I recently joined the Bread & Cie wholesale staff from the newspaper industry, a profession that requires you to learn things fast.
Give me an hour and I can tell you everything you need to know about Balboa Park or San Diego Unified’s Choice program or my new boss, Charles Kaufman.
Apparently, it’s not so easy to figure out the bread business.
Did you know it takes two days to make a sourdough baguette, but only one day to make a French one? Or that every bread has a mother? And more happens at Bread & Cie than just baking – there’s packing and delivering and who knows what else.
So to begin my education, I was sent on a 3 a.m. delivery route. My co-workers said this would give me a first-hand look at the restaurants we work with and also help me troubleshoot if we ever ran into delivery problems. But really, I think it was a hazing.
I’d be spending the day with Bobby and when I arrived at 3:15 a.m., he was already there, loading up the truck in the dark. It was one of those mercilessly cold mornings, but in the truck it was warm and cozy and smelled of fresh bread.
Just as I was about to hop in, Agustin, the delivery boss, pointed to my head and said there’s no way I was going anywhere without a hat.
“But I have short hair,” I protested. Baseball caps make me look like a boy.
At 3:30 a.m., Bobby was ready to go and I had a hat on my head.
I’ve been out after-hours before and it was boozy and exciting. This was different. This was work.
Bobby drove through the dark streets, dropping baguettes and batards throughout the Gaslamp, saying hello to the fellow second shift workers. One security guard even gave us gossip about who was staying at the Westgate that night. (A certain football team owner from Texas.)
Then it was time to deliver pastries to the University Club.
I was once invited to the University Club, back when the Copleys owned the newspaper, but after all the tumultuous changes, my lunch never happened. I never imagined the first time I’d see it would be as a bread delivery girl.
Even though it was 4:30 a.m., and even though all the lights were out, the place still lived up to its reputation. The view of San Diego’s skyline was spectacular, and thanks to the flash on my camera, I could see I was walking on marble floors.
We continued up to South Park and Golden Hill, stopping at some of my favorite places (Counterpoint) and discovering new ones (Grant’s Marketplace). We crossed the Coronado Bridge just as the sun was rising, Bobby handed me a scone baked by Daniel, our pastry chef, and, you know, this wasn’t so bad. I think maybe Led Zeppelin was on the radio, but that could be just how I remember it.
Our biggest delivery of the day was to the Hotel Del Coronado.
I wasn’t looking forward to this one only because I know how massive the hotel is and with my scone haze fading, I was getting tired. But guess what? There’s a super secret underground world at the Del and how exciting is that!
Bobby took about 15 or 20 crates of breads and pastries through a dark, narrow tunnel that you can only find after a security guard clears you. At the end of the tunnel, you’ll find a series of kitchens and walkways that let employees get around the hotel quickly. It felt both Dickensian and Goodfellas, with old pipes hanging dangerously close to our bread and employees nodding to each other in secret codes.
It was easily the most exciting thing that’s happened since I’ve joined the Bread & Cie staff and as we finished our route through Rancho San Diego and Bay Park, it was clear that this is definitely not something I can learn in a day.
Here’s to all the adventures on the horizon . . .