Camino Bakery walks the walk

by Keith Barber

Cary Clifford (left), owner of Camino Bakery, speaks with Chuck King on a busy Friday afternoon at the Winston-Salem bistro and wine bar. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

At 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, Camino Bakery is humming with activity, and it sounds like sweet, heavenly music to the ears of owner Cary Clifford. A wife and mother, Clifford has invested heavily in this well-appointed space just off 4th Street in downtown Winston-Salem and it shows in the spacious, lush interior, the smell of artisanally roasted coffees and the amazing breads, sandwiches, cakes and tasty treats that tempt every patron who walks through the door. The vibe is warm and welcoming. Clifford’s customers span the age spectrum and it appears her business venture will soon be paying significant dividends.

“I would say this is pretty typical — Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are our big days,” Clifford says. “We’ve had a lot of interest and lots of customers. It feels like more than a business — it feels like a great community.”

Clifford moved from the lower level of Krankies Coffee to her current location two months ago.

From the uber friendly staff to the small touches — a children’s area, reupholstered church pews and an oversized dining room table — Clifford has created a unique café experience that eschews pretense and makes every guest feel right at home.

Griselda is removing oversized cookies from a Pavailler oven. A marvel of technology, the Pavailler has several decks that can cook breads and pastries at different temperatures, and has a tremendous capacity.

“This oven is our pride and joy for sure,” Clifford said. “It costs about half of what my house costs if that gives you an idea. It’s one of the best bread ovens you can find.”

The Pavailler uses baking stones and radiant heat to give all of Camino’s loaf breads fantastic crust. Clifford said her head bread baker, Horst Biallas, helped her locate the oven.

The workday at Camino begins around midnight when Biallas arrives to start baking bread. Around 4 a.m., Griselda and her husband, Medel, and pastry chef Jill Parkin arrive at Camino and begin preparing pastries. Camino has earned a solid reputation for its tasty treats thanks in large part to Clifford and Parkin. Patrons of Camino Bakery can enjoy cakes by the slice, sweetbreads, cookies, brownies and a variety of pastries.

Camino offers a huge array of fresh breads including whole wheat, challah, sandwich loaf, panne levain, Jewish rye, cinnamon raisin, white Italian, sourdough, demi baguette, multi-grain, baguette and ciabatta.

“My philosophy is to get as much local as possible,” Clifford said. “I think that’s even more important than organic.”

She says she makes it a point to know the egg farmers she buys from.

She even visits the farms to see how the animals are being treated.

Camino features Krankies Coffee and locally blended teas, as well as a variety of wines by the glass including local selections.

It wasn’t that long ago that Clifford was baking out of her home so that she could stay home with her son, Errol, who was chronically ill. Mitchell Britt, the manager of Krankies, had approached Clifford about making baked goods for the coffee shop to allow her to earn a little extra income. But Clifford’s tremendous talent and love for baking created a tremendous demand.

“The demand kind of shot through the roof, so pretty soon we were renovating a spot underneath the coffeeshop at the Werehouse,” Clifford said. “A lot of friends and family helped me out — that was three and a half years ago. By a lot of hard work and fortunate accidents and the grace of Southern Community Bank, here we are on 4 th Street and we just love it.”

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Camino Bakery 310-B W. 4 th Street Winston-Salem