As I look back on the past week, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the amount of change that has happened in such a short time. I began to write about my time working at the bakery, but life got in the way. Today’s blog will consist of some of my time at the bakery, but I also want to write about my search of good and true products in the food world. I advise you to pay attention to what you order in restaurants, bakeries, and even coffee shops; not everything is as “pure” as people say it is.
Spending time in a bakery in the heart of Santa Monica for a few days made me wonder about how well these folks are doing financially in their business, when they have to compete with chains that are seemingly doing the same thing they are, but are probably much better funded and so can respond to changes in tastes and trends. I was working during a time when the bakery was closed, so I never got to see how many clients they got, but I could only imagine how difficult it would be to compete with a place that does what they do, but is franchised and more corporate. Franchises are interesting to me…how can a company promise that each menu will be the exact same at every single one of the locations? In my experience, consistency can only really be based on a relationship with the person who is making my food (like, I will change my drink order at Starbucks based on who is making it), while a franchise solely relies on ingredients and recipes. But what if a worker (most likely underpaid) is not checking for cross-contamination? Or that the gluten-free flour is really going in the gluten-free bread?
There is a well-known, upscale casual (as in, you order from a counter but still get table service) café and bakery chain in LA that trades on the fact its ingredients are organic and they have a lot of gluten-free options. I’ve been to it a few times, and every time I’ve been disappointed by 1) that their commitment to eating organic seems like it’s only there to sell food; and 2) the sheer number of people who seem to be ordering gluten-free because its trendy and not because they are actually allergic. As someone who actually has Celiac Disease, this makes me roll my eyes.
But even more than that, each time I’ve eaten there I have gotten sick off of things they’ve told me don’t have corn or gluten in them. It’s this sort of thing that a personal relationship with the cook or baker (and further up, the baker with their suppliers) can help keep from happening.
The reason I liked the bakery I worked for was because the Head Baker, Clemence Gossett, knows what she is doing, and also knows me. She has invested time in searching for good ingredients and has then created delicious baked goods. I like knowing the person who has invested their time and energy into creating something for people that will taste great. I believe in good products, even though I might not be able to eat all of them. Clemence is knowledgeable about what contains corn and what doesn’t, and I trust a person who has studied food and the practice of it from experience, and not only from the theory of a classroom.
If you ever are in Santa Monica, go visit The Curious Baker at The Market. And if you are very curious, walk a few hundred feet more and sign up for a cooking class at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. You won’t be disappointed!