By HOWARD FINE

Staff Reporter

You might call it falling back on a hallowed family tradition.

Four years ago, during a tough time for illustrator Suzanne Dunaway and her film-industry husband Don, a chance remark from a friend prompted her to return to the passion of her Texas childhood: baking bread from scratch.

"My grandmother, aunts and mother, they cooked nearly everything from scratch," said Dunaway. "That's the way everything was done in Texas."

Dunaway never totally gave up making bread based on family recipes while she pursued her illustrating career. But it remained a hobby, until one of her friends remarked, "You know, you really should start selling these breads. They are absolutely fantastic."

That suggestion hit at just the right time. With work becoming more sporadic and hefty mortgage payments to make on a Beverly Glen home, Dunaway took some of her bread to the corner market and asked the owners if they would be interested in putting it on the shelves. They agreed to give it a try. So Dunaway converted her kitchen into a makeshift bakery one night and made several loaves, bringing them to the store the next morning.

The breads sold out, and the owners of Beverly Glen Market called to ask for more.

"Every night after dinner, my husband Don and I would turn the whole house into a bakery," Dunaway said. "We'd stay up almost all night, only catching an hour or two of sleep once we'd delivered the breads."

In the four years since then, Dunaways' bread-making business called Buona Forchetta Inc. (literally "good fork" in Italian, meaning good food) has thrived. Three years ago, the Dunaways moved the business out of their house and into a former print shop tucked away in an industrial area just south of Olympic Boulevard and west of the San Diego (405) Freeway.

In the last 12 months, Buona Forchetta has grown to a $1.2 million business with 30 employees. Suzanne still runs the bakery while Don Dunaway keeps the books. The company has carved out a niche as an artisan bread wholesaler, with accounts at more than 50 local markets including Gelson's, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods Markets and a handful of restaurants, such as Houston's and Sonora Cafe.

The Dunaways have capitalized on a growing consumer demand for specialty hand-made European-style breads, known as artisan breads. They are typically baked fresh daily from scratch and can cost $5 a loaf or more.

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