Chef Takeover: Doug Anderson, Head Baker of Leven Deli 

BY Linnea Covington

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What does it take to make around 500 sandwiches a day? Follow our social media and find out.

The team behind Leven Deli knows sandwiches, but it’s baker Doug Anderson who knows bread. And tomorrow, you can see what a day in his life at the “bread quarter” consists of. Spoiler, three-pound loaves of sourdough, early hours, and a whole lot of mixers are involved. 

The Restaurant 

Potager alumni Anthony Lygizos and Luke Hendricks opened Leven Deli in the Golden Triangle neighborhood in July, 2018. It’s been raking in praise, awards, and a very large crowd ever since. Everything gets made in house, from the cured meats to the dressings to the large display of side dishes, and the baked goods too. This is where Anderson comes in. The head baker started at Leven six months after the deli opened. He has been leading the bread, dessert, and pastry program ever since. 

While the restaurant part of Leven has remained the same, the bread production and catering side recently moved into a new, larger spot at the end of April this year. Now, Anderson reigns over the 12,000-square-foot facility, enabling him to make even more delicious baked goods with his crew. 

He needs the space too, come this summer Lygizos plans to open Leven Supply, a retail, wine, pizza, and sandwich shop in the Washington Park area. After that opens, we look forward to a new, 500-seat restaurant near the Colorado Convention Center, slated to open at the end of the year. 

The Chef

man making bread
Doug Anderson is the head baker at Leven Deli. | Photo by Leven Deli

Before Anderson joined Leven he ran his own bakery, Hi*Rise. For almost 10 years the chef churned out New York style bagels in the Ballpark neighborhood, garnering a following and satisfying many a bagel craving. Before that, he worked at the Spicy Pickle and the original Mo’s Bagels in Boulder. Bagels were something Anderson knew, especially after spending time in New Jersey at the Bagel Factory. In fact, the owner of the shop gave him recipes, which the baker took back to Denver and used in his own business.

Anderson’s passion for baking didn’t fully come out until he was in his 30s. Over two decades later the chef has learned, tweaked, listened, experimented, and worked with a lot of recipes and techniques. If you want to talk about baking, he’s here for it. If a renowned baker is around, he will take notes. And, if you want to challenge him to bake something, consider it already working in his brain. 

“Baking is fascinating and I love trying new things,” he said. “I am not a trained baker, everything I know I read about or people talked about. I love getting the information and picking out bits here and there to use now or save for later.” 

wood table with sandwiches on white plates
All bread products get made in house, as so does everything else. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Anderson said he’s excited to have the new, larger space. Not only does it give him room to make enough bread to supply the restaurant and catering business, but he can try out new products.

“Because of all the space we can do other things with fermentation,” he added, stating he likes his loaves nice and crusty, a direct outcome of one of his fermented recipes. “Now I am trying to get my crew to start sourdough starters, they are a lot of fun and it’s a living thing, almost like a pet.” 

Spoken like a true baker, who, as it turns out, also has a pet dog, which we are hoping to see on Instagram when he takes over.

The Food

pastrami reuben sandwich
Don’t sleep on the pastrami sandwiches. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Leven Deli is known for sandwiches. But not just any sandwiches, the kind of sandwiches one dreams about, be that the zhoug-marinated chicken shawarma ($18), turkey club ($18), or the perfect Reuben ($20), which gets made with 12-day, house-made pastrami. Of course one thing all these beauties have in common is the bread.  

The bread comes from three-pound loaves of sourdough or rye, which Anderson and his crew bake every single day. Each loaf produces seven sandwiches, and between 80 and 100 loaves are baked daily. Also look for the house-made focaccia, the featured bread on some menu items. But even if you’re not indulging in a sandwich, chances are you’re still trying something Anderson has created.  

The menu includes a rotating line up of fresh baked muffins, coffee cake, scones, and turnovers ($4 to $6). The cookies ($4.50) absolutely should be taken into consideration. Options include oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, and chocolate chip. Other desserts such as double flourless chocolate cake ($4.50) and whoopie pie ($4.50) make the list, but perhaps the star of the sweet show is the chocolate-tahini brownie ($5.50). No matter what, all baked goods prove incredibly fresh. And yes, you can also order baguettes ($5) and the giant loaves ($12) to go. 

The Takeover

cafe with plants
Live plants decorate the inside of Leven Deli. | Photo by Linnea Covington

The takeover will follow head baker Doug Anderson as he goes about his work day. It will not include, he said, waking up before 4 a.m. because that would disturb his wife, and rightfully so, she wants to sleep. 

Expect a lot of baking, a lot of bread, and an insight on what a baker does all day. In the end there may be some tasty shots of where these loaves go. After all, the rye and sourdough provide that loving hug the slew of fresh, house-made ingredients at Leven Deli need. Indulge with us and the restaurant, and enter to win a $100 gift card from the deli by going to our Instagram page, @diningoutmagazine.

Visit Leven Deli Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 123 W. 12th Ave., Denver, eatleven.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linnea Covington

Linnea Covington is the managing editor of DiningOut. She comes to us with a long background in food, restaurant and drinks journalism. Over the last two decades she’s written for tons of publications including Denver Post, Washington Post, Forbes Travel Guide, 5280 Magazine, New York Magazine, New York Times, Time Out New York and more.

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