July 12, 2017

Pascal Rigo: Self-Proclaimed French Bread Savior Needs to Practice What He Preaches

Pascal Rigo
photo credit:  newyorktimes.com
Oh, the irony.  And all about loaves of bread.

Pascal Rigo should practice what he preaches.  

Who is Pascal Rigo?  He's the guy who founded the San Francisco Bay Area La Boulange cafe/bakery chain, which he sold to Starbucks in 2013 for some $100 million.  There was a La Boulange in Walnut Creek, just a few miles from my home.

What's Mr. Rigo doing now in the bakery world?  Glad you asked.  In his current bread-related project, he has christened himself the go-be savior of bakery bread in France.  Read the New York Times article on the topic here.  

Self-proclaimed Savior of bread produced by small bakeries in France?  
Oh, the irony!!

Mr. Rigo laments the closure of local bakeries in France, caused in part by competition from mass-produced grocery store bread, while he himself employed mass production of bread for sale to large retail outlets including Trader Joes and big box Costco.

Mr. Rigo, don't you kinda think your mass production of bread for large retail chains hurt small bakeries, the same type of bakeries across the pond that you now proclaim you will save?

Just sayin'.

And the reason Mr. Rigo’s current La Boulangerie shops in San Francisco each sell only about 50 baguettes daily, as stated in the NY Times article?  Simple.  The bread is just not that good.  One only has to look at the cult-like bread following at San Francisco's Tartine Bakery for comparison.

I am an avid baker, including baking all sourdough breads, rolls, buns, and pizza, so I am aware of the work involved in artisanal bread baking.  One can't be both artisanal and cheap at the same time; quality costs.  Mr. Rigo needs to decide if his current venture is going to compete on (1) quality or (2) price.  He can't compete on both.

And perhaps Pascal Rigo should look in the mirror and decide if he truly intends to practice what he preaches.  He certainly did not do so in the past.

Bake on, everyone.  But if it's bread, make it sourdough!

My Sourdough Bread, a recent bake.
My own recipe.
Tender crumb and golden but not hard crust.
Not too holey so your butter and other spreads don't fall through.
All sourdough, no active yeast.

Sliced homemade sourdough bread from the loaf in above photo.
Want some?

My sourdough starter after I fed it yesterday.
Made with bread flour and bottled spring water.
It  is VERY vigorous, tripled in volume as shown by original rubber band mark.
These are 2 half gallon mason jars nearly full of bubbly sourdough starter.


  1. HOw much yeast is in the sourdough starter per half gallon to get it to rise like that? I would like to try making some.

    1. Good question. I assume you are talking about purchased baking yeast in a jar or envelopes, also called dried yeast or active yeast.

      The answer is: zero.

      The sourdough starter contains all "wild yeast" captured from the air, made by the beneficial bacteria that develops when spring water and flour (yest, just those 2 ingredients) are mixed together. Over time, the sourdough yeast culture begins to naturally form, which results in a sourdough starter. Based on my experience, a vigorous sourdough starter will raise breads way better than purchased active yeast.

      I'll post more about Sourdough Starters later!

  2. Some of the breads in the new york time article look burned. My kids dont like the long loaves, too hard of a crust.

    1. I also do not care for a hard to the point of being burned crust, either, nor do I care for some of the very holey sourdough loaves that gave a crumb that is very hard to chew.

      My sourdough loaf bread recipe results in a loaf that has a tender crumb, not too holey, and a crust that is golden yet not hard.

  3. Most people have never had really good bread. For them it is price. They won't pay a lot for a loaf of bread.

    1. Yes, for some people, price rules. I wish the linked NY Times article compared the cost of bread in the featured tiny French bakery to other sources of bread (such as grocery stores) in the area.

  4. That is tall sourdough bread! looks delicious. I've never baked with sourdough, can you post insturctions sometime?


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