World champion baker Jory Downer called it a much-needed facility to enhance bakery education. Jacquy Pfeiffer, president and founder of The French Pastry School, expressed his enthusiasm about the opportunity to further elevate innovation in pastry and baking.

Puratos welcomed a number of top bakery and pastry professionals to the Oct. 22 grand opening of its newest Puratos Innovation Center, which is located in the up-and-coming Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. The 6,700-square-foot facility features a 1,650-square-foot bakery with state-of-the-art equipment, chocolate room and much more. The interior design is highly conducive to creative ideation with plenty of space to bring inspirations immediately to the workbench.

“Chicago is a trend-setting city for food, and we are excited to be here,” says Andrew Brimacombe, president of Puratos USA. “Districts like Pilsen are continuing to thrive for artists and chefs and, as an innovation company, we see it as a fantastic fit. Our mission is to help our customers grow and improve business.”

The Puratos Chicago Innovation Center marks the international company’s sixth in the United States, and Puratos has 83 innovation centers worldwide. The company manufactures in 60 countries across the globe and sells in 100 countries.

“The DNA of who we are is that we believe in being local,” Brimacombe says. “We have great products that are used the world over, and we want to be close to our customers so that we can focus on local applications.”

The bakery features top-notch equipment including MIWE ovens, Rondo sheeters, spiral mixers and Koma retarders, and the patisserie includes a Koma blast freezer and chocolate tempering machines. The entire facility is temperature and humidity controlled.

Their goal at all Puratos Innovation Centers is to feature relatively similar equipment, so that work can be consistent. “Our objective is to be more standardized, which allows a certain level of repetitiveness,” Brimacombe says. “When you say you are an innovation company, you have got to back it up. This place makes you want to experiment.”

The design of the historic building, once the site of the lumberyard of the World’s Fair, features an openness that evokes the feeling of being at home. Large glass windows bring in natural light throughout, and the interior setup allows all to move effortlessly from room to room.

During a tour of the facility, John Schifferdecker, Central Region general manager for Puratos, points out the interior hallways showcase various important initiatives at Puratos, such as the Puratos Sourdough Library for sourdough breads and Cacao-Trace program for better tasting chocolate through expert fermentation.

“We keep an open feel with a focus on flavor,” he says. “The caliber of chefs that we have here is incredible.”