josey Baker in San Francisco. Photos: Kate Robertson

The way lines snaked out the door of her Rockridge shop, you’d think there were no bagels to be found in Berkeley, California, when Emily Winston opened Boichik Bagels in December.

A great bagel, boiled then baked, chewy on the inside with a leathery crust, was once impossible to find here. As New York-area transplant Winston took things into her own hands, she ended up creating a bagel that outshines the benchmark. That’s because she uses superior flour — much of which is whole grain — and that translates not only to better flavor but higher quality.

Some of her whole wheat comes from Bob Klein, a neighborhood fixture who, with his wife Maggie, has run Oliveto, one of the East Bay’s best and best-known restaurants, for over 30 years. Klein started Community Grains as a passion project just over a decade ago, and it’s become his mission in life.

The exterior of Oliveto in Oakland, California.

Community Grains contracts with farmers to grow heritage wheat locally, fairly, and sustainably. With that grain, the company makes flour, breads, and pasta — preserving all of the germ and bran, where a majority of the nutrients reside, most of which are lost in the production of white flour.

Klein also prioritizes transparency in every step of the harvest. This includes knowing the farmers — Paul Muller of Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley and Fritz Durst of Fritz Durst Farming and Tule Farms in the Sacramento Valley — the seed sources, soil management practices, when grains were milled, how they’re stored, the protein levels, and industry analysis of the flour. This might be common among principled chicken or tomato growers, but it’s rare in flour, and could change the way we look at bread.

Klein believes we should eat more whole grain, and he’s probably right. The recent 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommend that all Americans make half or more of their grains whole grains.