We had the good fortune of connecting with Neil Tigner and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Neil, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Knowing when to take a risk has been a significant factor throughout my career. I tend to be risk averse in most situations — you won’t catch me jumping out of a plane or swimming with sharks — but when it comes to work, I find that calculated risks get you much further than sitting back and waiting for things to happen to you. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am today without having taken a giant risk: after 20 years at a comfortable, corporate job in the financial services sector I resigned and, after some serious soul-searching, decided to go to culinary school. Had I not taken that leap I would likely still be sitting behind a computer each day, instead of baking bread and pastries. I was lucky to have supportive family and friends who allowed me to talk through all of my insecurities and apprehensions, and who really encouraged me to take the risk of pursuing my passion. Now that I am a baker, risk comes in different forms: as I’m creating new recipes, I am always taking a chance that a creation I’m personally proud of will not satisfy my customers. What I love most about baking is seeing the look on someone’s face as they take that first bite — but each time I serve a loaf of bread to someone, I am putting myself out there and risking disappointment if they don’t like it, or don’t respond as I hope they will. But without taking those risks, what is life? I’ve found that true personal satisfaction comes from pushing myself in new directions, and I take my inspiration from a quote by T.E. Lawrence: “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” I take risks, and push myself each and every day in new directions, so that I may act my dreams with open eyes and make all things possible.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a professional baker, I wake up each day with the goal of making people think about bread differently. There are so many varieties of bread to be found throughout the world — it is one of the oldest foods, and one that exists in some form in every culture. When I bake a perfect loaf, I feel a connection to all of the bakers who have come before me and a responsibility to respect their work. It has not been easy to get to this point; I basically started my life over at the age of 44 and feel like I need to work harder and faster than everyone else to catch up. But I also feel a clarity of purpose in my work that I never felt in my first career — and that keeps me going when my mind and body might want to take a break. In my current position as Head Baker at BreadEx, I’m able to create new and exciting recipes and to draw influences from around the globe. We have the unique opportunity to introduce our customers to new textures and flavors each week. Right now we’re in the process of expanding our bakery to serve even more of our neighbors, and I look forward to delivering them both exciting new options and familiar, comforting loaves in the years to come.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As a fairly recent transplant to the Dallas area, I’m still exploring everything like a tourist myself! Over the past few months, I’ve been to several places that I think will be fun for visitors when they arrive. I like to be outside on the nice days, so I think we’d definitely take a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo for a day of wandering around with the animals…on the way home, a side trip to Buc-ee’s for some fudge would definitely be on the agenda. A day spent in Downtown Dallas would also be a must: first a trip to the Farmer’s Market, and maybe some lunch from one of the stalls there; then to the top of Reunion Tower, where we could check out the city from above; and finally some time to reflect on history with a walk around Dealey Plaza. For dinner, we’d definitely grab some barbecue from Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum or, closer to where I live, at Tender in Frisco. On really hot days it’s always nice to be inside, and that’s the perfect time to head to The Perot Museum. On the flip side, cool evenings are a great time to head to Legacy West in Plano for great people watching and tasty food options at Legacy Hall.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people have helped me to get where I am, foremost my family and close friends who have supported me through all of life’s adventures. I am also so appreciative for the training and mentorship I received from Chef Mario Bacherini, who helped me realize that I had a talent for bread and baking. And finally I have to recognize the global community of bakers, and specifically members of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, who share their knowledge and experiences freely and without ego.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neilmakesdough/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/natigner

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