NorCal CW Rep extraordinaire Marcia Little first met and starting doing business with Tartine Founder/Owners Chad Robertson (Baker), and Elisabeth Prueitt (Pastry Chef), 20 some odd years ago when they opened their bakery in downtown Mill Valley, CA. They became fast friends. Marcia shares, “If asked what singular thing has made them so successful I would have to say it’s them, Liz and Chad as a team and how they treat their employees who all become a family with one common cause,’ to create a thoughtful expression of modern craft through good food and warm experiences.”
Now with three Tartine venues in Norcal, three in SoCal, and five in Seoul Korea, Liz and Chad’s integral dream of “Tartine,” has proved a fertile one. Marcia offers, “When they began in Mill Valley it was Liz making cakes and Chad doing the bread, this, of course, has changed and they now have teams of people and a lot of new young talent, doing this for them.”
To get a fresh perspective on the ever-rising franchise, CW Mag had the pleasure of speaking with two of Tartine’s “young and talented,” Lead Pastry Chef Kristina Costa (Tartine Bakery), and Sous Pastry Chef Kristen Sinclair (Tartine Manufactory).
San Francisco CA
Lead Pastry Chef Kristina Costa
Lead Pastry Chef (Tartine Bakery) Kristina Costa, originally from New Jersey, fell in love with the Tartine Cookbook which led to an apprenticeship as a baker. This was followed by her attending culinary school at AB Tech in North Carolina which utilizes the same curriculum at The Culinary Institute of America.
Having studied sculpture at Skidmore College in upstate New York, Kristina’s affinity for Tartine’s unique, “rustic but beautiful” pastries and breads was born organically. Costa shared, “Tartine was my example for what a pastry should look like. You can tell that there is tons of craftsmanship behind everything they do. Pastries are something special that people experience. It’s important to create something beautiful to capture that moment.”
In this bizarre time of quarantines, postponements, cancellations and shut downs, finding pleasure in simple, albeit extraordinary treasures like Tartine’s artisan bread and pastry have taken center stage in the lucky neighborhoods they occupy. Kristina commented “We’re selling a surprising amount of cakes! It has been really nice to that we can
provide something for people to celebrate any
opportunity right now.”
On Tartine’s current state of the game and survival tactics, Costa shared: “We streamlined the menu so that we can operate with fewer people in the kitchen which also keeps us from having to work shoulder to shoulder. It was especially hard at first but now it just ‘the new normal.”
Commenting on Tartine’s full circle philosophy of seasonality and working with local farmers and millers, Kristina shared how she personally contributes to this in her role as Lead Pastry Chef. “Being from the East Coast, I never knew that there were different varietals of strawberries all with different types of flavors or blueberries that are all different colors and so beautiful. Even now when we’re selling around 50% of what we normally do, I couldn’t sleep at night if I wasn’t continuing to buy all of the various groups available to me now from our farmers.”
“Last week fresh local blueberries came in, and we all stood around tasting them and we all agreed during these times, these fresh berries tasted like hope. They actually give us hope.”
It’s so important that we’re supporting our local farms and the fresher the better. And we know these farmers have core values, that they pay all of their workers a living wage. This is so important, especially now when essential workers are not necessarily taken care of the way that they should be and so many are risking their health so that they can work.
In such challenging times, the proverbial “silver lining” for many venues has been the underlying sense of community and gratitude for the opportunity to work, despite all of the risks and challenges that the pandemic presents. Costa shared, “Most of us don’t live near our families. Both the general manager here and I believe that this is our family now.”
As our conversation wrapped up, Kristina drew attention to the laughter she had been hearing coming from the kitchen throughout our call. She concluded, “It’s a very precious thing that we have so much conversation and laughter here every day despite all that’s going on. It’s exhausting work. I work my team really hard. Your feet are sore, your hands are sore… So much goes into it, and that is what makes it all so gratifying.”
San Francisco, CA
Pastry Sous Chef, Kristen Sinclair
aving joined the team of Tartine Manufactory by what Pastry Sous Chef, Kristen Sinclair describes as “a bit of luck,” the former veteran restaurant server, (who trained at SF City
College, Culinary School), highlights her gratitude for the
limitless possibility for growth that working at Tartine Manufactory offers.
Kristen shares, “Tartine is a company that really wants to reward employees and bring them up and encourage people to grow and learn new things. You don’t have to have the most experience technically. It’s about work ethic and mindset and being willing to take the time to learn it to the standard of the business.”
Sinclair commented on Tartine’s commitment to keep their prized bread and pastries available to their customers throughout the pandemic, “We’ve stayed open throughout the entirety of COVID. In March, when, when the big scare was happening, we were very happy to see that our customers were still out there forming lines, especially for bread.”
Getting creative about how to fiscally survive the crisis was paramount to Tartine’s survival. Kristen explains, “We started doing ready to bake items. We sold cookie dough and scone dough that was par-baked so customers could bring it home to bake off fresh. This was something new for us and we saw a lot of appreciation from our customers.”
Dependability being at the heart of every surviving and thriving business
relationship, Kristen highlighted Tartine’s nearly two decade liaison with CW Rep. Marcia Little. “We’re able to get certain things with CW that we wouldn’t be able to with other vendors. For example, we produce our own special Chocolate Batons for our Chocolate Croissants through Valrhona. So we’ve been able to have a partnership through Chefs Warehouse, and Valrhona, which is amazing.”
Working with esteemed bakeries and venues such as Tartine Bakery and
Tartine Manufactory, and playing a part in the magic they create is at the heart of The Chefs’ Warehouse mission: To offer the best ingredients to the best chefs and pastry chefs in the U.S. and Canada. Never was it more clear that every ingredient counts, from farmer to purveyor, distributor to pastry chef, and finally to the grateful recipient who gets to have their cake and
eat it too.