Just across Main St. from the Walla Faces tasting room, the mouth-watering smell of fresh-baked bread wafts onto the sidewalk. The culprit is the Walla Walla Bread Company, the valley’s primary source for high-quality artisanal bread.
I recently met up with head chef and owner Michael Kline for a chat about the Bread Company’s history, its rising success and, of course, the bread.
“A great loaf of French or rye or even wheat has just as many nuances as a glass of wine, really, if you know what you’re tasting for. And then you’re looking for crust, which really comes down to the natural aging of the dough. It takes time, but that’s how you develop flavor.”
“We were constantly reading about the wine business and the great wines that were coming out of Walla Walla. It kind of piqued my curiosity and I knew that the food scene would be coming up behind it.”
Michael is an experienced chef of 20 years and worked at 26 Brix and Creektown Café before switching gears and opening the Bread Company in July of 2009.
“Good quality artisanal bread was something that we had struggled with at Creektown and the Brix. I knew a lot of the restaurants were looking for something a little bit better, something that matched the style of food that was coming up, so that’s where this got started. I hadn’t baked a loaf of bread since culinary school and really didn’t have any desire to be a baker until I saw that need.”
The switch has definitely paid off—the Walla Walla Bread Company sells its product wholesale to a growing list of 25 local restaurants.
“I like to say we do pretty much everyone in town who’s not making their own bread.”
And it’s true. Their loyal client base includes breakfast hubs Bacon & Eggs and Maple Counter Café, lunch spots Graze and Onion World, fine dining options Brasserie Four and Whitehouse-Crawford, and nightlife hot spots Public House 124 and the Green Lantern. The Bread Company even sells to Whitman College’s dining service, Bon Appétit.
But selling exclusively to other restaurants has its drawbacks, especially for a restaurant chef used to instant gratification after putting a meal in front of a hungry customer.
“One of the hard things that I discovered early on was that everything I was doing was kind of being taken away and enjoyed somewhere else, so I wasn’t getting that instant feedback that I was used to.”
Lucky for Michael, he now gets that feedback in the Bread Company’s burgeoning deli-style dinging room and retail space. The perfect fix for those of us looking to get our very own loaf of artisanal bread or a quick breakfast or lunch, it offers a selection of sandwiches, bagels, soups, salads, quiche and pastries alongside the classic loaves.
Everything is made in-house and from scratch using in-season and locally produced ingredients—and you can definitely taste the difference.
“There’s an old adage in baking: ‘The proof of a good baker is in the French bread.'”
Stop on in and put them to the test. I assure you, the Walla Walla Bread Company will do more than measure up.
The Walla Walla Bread Company is located at 225 E. Main St. and is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.