Cathy Erway, December 1, 2020
In mid-March, when the then-new pandemic halted New York City’s restaurant business, the rarefied world of fine dining came to a crystal-shattering halt. As a research and fermentation chef at Aska, the Nordic tasting-menu restaurant in Williamsburg, Tyler Lee Steinbrenner was furloughed indefinitely.
As everyone knows, things soon got even worse. And after the killing of George Floyd prompted millions to protest systemic racism — and the hospitality industry’s own systemic injustices came into sharper focus — Steinbrenner started to bake.
“At that point of hopelessness it was like a defense mechanism,” Steinbrenner says. He began ACQ Bread Co., which operates out of a small kitchen in a townhouse in Carroll Gardens that was previously occupied by a catering business. There, he began donating loaves of crisp, wild-leavened, slow-fermented sourdough for protesters, hospital workers, community meetings of political activists, volunteers at community cleanups, and organizers of other mutual-aid projects around the city, hoping they could make sandwiches with them.