Campus News

UK Helps Kentucky Bakeries Develop Nationally-recognized Products

Faculty member Aaron Schwartz, Chef Bob Perry plates a meal with students
UK chef Bob Perry plates a meal with students in the food lab. Photo by Steve Patton, UK Agriculture Communications

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 15, 2022) — In 2014, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment started a collaboration with Bluegrass Bakery to source locally grown wheat and mill it into flour for their products. Recently, that bakery was named one of the best in the state by “Food and Wine Magazine.” 

The business is just one of the bakeries with which the university partners to provide milling services and flour. 

"Bluegrass Bakery wanted high quality flour using local wheat,” said Bob Perry, chef in the UK Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. “We thought this was a fantastic opportunity and a venture which was possible due to multiple departments, like Plant and Soil Sciences and Horticulture, in the college.” 

The partnership is also a hands-on teaching opportunity Perry was excited to pursue. The chef used funds from the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station to purchase a flour mill he could use as a teaching tool at the Lemon Tree, the college’s student-run restaurant. Perry instructed students how to mill the grain and prepare its subsequent products in the Lemon Tree class that he co-teaches with UK lecturer Aaron Schwartz. The chef used the resulting research to include the flour in each of the breads served at the Lemon Tree and show the students that whole grains can be flavorful.  

“Using our facilities, we are able to do a lot of research to find a wheat variety that works for the farmer, the baker and the customer,” Perry said. “I also think that supporting local food systems is important, which is why we only use Kentucky farms to procure our wheat.” 

“We were very pleasantly shocked when we heard the news,” said Jim Betts, owner of Bluegrass Bakery. “There is a sense of pride in being able to use locally sourced materials. This is something that we were really excited to start doing with UK a few years ago.” 

Going into its eighth year, the program continues to expand as researchers in the college screen varieties for aroma and taste with the hopes of Kentucky producers growing other nontraditional varieties in the state to meet the needs of the growing local food industry. It has also expanded to include Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe in Louisville and Sixteen Bricks in Cincinnati. Both businesses have received high marks from the public. 

“Doing this has been a blast,” Perry said. “The university and the people at Bluegrass Bakery were just experimenting at first. Now, as the research into a great wheat variety has developed, we have been able to expand it to include students, additional bakeries and local wheat producers. It’s been a really good experience.” 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.