By Shawn Chitnis

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CBS4)– The 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards include eight semifinalists from Colorado, including Andy Clark and his business Moxie Bread Co. It’s an unexpected honor that he says highlights the uncommon baking method he has been championing since he opened almost three years ago.

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(credit: CBS)

“Just completely blown away, totally floored and honored,” said Clark. “I looked at that and ‘Man, is that me? They must have spelled somebody’s name wrong.’”

Clark started Moxie in Louisville in 2015 after a career in baking. He began working with bread at the age of 14 and spent half his life working in the industry before he decided to go out on his own.

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Andy Clark (credit: CBS)

“I found I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s a really fulfilling thing to feed people.”

Part of the success the business has enjoyed in a short amount of time comes from keeping on its staff.

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“We started with an A team and we’ve retained almost all of that A team since day one,” said Clark. “It’s our unique sort of combination that we offer that has made us get any attention.”

One reason why Clark thinks he got on the list of semifinalists for the James Beard Awards was his advocacy for healthy choices in his baking, an emphasis he has placed on heirloom grains since he opened Moxie.

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(credit: CBS)

“How is it possible that humanity has eaten wheat for 1,000 years or 10,000 years and we’ve built civilizations on it,” he said. “In the past 10 or 20 years, suddenly we’re allergic to it.”

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The widespread use of pesticides and certain chemicals in baking has changed how we handle grains in our diet, according to Clark. He says heirloom grains used to be a large part of the food we consumed but what once grew on more than a million acres is now only available on 700 acres. He has started to grow some outside his building in an effort to increase the amount of heirloom grains available.

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Moxie has also become a gathering place for the neighborhood. He thinks the James Beard Awards will attract some additional outside traffic to his small town.

“It’s great to have another reason that people may stop in Louisville and promote local businesses.”

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New customers to the shop will find one regular in line behind another, each loyal to Moxie for its food and the friends they can find inside on any given day.

“It’s everything that this community needs,” said Andrew Fejer. “We needed a great bakery, great espresso, great bread and we have it in spades.”

But even though Clark has a serious mission, he says too often he can’t believe he gets to call what he does each day a job.

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(credit: CBS)

“Some days jams will just sort of break out,” he said. “I get to jump in on them and I say, ‘Man is this work? This is what I get to do every day.’”

Clark joined a customer inside the shop the day he spoke to CBS4 and played guitar with him to a packed room of people enjoying coffee, lunch, or buying bread to take home. A part of the regular routine he has built at his business and the environment he has created for the community to come together.

The other seven semifinalists along with the team at Moxie Bread Co. will find out if they move onto the next round and become official nominees for the James Beard Awards on March 14.

“I have such high reverence for these folks that have done work in this field,” said Clark. “To be among the ones chosen is phenomenal.”

LINKS: Moxie Bread Co. | James Beard Award Finalists

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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