Will Berndt of Marion Milling wants you to bake local this holiday season.

Photography by Brandon Waldrop.

Will Berndt knows flour. He’s spent a significant amount of time working with it in bakeries such as Ibis and Fervere. But nowadays, Berndt acts as the wheat product’s middle man. His company, Marion Milling, not only produces locally milled flour that’s more flavorful and nutritious than your average store-bought bag, but also happens to be single-handedly building a local grain economy in KC.

“I think we’re one of the only people making the connection between local grain farmers and bakers and restaurants,” Berndt says.

Berndt and his Marion Milling co-founder Chris Matsch first began making their own flour when the two were working at Messenger Coffee on Grand Street. They bought a stone mill from Vermont-based New American Stone Mills and milled flour from local farmers’ grains for the coffee shop’s baked goods. When the coffee brand was bought in 2020, Berndt and Matsch found space in the West Bottoms and began milling flour full time, supplying KC’s restaurant and bakeries.

More than likely, you’ve already tasted Marion Milling’s wheat. It has found its way into the kitchens of numerous local establishments, including The Town Co., Crossroads Hotel, Fortunati Pizza, Savoy, Corvino, and Fox and Bull Baking Co., to name a few. 

It’s not a hard sell. Marion Milling has a direct relationship with nearby farmers, such as 180 Farms in Sweet Springs, MO, making it a sustainably sourced product. Even better, the flavor is incomparable to the big-name brands in the grocery stores. Why? Because unlike the roller mills that the high-commodity flours use, stone mills are able to grind almost the entire wheat berry, including the nutrient-dense bran and germ. Most flours lack these extra components, only grinding down the wheat’s starchy endosperm. 

“The wheat germ is ground into the flour, so you get all those oils and nutrients from it,” Berndt says. “But it also has all the aroma, flavor and individual character of the different wheats. The first time we baked with it, it was pretty amazing.”

Instead of the neutral flavor you may get from Gold Medal or King Arthur, Marion Milling’s flour is wheatier, nuttier and full of depth. When asked if there’s a baked good that Marion Milling’s flour is particularly excellent for, Berndt replies, without hesitation, “breads.” Those trying their hand at baking this time of year can purchase the flour online, and bakers can feel free to reach out to the company’s website with any questions. 

“It’s fun to use [flour] that is fresh, that hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse for who knows how long,” Berndt says. “We mill all our flour to order, so when you put in an order, we mill it, bag it and send it out.”  

Perfect Day

Diner breakfast: I’m partial to any place that has a counter with stools that you can sit at with a cup of coffee. I like Hayes north of the river or City Diner in the River Market. Just a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. 

Bakery: Obviously, I’d recommend the bread at Ibis since I helped put that together. But 1900 Barker is great. Taylor [Petrehn’s] laminated doughs, like croissants, are always great.

Movies: I’m a big fan of the Screenland Theatre in North KC. It’s a great independent movie theater. I appreciate that it’s owned and run by people who actually like movies. It’s a good vibe over there, kind of nostalgic. If I’m free in the afternoons, I’ll check out some of their older movies. 

Tacos: I’ve been grabbing Tacos Valentina at Torn Label. They’re doing some cool stuff. I usually get a variety of tacos, but their burrito is really good also. 

Dive Bar: At the end of the day, I’ll usually grab a domestic beer at Lucky Boys. They don’t bat an eye at the fact that I’m covered in flour from head to toe. And you can order pizza from Fortunati next door. 

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