Dining Out

La Farm Bakery

Heirloom Southern Grains to French Legacies

By: The Local Palate
La Farm Bakery bread
Written by Victoria Bouloubasis | Photos by Anagram Photography

Lionel Vatinet was in the vanguard of artisanal bread when he opened his North Carolina bakery. Twenty years later, he’s baking heirloom Southern grains into French legacies at La Farm.

Screenshot at  AM

Sitting at a table at La Farm Bakery’s third Cary, North Carolina, location, Vatinet explains why it’s important to anchor a loaf of bread on its side before cutting it. You want to slice through it vertically, to see the interior texture, not crush it. With a loose grip on a knife in his other hand, he gesticulates as if he’s playing the violin, the knife wielded elegantly like a bow. “You have to listen to the music,” he says, as if right on cue. He lowers his ear toward the loaf. The crust crackles under each pass of the knife, detonating into tiny crumbs. “It’s singing,” he says. “You’re singing. Because it’s crisp; it’s soft.”

He’s right. And with the first bite, the crumb is what Vatinet describes as both “dense” and “open.” It’s a soft chew, still warm from the oven. He takes a deep breath close to the bread. “We eat with our nose. Like a wine connoisseur, [you] swirl and smell it. There’s almost as much aroma in a loaf of bread as in a glass of wine. Your nose will tell you if it’s earthy; if it’s sour.”

Today, La Farm bakes off thousands of loaves a day to sell at their three bakeries, myriad farmers markets, and five Whole Foods in the Triangle. Sourdough slowly gurgles at the main bakery, 350 pounds at a time. More than two dozen bakers pass through each day and Vatinet himself wakes up at 1 am, ready to bake. After all of these years, he still values the magical mornings. “The world belongs to people who are up early,” he says.

Passion gets thrown around a lot as a descriptor for chefs. For Vatinet, it’s not an empty platitude. He named his 2013 book A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker (Little, Brown and Company), to demystify bread baking. In 2015, Vatinet was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for its Outstanding Baker award.

These days, part of La Farm’s model is to source the best possible wheat and grain. Through that process, the Vatinets encountered Carolina Ground, founded by baker turned miller Jennifer Lapidus. They all work together to source optimal grains for North Carolina’s varying climate and soil from farmers who, much like Vatinet, are devoted to their lifelong vocation and committed to educating consumers. “With Lionel, it’s all coming from his craft. La Farm is more than committed to the mill,” says Lapidus. “They’re not just purchasing flour, but they want the end-consumer to understand the varieties of grain.”

For the Vatinets, bread is inherently communal. Lionel is back at the table, listening to his sourdough sing. He moves onto the multigrain loaf baked with local honey, its fluffy crumb packed with a light sweetness. 

about this restaurant

  • Address

    4248 NW Cary Parkway
    Cary, North Carolina

    • Bakeries

    • French

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