By Melissa Epifano

A quick turn off I-5 brings you to the front door of what looks like an old friend’s house. But you’ve actually just arrived at Creswell Bakery. The kitchen bustles with the sound of whisking, frying, and chopping. And you can’t help but indulge in big whiffs of the bakery’s freshly baked bread. Wooden tables are scattered in the dining room, with families and friends sharing bites and conversations over the noise of their clinking forks.

The mastermind behind this space is Heidi Tunnell, a chef who learned the ins and outs of the food world on one coast and learned to love locally sourced ingredients on the other. She still doesn’t consider herself a baker, but the enticing sweet rolls and loaves of bread on the shelves behind the cash register say otherwise.

Tunnell’s passion for cooking started at a young age. She learned a lot from romping around their family-owned, 1,000-acre farm in Creswell and helping her grandparents with meals in the kitchen, finding adventures in cooking and cultivating. She experienced farm-to-table firsthand, before it became a trendy, worldwide movement.

After high school, she headed to New York, where she attended the Culinary Institute of America. The strict dress code and intense classes gave Heidi the professional edge she still uses today in running her business. New York City is a much different place than Creswell, but despite being on the opposite coast, she found similarities in the way food was made and served. The culinary institute is located in the Hudson Valley, so getting fresh products from local farmers was as easy as it is on the West Coast.

Despite training in one of the food capitals of the world, Heidi realized that Oregon is just as good a place as any when it comes to making food. The Willamette Valley offers an environment that can sustain a whole host of agricultural and gastronomic endeavors. Eventually, Heidi moved back to Creswell, where she opened her own catering company. Shortly afterward, she decided she wanted to spend more time with her family. That’s when Creswell Bakery was born. Heidi’s family still owns some of their 1,000-acre property, and it’s conveniently located three miles from the bakery. Here, they raise a heritage breed of cattle, and the bakery gets all of its beef from the farm—grass-fed with no antibiotics. This is one of a multitude of ways that Heidi sticks to her honest-food philosophy.

The bakery quickly grew into more than just a place for food; it began to function as a place for community. “Friends and families come here all the time to sit and enjoy a meal,” Heidi says. “We now have Friday Nights with Friends, with live music from local bands,” Previously, their famous Barn Night Dinners used to bring crowds of people, and she says they still sometimes get calls asking when their next one is. The bakery now serves as a cozy gathering spot, and she hinted at a new event in the works that visitors can look forward to.

Along with wanting to support the businesses and farms around her, Heidi’s focus on sustainable, fresh, and local ingredients boils down to simply wanting food to taste better. Each meal is reminiscent of a home-cooked one, and the immense amount of detail and quality of ingredients that she puts into making the food goes to show how one person’s ideas and passions can be channeled into fostering a strong community and creating some impeccable dishes.  

182 S 2nd St., Creswell