With L.A. Opening, Tartine Positions Itself for World Domination
On Tuesday, the 40,000-square-foot The Manufactory at The Row began its roll-out opening in the Fashion District of Los Angeles; the sprawling complex's much-hyped restaurant, Tartine Bianco, opened its doors. The high-ceilinged building has oversized windows on all sides, allowing light to fill its large, airy spaces. Coral and cerulean hues adorn the windows, seating, and ceramic ware, differentiating between its two restaurants and marketplace. There’s a soon-to-open coffee lab, and a bustling coffee roastery with a walk-up window, which opened last week.
In the belly of the compound lies a coffee roastery fueled by a 120-kilogram vintage Probat roaster, as well as vacuum-powered flour delivery system to the bakery upstairs, which is equipped with nine-layer deck ovens and a chamber that can proof 3,000 loaves of bread at a time. Three more Tartine locations are slated to open in Silver Lake, Hollywood, and Santa Monica in 2019, and they’ll source their coffees and breads from the Row.
If that sounds like huge uptick in overall Tartine square footage, it is. Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco, which Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt opened in 2016, is just 5,000 square feet. Prior to the Manufactory, there only existed the original Tartine Bakery & Cafe, open in 2002.
“When I was first starting out with a wood-fired oven, I was pretty proud to make 200 loaves of bread," says Robertson. "You liked it because you couldn’t get it and there wasn’t much. Third-wave coffee went through much of the same thing, micro- this or that, where everyone’s talking about what you can’t get.”
At some point, Robertson and Prueitt realized that instead of being confined to the limited high-quality grains that were available piecemeal, expanding the business could influence the supply chain through relationships with the farmers.
“Before, we were always looking for the best product out there, including the best flavor and the best nutrition," says Robertson. "You can find good grain and that sort of thing if you’re small and buying whatever’s out there, but you don’t have any sort of scale to influence the supply chain….Eventually, I wanted it to become more about bringing this high-quality, nutritious, tasty food to more people and making it more available and more affordable."
About five years ago, Tartine started building infrastructure with the grain breeders at Washington State University and partnered with Cairnspring Mills in Skagit Valley, Washington. Their grains went live after the mill construction was completed, just after Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco opened in 2016. Robertson is deeply involved with developing and tweaking these grains with them, selecting for flavor and nutrition.
That same year, a partnership with Blue Bottle Coffee fell through and Chris Jordan was brought on to build the Manufactory’s in-house roasting business. Now, he’s COO and in charge of not only their coffee supply chain but prefinances crops with grain farmers. Tying all of these parts of the Manufactory together is sourcing these ingredients to scale. “We’re working with the University of Michigan right now to look at the cost of production and ultimately what’s a sustainable price for producers,” Jordan explains.
On the coffee side, Jordan has eliminated the middle man known as the importer, as he cultivates the relationships himself, traveling extensively to Africa and bringing to the table his experience of having lived in Ethiopia while working for an NGO called Technoserve, which supports enterprise in the developing world. He’s able to buy a whole shipping container and, instead, pay what he’d normally pay to the importer to the origin producer. These direct relationships also allow Jordan to find more interesting coffees to offer customers than the varieties normally shown to importers, which are meant to be broken up into different containers.
If the formula for Tartine achieving world dominance is completing the circle between supply and the consumer, taking that feedback and refining the ingredient supply again, they are very much on its way. In 2018 alone, Tartine opened three locations in Seoul, Korea to wide acclaim and long, long lines of eager customers, which now span many generations. Seoul’s flagship location, too, has its own 22kg-kilogram vintage Probat coffee roaster; grains are sourced from both Washingtonian and Korean farmers. “We are still working on sourcing more locally in Korea. Like in the States, we are willing to build a direct sourcing with farmers [here] too,” says ChulJoon Park, of Tartine Bakery Seoul.
Their presence in the Bay Area is still growing, too. The Manufactory Food Hall in San Francisco Airport’s International Terminal —a collaboration with Kin Khao and Cala—just opened last week. Two more locations are forthcoming, in Inner Sunset on 9th Avenue and in Berkeley (location still to be announced), both slated to open in the first quarter of 2019.
The Manufactory at the Row, 757 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, 212-375-3315.