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Traditional bread from Fontanella

The last baker

The Obergrechter Bakery has been in Fontanella since 1977. Baker Oliver Konzett runs the business in the second generation with his wife Conny and drives fresh bread to tourism and gastronomy businesses every day – from St. Gerold to Damüls. More than 30 years ago, the Obergrechter Bäck delivered bread over the pass for the first time. Much has changed since then, a curse and a blessing for what is now the only baker in the region.

Fontanella is the highest mountain village in the valley and is known as the sunny balcony of the Great Walser Valley. Directly at the entrance to the village you will find the historical Obergrechter Bäck. How it came to this unusual name? In the past, all Walser areas were divided into courts. The Walser:innen did not have to do military service, but managed the forests and meadows. They had their own jurisdiction. "There was a court in Sonntag - the lower one and one here in Fontanella - the upper one. My father named the bakery after it," Oliver explains. As a child he already stood in the bakery which his father has founded. When he attended the commercial academy in Bregenz and Bludenz, Herwig asked him if he was interested in continuing the business. "Why not?" thought Oliver, who already had to help out in the business as a teenager to earn his bike. After graduating from high school and serving in the army, he began his apprenticeship as a baker in Lech and completed it in Feldkirch with the journeyman's exam. In 2001, he joined his parents' business, went to master school in Wels after a sabbatical in Lucerne, and took all the reins in 2011.

Everything changed

Since then, no stone has been left unturned. Back then, the delivery area was still limited to the Great Walser Valley, but today, seven days a week, deliveries are made to hotels and restaurants as far away as Damüls. "My father used to have to go from house to house, introduce himself and ask if he could deliver. Today it's all different," says the only baker in the valley. In the spring of 1991, he drove to Damüls for the first time. "We reel off about 80 kilometers every day during peak season and distribute our bread with two vans," says Oliver, who is in the bakery every day during seasonal periods.

Most of the work is done during vacation periods, when the baker's own children would also have holidays. Then the day starts for the baker at one o'clock in the morning on average. "We then bake the breads, my wife joins us at four o'clock, divides them up according to orders, and the bread must then be delivered by half past six," explains the Walser. After that, production continues in the bakery for the next day. "At lunchtime, I lie down for an hour or two and then go for a walk with the dog. That's important for me to get out before the planning and bread orders start again in the evening," Oliver emphasizes.

Every day, new orders come in, mostly by phone, e-mail, but also still by fax. "It's hard to believe, but it's the fastest way. Not everyone sits at the computer all the time, but many write their sandwiches on a piece of paper, press redial and the order is gone," smiles the boss, who, as the first and last person in the company, simply lacks the time for a digital changeover.

Baking bread is a process

In the seasonal business, the Obergrechter Bäck from Fontanella supplies more than 80 customers and delivers around 3,000 ‘’Semmel’’ and grain buns at peak times. "We bake fresh every day, but we have to pre-produce the dough," Oliver reveals, explaining, "It's a fallacy that many have about the dream job of baker:in. With these quantities, baking bread is a complex process that must go hand in hand. Many varieties have to be ready to bake at the same moment so we can use our two ovens efficiently." Always keeping in mind that the breads should be ready by four in the morning. Because that's when they are packed into bags per customer:in, the orders are sorted into boxes, and the car is systematically loaded as they are delivered.

Recently, the assortment had to be greatly reduced due to staff shortages. Oliver has taken over many classics from his father, but has also developed new ideas. "Our customers know what they want, and they get it in good, consistent quality," emphasizes the passionate baker. His flagship product is the "Bauernpärle," as it is popularly known. A bread that is often used for the universally known "Leberkäsesemmel" in Vorarlberg.

"The winegrowers drink their wine themselves, after all. Like them, I see a result every day, which is grueling, but also satisfying."

His bread has a face

Despite the challenges, he has chosen to stay in the family business. "We have the backing from the population and the tourism businesses are happy that we, as a local bakery, supply the bread," says the manager. Making something of your own, we know not only since the Corona bread baking hype, is simply satisfying, he says. "It's creative work that also has a benefit," says Oliver. "And just as one's own children are the most beautiful, one's own bread also tastes best," he adds and emphasizes: "The winegrowers drink their wine themselves. Like them, I see a result every day, which is grueling, but also satisfying."

Besides, the same product never tastes the same with any of them. "Because the story behind it has to fit. Our bread has had a face for decades; you know who is behind it," says Oliver. The balance is what matters to him, otherwise you have to stop, he says. "The advantages outweigh the disadvantages and even if it is sometimes dark, you must never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel," he emphasizes. To him, doing business and living in Fontanella has taught him many things. "Especially that we don't have to move away to have it better. It's just different, but it's not better anywhere in the world. You don't appreciate that until you've been away," the baker affirms and concludes: "Here, you can still drink the water from the tap. I can forget to lock the front door. I can let my children run around outside and show them a real salamander, a deer or a chamois. It's nice that we get to live and work here."