This is part 5 of our special report on the rise of artisan bread and the bakeries that manufacture it.
Acclaimed bread baker Chad Robertson has long worked to bring artisan bread out of the niche market and into the mainstream. His small-but-renowned Tartine Bakery in San Francisco has maintained its success for going on two decades. A Tartine Manufactory that opened in 2016 in San Francisco will soon be joined by a second manufactory in Los Angeles.
“For me, Los Angeles is an opportunity to collaborate with other bakers and chefs to really do something special,” Robertson said during the International Bread Symposium at Johnson & Wales University. “The Manufactory is a forum to present bread in every possible way to the public.”
The San Francisco manufactory is 5,000 square feet of open-to-the-public space that serves everything from savory breakfast pastries to flatbread sandwiches. In Los Angles, Robertson is working with celebrated pizza master and restaurateur Chris Bianco. The new manufactory will feature artisan bread baking, on-site grain milling, on-site coffee roasting and more.
“Guys who taught me were milling everything fresh. It’s amazing,” Robertson says. “I want to get back to using lots of fresh-milled stuff. There’s no other way to get that flavor.” Of course, that’s not always the easiest, or most economical, way to get things done. “For me to mill everything myself is too much,” he says. “So why not work with fresh millers nearby?”
If Robertson has his way, places like his will lead to a bread-eating culture in the United States that’ s a bit German.“If you have a bread-eating culture like in Germany, you have bread with every meal,” he says. “They’ve figured it out. We’re trying to push everything forward. I’m super excited to be working with Chris Bianco and other chefs in Los Angeles. We make an egg sandwich. So we ask, how do we make a better bun? At lunch, we serve focaccia, and we are adding diverse grains — some without gluten. We are milling grains fresh for our pasta, and fermenting our own pasta. The biggest idea from this is to build an environment, invite chefs and bring in the best foods possible to people all day long.”
And like every artisan producer trying to reach a larger audience, the same question keeps presenting itself. How do you scale without compromise? Robertson says it’s all about taking cues from both sides of the spectrum.
“Everybody loves the little bakery out in the countryside,” he says. “But then you scale it and you might lose what you had. The commonsense solution is that you do both.”