The cult of Bub & Grandma’s Bread
The cult of Bub & Grandma’s Bread
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY : JASON STEWART
Andy Kadin, rail thin and standing 6 foot 3 inches, had no experience in the food industry when he dreamt up a plan to open his own sandwich shop. An obvious first step, he figured, was to learn how to bake his own bread. Turning his home kitchen into a test lab, he didn’t realize was that he was stumbling into a career as one of LA’s most sought after bread-makers. After a friend introduced one of Andy’s loaves to Scott Zwiezen, restaurant owner of LA-favorite Dune, he was asked to supply the restaurant regularly, and thus began the rapid-rise of Bub & Grandma’s Bread. His modesty and ethos for allowing the product to speak for itself has served him well, amassing thousands of devoted bread fans across the world. When friends from New York — skeptical as they are curious of anything that amasses bubbling cult hype nearly overnight — ask about it, I have no choice but to indulge them. Andy’s bread tastes the way bread is supposed to taste; like a bread that existed before over processed ingredients, stabilizers and shortcuts replaced the global staple. Andy’s bread tastes alive with yeast.
A testament to the quality; Bub and Grandma’s seemed to stamp dozens of menus around town overnight. At the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, Andy quietly displays his growing list of retailers that serve his bread, from the NoMad Hotel to Wax Paper, Mozza, to Mh Zh with many more still on the waitlist. On Sundays he bakes roughly 450 loaves of bread, leaving none to spare. On market days he’s forced to make mid-day return trips to the bakery to re-fill his van, only to sell out again before the end of day. Selling out of your extremely perishable product is every food-vendor’s endgame, but for Andy it’s another thing to worry about. Despite upgrading to a facility ten times the size of his last kitchen, he continues to struggle with meeting demand. It is possible however, that barely crossing the finish line is a blessing in disguise; when attainability stays strained, desire increases. As a result, a good portion of his time is spent apologizing for or explaining why they’re sold out, why they didn’t just make more. He does this with about as much patience as humanly possible, but I can’t help but wonder if it ever wears him down.
Welcomely, the bread has no real gimmicks. Baguettes look like baguettes and oblong lumpy galettes without uniform are as charming as his golden brown boules fit for a Bon Appetit cover. Even getting to that base level is alchemy in itself is the reason why we put bread on such a pedestal while simultaneously taking it for granted. Bread this great should be on display, a conversation starter like flowers from the market, left to gently die and be replaced next Sunday. But I live alone, and good bread dies fast. Every time I buy a new loaf, I immediately get it home for the unfortunate degradation. Swaddling it to safety, I take a moment to appreciate it entirely before slicing, bagging, and freezing my loaf like a butcher breaking down rib eyes for the cold case. It’s disheartening to freeze such a perfect thing, knowing that chill is just about the worst thing you could do to it, but sometimes it’s the only way, akin to Wagyu kissed in the freezer for tartare slicing, forever tainted.
I visited Andy’s new space in Frogtown as a fly on the wall for his Sunday morning bake-off. The 6,000 square foot facility has twenty employees now, cranking out hundreds of loaves everyday before sun up. Andy mans the largest oven, a four-doored behemoth with a digital touch screen. Something resembling a paramedic’s gurney raises and slides bread in and out. A 10 foot long peel fishes out any rounds that fell off the belt. Andy is just getting used to the freedom of being able to swing it around the room without hitting anything. He scores each loaf by hand with a razor blade, tuliping open the top crust to get more nooks, crannies, and character. With his new gear and new attitude he doesn’t have to wake up at 2 AM, and is able to start taking on new clients, recently rolling out bread for 71 Above and Los Feliz’s All Time. Everything that isn’t 2,000 pounds or bolted to the floor is on wheels; Sprinter van sized wire racks are wheeled from room to room. Fifty pound sacks of poppy seeds line the walls and he goes through 4,500 pounds of flour per week. Croc and Dansko clad bakers pointlessly cover up with aprons, every square inch of their body covered in flour by shifts’ ends. The Kinks play on an obviously white colored Sonos. Working in unison, they flour, fluff and fold out lumps of dough into baguette shapes, filling up speed racks, each holding 160, and loaded in minutes.
“Sundays are smooth…” Andy proclaims to nobody in particular, while sipping his French press coffee during a brief moment where there’s nothing anyone can do but wait for timers to go off. His bakers use this time to comment on the awful sunburn he acquired while playing stickball in Venice the day before.
When the last run of baguettes hit the oven, everyone swarms in unison to join Chris on the extra curricular table. Chris has been quietly making small cakes and pastries all morning while everyone else powers through the main yield. After hours of unloading red-hot ovens, the thought of picking cilantro leaves off their stem, a task reserved for the bottom rung of your brigade, suddenly sounds charming. Flatbreads are stretched out and finger-brushed with olive oil and chimichurri, then loaded with freshly mandolined fennel to be baked last. The combination of dark browned crust, and pale doughy center shielded from the heat by fennel mirrored pizza and it’s umbrella of toppings. A passerby exclaimed “It’s better without the cheese!” though it was never intended to have any in the first place. Andy’s bread makes you second guess your palate, rethink how things should taste when they don’t look any different from what you’re used to eating.
Andy loads his brand new but bone-stock Mercedes cargo vans with steaming bread, tents, tables, and iPads. He’s still getting the hang of his new loading dock as the sun starts to rise finally. Fifteen minutes later, he’s carrying flat after flat of bread through the crowded market with a calm sense of urgency, politely acknowledging but ignoring his already queued customers until it’s showtime. It’s like watching a celebrity mow their own lawn — you know he could get someone to do this for him, but you like that he still does it. There is already a long line of people who look like they don’t usually wait in line for things. But here they stand, brought together by bread and somehow delighted by the task. Other vendors start popping by to pay their respects while Andy sets up, offering their weekly bounty like dorks at school giving their pudding to the popular kid. A regular customer walks by without stopping and shouts “Coffee?!” to him like they’re two cops on the same beat for years.
Andy looks back to me right before wheels up and says “When’s the day I show up and suddenly nobody wants bread anymore?” I smile and roll my eyes, looking to the line of customers behind him, mentally rehearsing their orders, anxious to get to him before something sells out. They almost act as deputized security guards, making sure a wandering customer knows that there is indeed a line there, perhaps finding strange satisfaction in seeing the look on the wanderer’s face upon noticing the the line wrapping around the corner. There’s a sense of urgency to spend, making their waiting time count more. Like newfound stoners in line at MedMen, the popular legal weed shop, customers culminate orders for their friends and family. Buying an 1/8th for their girlfriend, edibles for a coworker’s flight to New York, feeling naughty with their glowing bag of goodies. They fill up brown paper sacks with fifty dollars worth of bread, giddy to be greedy as they hush the idea of one day showing up with Andy’s bread stand nowhere to be found.