Origo Bakery has a mission statement. And it has less to do with the bread and everything to do with the planet. 10 years ago, Françoise was working for Google photos. His job took him from his native Belgium to Dublin and then onto San Francisco. It was there that he coincidentally rented an apartment next to Tartine.
Except he didn’t know it was famous, it was his local bakery and they had exceptionally good bread. (Because it’s Tartine!)
A trip to Thailand with his girlfriend where they both volunteered at a Permaculture farm opened his eyes to what farming can be as opposed to what it is. “Commercial wheat only grows about 30 cm high, it has shallow roots because it is doused with synthetic fertilizer. Its nutritional content is very low. Ancient wheat on the other hand, which is what I use, grows up to 1 meter 20 and has a deep root system that draws in nutrients. It doesn’t need much intervention because it is growing where it should be. For this reason, I work with Triticatum exclusively.”
“So the reason you opened a bakery…?” I prompt him.
“It could have been anything, it didn’t have to be bread, it’s about having a positive contribution, even a small one.”
His statement makes me want to reach out and prod him, to check that he is real.
“But bread – it requires time, patience and nurture.”
“Yes, I like working with bread. I did an internship in Paris at Le Bricheton (a bakery that uses ancient kinds of wheat) it cemented my decision to open Origo. They used a very similar method to Tartine and to the one I use.” He sweeps his arm around the room.
“We have no machines, everything is mixed by hand but we don’t knead the bread. We mix it thouroughly to make sure there are no lumps of flour, then allow it to ferment for 17 hours.”
“And your odd opening hours?” (Origo is opened from 17:00-20: 30, 5 days a week.)
“Ah, that’s because the flour makes up a large part of our costs. Right now it’s just Ana and I. (Ana who is getting her masters in agriculture.) She bakes and I serve customers one day and then we switch. If I were to get a shop assistant now, it would make the bread prohibitively expensive.”
“And what if while you are in here making bread and a regular knocks on the door, will you open?”
“Usually when I am making bread, I am so absorbed in it, I don’t even notice if there is someone at the door.”
And the bread? I try 2. 4 ancient grains & Montcada. 1/2 kg loaves. Both are eaten within 24 hours.
Carrer de Milà i Fontanals, 9