The irony here is that you seem to have been single-handedly responsible for the rise of ala carte bread in Portland. Everyone advertises "Ken's Bread" on their menus and then charges a couple bucks.
Do you think that this is a result of Portlanders actually undervaluing bread and so not willing to pay higher prices on the menu overall to pay for good free bread, or maybe that it's that we really do value good bread, so we're willing to pay for it if it has a brand we can trust?
Also, do you do anything to ensure that restaurants using your bread don't serve stale 3-day old stuff? Has the wholesale business picked up, slowed down, or stayed about the same?
Heh Heh. I don't think it's an issue of how Portlanders value bread on the menu as much as it is that the restaurants that charge for it are a little different from the more conventional restaurants that build the cost of bread into the menu. I'm trying to remember who was the first to do it, and I think it
was John at Navarre, who charged $1 for bread. Others are Tabla, Clarklewis,
Gotham Tavern, and Park Kitchen who add good olive oil, etc. to the equation
and charge more. Any others? Each of these restaurants began as a convention-breaking
place in large or small ways, mostly run by people starting their first
restaurants on loans and tight budgets. My bread was and I think still is,
the highest-priced on the wholesale market (I think I'm still the only PDX bakery selling bread from organic flour on the wholesale marketplace, and my ingredient costs are much higher as a result), and to justify the cost, having people pay for the bread was a good way to make it work financially, while at
the same time giving some value to the fact of quality bread on the table.
Places with a more conventional menu format, like Paley's or Higgins or Carafe don't charge for bread.
Regarding control over lifespan and service, none of the above mentioned
restaurants, that's not something I can ask, but I don't think any of my restaurants are going to serve bread that's not fit to eat, and if you pay
for it and are not satisfied with it you should send it back. I bake large,
3 kilogram boules for several restaurants and they are good for a couple
days for table service. Some prefer this bread a day old, actually, as the
The wholesale business has been steady for some time. We recently added Fenouil to our list.