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Beth (left) and her sister Amy, 1950s
Beth Hensperger, a Jersey girl transplanted to California in her teens, is a passionate professional and home baker of Irish, Alsatian, and Hungarian descent. She has combined her love of baking, writing, and teaching with the art of baking bread for almost forty years. A natural writer, she shares a birthday with fellow wordsmith Henry David Thoreau. She describes bread baking as "an art with only a few tools." Her style is a cross-cultural down-to-earth approach, adapting traditional and professional recipes for today's home bakers. This is a bridge between the simple and more complex levels of technique. Her approach to baking is old-fashioned, yet creative and innovative. Her work in the food business supports her politics and philosophy of the interdependency of political, social, spiritual, and environmental issues such as sustainable agriculture, home crafts, and love of traditional foods of the world.



St. Michael's Alley - Palo Alto, 1979
 
After years of teaching Montessori preschool, and with no formal culinary training, she learned the basic skills of dessert and bread baking by following an on-the-job apprenticeship working at a popular bohemian bistro-style restaurant in Palo Alto, California, under the talented baker and mentor, Barbara Hiken. Together they developed the two first breads that would be served as an accompaniment with meals, Bran Molasses Sunflower Bread and French Bread, an innovation at the time. People would come to eat just for the bread. Though restaurant trained, she considers herself more of an avid home baker than a chef. In the 10 years of working at
 

Teaching at Yan Can Cook
St. Michael’s Alley restaurant and later traveling and working in different bakeries around the country, Beth was able to build a repertoire of culinary knowledge that is the basis for all her cookbooks.

In response to the popularity of her bread line offered at the restaurant, she began teaching a hands-on baking class at night out of the bakery. This was so successful, she began teaching in 1979 at the local cooking schools: Louise’s Pantry in Menlo Park, Tante Maries in San Francisco, the Classy Chef in Layfayette, Martin Yan’s Yan Can Cook in Foster City, and Epicurious in Los Angeles. The classes were designed to encourage personal creativity as much as encouraging success in culinary techniques. For the next 15 years she pursued her food career through TV, radio, and public speaking while attending cooking classes given by some of the top bakers in America.


Icing a wedding cake onsite
 
She started her own custom wedding cake business. This eventually led to a career in catering when her roommate at the time asked for her to cater her wedding along with making the wedding cake. The business grew fast by word of mouth recommendations.

Her professional writing career began when she was chosen as the Guest Cooking Instructor for the March 1985 issue of Bon Appètit, which coincided with her first cookbook contract. It was through the Alley that Beth met photographer Victor Budnik, who offered her that first book contract with Chronicle Books after he had won an IACP Award for his innovative food photography that started a new look in cookbook formats that has now been copied by many publishers.
 

Bread sold 75,000 copies
This was a team of creative book people that linked Beth with David Barish of Chronicle, Thomas Ingalls Design, literary agent Dianne MacKenzie, and Victor’s photography. The book Bread, sold over 75,000 copies and is still in print. Subsequent feature articles in Bon Appetit included two cover photo spreads.

Beth began her own full-service catering business in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983. She worked as a private chef for one corporate client for over 7 years, providing service to many executives of Fortune 500 businesses. Among the many hundreds of private dinner parties, art gallery openings, weddings, political fundraisers, and private corporate functions she has catered over her twenty years in the business,


Catering a buffet
 
her varied list of past clients range from the late Southwest fine artist R.C. Gorman; Dave MacElhatton/former KPIX News broadcaster; Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy; the Untouchables Movie Production Crew and Kevin Costner; Stanford Tennis Association; The San Francisco Board of Directors of Bank of America; Apple Computer entrepreneur Steve Wozniak; Guitar Player Magazine; and the legal staff, coaches, and members of the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland A's.

In conjunction with the publication of her books, Ms. Hensperger has been interviewed in print as well as radio and television, as well as being included on expert panels for forums discussing baking. She loves radio the best. Hensperger is the best-selling author of fourteen cookbooks on the art of bread baking alone, including Bread Made Easy and Bread for Breakfast (Ten Speed Press) geared toward beginning bakers, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook (Harvard Common Press), Williams-Sonoma Bread (Weldon-Owen), and The Bread Bible (Chronicle Books), a compilation of her favorite recipes from ten years of publishing.
 

Literary agent Martha Casselman
She teamed up with literary agent Martha Casselman in 1988 and learned about the business of publishing. Their collaboration would last over 15 years, producing 18 cookbooks together under four publishers, until Martha’s retirement.

She has been nominated twice for the IACP Julia Child Cookbook Awards, for Baking Bread: Old and New Traditions and Bread for All Seasons: Delicious and Distinctive Year-round Baking, and is the recipient of the 2000 James Beard Foundation Award for Cookbook Journalism in Baking for The Bread Bible. All volumes are all on the shelf at the auspicious Culinary Collection of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusettes.

Hensperger was a monthly food columnist with the San Jose Mercury News (which was nominated for a James Beard Award in newspaper journalism in 2004) working alongside editors Carolyn Jung, another Beard Award recipient, and Julie Kaufmann, who has become her co-author on numerous books. Baking by the Seasons developed its own following of dedicated readers and was written for over 12 years until the newspaper business downsized and shifted to the internet. She is a contributor to dozens of national and online cooking & lifestyle magazines, such as Food and Wine, Rachel Ray Magazine, Veggie Life, Working Woman, Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, Victoria Magazine, Cooking Pleasures, Shape Cooks, and Family Circle, and is a sought after radio interviewee speaking on cooking, baking, and entertaining. One of her most favorite assignments was working for years for the now defunct Pastry Art and Design, the professional arm of Chocolatier magazine, where she wrote in-depth one-on-one interviews on the top national restaurant pastry chefs under the auspices of one of her favorite editors, Tim Moriarty (now editor at the Wine Enthusiast).



The Not Your Mother's... series
 
Hensperger has focused the last few years on developing countertop appliance-driven cookbooks for the Harvard Common Press: the bread machine, the rice cooker, the slow cooker, and microwave oven. She is the best-selling author of over twenty cookbooks, including the wildly popular, best selling Not Your Mother’s Cookbook series, a multi-volume compilation suitable for use with the electric slow cooker, stressing seasonal ingredients, advance preparation, and creative presentation for all levels of home cooks.

Combining her culinary interests in cultural anthropology, archaeology, geography, mythology, and ancient history, she has written the essay "Legend of the Loaf," tracing the history of sacramental bread baking from the Neolithic. It is the only food-related article in the academic anthology "From the Realm of the Ancestors-Essays in Honor of Marija Gimbutas," (1997) and has been invited to speak on the subject at the Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco and the Smithsonian Institute. She is included in the book "In The Footsteps of the Goddess" by Cristina Biaggi, published Summer 2000, and writes on topics as diverse as global women’s rights and Eastern spirituality in her spare time.
 
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