My Morning With an Artisanal Baker

February 18, 2008


My watch’s alarm chirped at me at 4:15. It was time for me to get my sorry butt out of bed, shower, and make the 15 minute drive to Cary’s La Farm Bakery. I kept asking myself why the hell I had asked to spend a few hours in this award-winning artisanal bakery. Of course, by the time I arrived at 4:50, Philippe Comte had been there for nearly five hours. That’s the life of an apprentice baker, who has come to the US from his home in Paris to learn from a baking master such as Lionel Vatinet. For me, I was just some “journalist” who wanted to spend a few hours with my hands in the dough.

It was February 14 — Valentine’s Day — but I had totally forgotten about that until I arrived to see Philippe pull a dozen loaves of heart-shaped baguettes out of the oven. That would be the theme of my visit with La Farm, as heart-shaped objects ruled the day. Cookies, tarts, bread and more were being made for the lovers of the world — OK, maybe just the lovers of Cary.

Lionel Vatinet has traveled the world, first to learn to make bread, and then to teach others the secrets of the craft, and then, nearly 10 years ago, to open his own bakery with his then girlfriend and now wife, Missy. There was nothing magical about Cary, as Lionel wanted to set up shop in California, but Missy had some family in North Carolina and wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle. So due to the lack of any firm roots, we here in the Triangle ended up being the beneficiaries of their new home. Read the rest of this entry »