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L.A.'s First Ever Bread Festival Leaves Us Hungry For More

Sara Tiano |
June 8, 2015 | 7:08 p.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

Everybody who was anybody at the Los Angeles Bread Festival had some Lodge Bread Co. toast. (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)
Everybody who was anybody at the Los Angeles Bread Festival had some Lodge Bread Co. toast. (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)
Though Southern California is probably the world capital for gluten-free everything, the artisan, back-to-basics bread movement is officially in full swing, and the first-ever Los Angeles Bread Festival was living proof. 

“I was wondering if there’d be a gluten backlash, a carb backlash, but I think that’s a thing of the past because it got busy in there,” said festival organizer Joseph Shuldiner. “The question is, is there a demand for good bread in L.A., and the answer is yes.” 

The often-busy Grand Central Market was even more bustling than usual last weekend as Angelenos flocked to the free two-day festival that promised a blend of celebration and education of all things bread. 

An at-home flour milling demo at the King's Roost booth. (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)
An at-home flour milling demo at the King's Roost booth. (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)

Artisanal bakeries like Clark Street Bread, Pagnol Boulanger and K&V loaded up booths with fresh boules and baguettes, but couldn’t keep up with the festival’s hungry crowd, many selling out of bread entirely by noon both days. Spread the Love Peanut Butter and Indie Jams shared small-batch samples of some of bread’s best friends, and Lodge Bread Co. drew long lines, slinging thick slabs of toast slathered in homemade preserves and nut butters. 

Shuldiner said celebrating and supporting these local makers was a major reason behind the festival, but the other main goal was to inspire and encourage bread-lovers to try their own hand at growing and baking with whole grains. 

The Speakeasy Bakery, more a community of bakers than an actual bakery, sold sourdough starter and invited people to join their network of amateur bakers who virtually support one another through the struggles of learning to bake bread. When they sold out of starter, they told people to reach out on the Facebook group, assuring us that fellow members would be more than happy to share theirs. King’s Roost, a new “D.I.Y. Emporium” in Los Feliz, was there promoting workshops on at-home flour milling, and many of the presenters and vendors encouraged the crowd to join the Los Angeles Bread Bakers community, which is working to build community bread ovens.

READ MORE: Artisanal Peanut Butter Comany Spreads Love Throughout L.A.

Hands-on workshops gave the crowd a gateway to turning bread into a hobby. People shook mason jars of heavy cream into fresh butter during "Feel the Churn: Butter Aerobics" and learned how to make and maintain their own sourdough starter.

Heavy cream + mason jar + 10-15 minutes of shaking = fresh butter! (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)
Heavy cream + mason jar + 10-15 minutes of shaking = fresh butter! (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)

A varied schedule of presentations and panels offered information on everything from growing wheat and artisanal bread-baking at home to the history of Southern California’s Latino bread heritage. A panel featuring Zack Hall of Clark Street Bread and Nan Koehler of local miller Grist & Toll discussed the bread movement from the perspectives of each link in the interdependent process.

“It was this great round table about this chain where everyone has to work together and everyone has to teach,” Shuldiner said, explaining how growers, millers and bakers have to work collectively to make it work in such a new, shaky market. “I wanted to create this discussion all in one place so people could see how complicated it is.” 

While artisanal baking is represented full-time at Grand Central Market by Clark Street Bread, Shuldiner, who also curates the market’s vendors, is looking for ways beyond this festival to give local, independent growers and millers a space to sell as well.

READ MORE: Clark Street Bread Hosts Pop-Up At Grand Central Market

“We haven’t figured out the economics yet, but we’re going to,” he said. “We’re building an audience of people who understand that it’s going to be more expensive per pound than commercial wheat, but that it’s going to taste ten times better.”

From seed to loaf. (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)
From seed to loaf. (Sara Tiano/Neon Tommy)
He mentions legacy tenant Chile Secos’ plans to offer organic, non-GMO masa harina for homemade tortillas as an example of the progress in this direction, and of the way the Grand Central Market has been able to keep its long and rich history woven into its present incarnation as ground zero for food trends in L.A. The Bread Festival represented that same marriage of old and new, featuring a tortilla-making demo by Claudia Armendariz, the granddaughter of the original owner of Chiles Secos. 

“It’s about making everything work together, not throwing the old out for the sake of the new,” Shuldiner said. “It’s an example of the beauty of what’s happening down here.”

Between Shuldiner’s seemingly contagious passion for building an inspired community at Grand Central Market and the festival-goers’ passion for fresh, delicious carbs, the first-ever Los Angeles Bread Festival was a clear success. Luckily for those of you who missed it, Shuldiner promises it won’t be the last. Keep your eyes peeled for when it comes around next year, and be sure to come early and hungry. 

Reach Senior News Editor Sara Tiano here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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