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Visit North Carolina’s La Farm Bakery and you’ll discover a Master Baker who’s risen as one of the highest quality bead producers in America – Lionel Vatinet – recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a semifinalist for “Outstanding Baker” in 2015, 2016 & 2017. Thanks to his depth of knowledge – from growing and milling to fermentation and baking – Lionel Vatinet has been one of the foremost forces in American artisanal bread baking for the past 25 years, traveling the world teaching as a consultant to well-known bread brands, and finally opening his own bakery in Cary, NC in 1999, La Farm Bakery. In November 2013 Vatinet introduced his first artisan bread book, A PASSION FOR BREAD: LESSONS FROM A MASTER BAKER (Little, Brown & Co), sharing his techniques and teachings with home bakers everywhere, and in 2017, is expanding with a new production bakery and more.
Vatinet’s passion for bread was first nurtured when he joined France’s prestigious artisans’ guild, Les Compagnons du Devoir, at age 16. After apprenticing with European bakers, and forming lifelong friendships with other Compagnons such as Eric Kayser, Vatinet emerged 7 years later with hard-earned title of Maitre Boulanger, pledging to devote his life to teaching, sharing and preserving the ancient art and science of bread baking.
Rather than propagate secrets, Vatinet’s mission has always been to demystify bread baking. He’s dedicated his life to sharing his knowledge, consulting nationwide and abroad for bakeries, in-store bakery programs and manufacturing par-bake programs, training bakers in Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, Canada and the United States. In 1995, Vatinet was the founding instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute, the first school of its kind in the US. Bakers from the most respected bakeries in America – La Brea, Acme, Zabar’s and Panera – traveled to SFBI to study with Vatinet, who has been credited not only for his skill and passion, but also for his knowledge in maintaining quality while increasing production – a critical component to the growth and success of the artisanal bread baking industry in America.
After years traveling the globe with yeast and flour in hand, Vatinet, along with his wife and partner, Missy, realized his lifelong dream opening La Farm Bakery, and 10 years later, expanded with a café. La Farm Bakery is a modern bakery that continues the centuries-old baking traditions and techniques and honors the ordinary yet extraordinary boulangeries that once flourished in every little town in France. Vatinet produces 15 different styles of breads daily, and over 20 seasonal breads throughout the year using a European-style hearth oven, and is best known for his signature “La Farm” sourdough bread – an impressive five-pound boule with an intense flavor, similar to those still enjoyed on farms throughout France. Vatinet possesses a superior understanding of the fundamentals of French bread baking and a zeal for American innovation, and as a result has developed imaginative breads such as Asiago-Parmesan, White Chocolate Mini Baguette, Cinnamon-Raisin-Pecan, Multi-Grain and Honey-Spelt. Vatinet also proudly uses only Carolina Ground for his whole wheat and rye flours – flour made from organic, heirloom, North Carolina-grown and milled wheat, and historic Yates Mill’s cornmeal for his Yeasted Cornbread.
Among Vatinet’s achievements are coaching Team USA to the Gold Medal at France’s La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in 1999. In 2000, Vatinet was highlighted in “Artisan Baking: Baking By Hand, The Recipes, The People, The Science,” and his breads have been featured at the James Beard Foundation, in O Magazine, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart, and his cookies on “The Rachel Ray Show.” Vatinet continues to lend his expertise, consulting for bakeries, and teaching home bakers around the country, through the Bread Bakers Guild of America, and as the featured baker at Asheville’s Artisan Bread Bakers Festival. In 2012 Saveur recognized La Farm Bakery as one of the “20 Great American Bread Bakeries” and USA Today celebrated La Farm Bakery as one of the “Best Bakeries in the South.”
From La Farm Bakery and café to area farmers markets, Whole Foods Markets, his Bread Truck, and new book – “A Passion for Bread,” Lionel Vatinet has devoted his life to honoring the centuries-old tradition of producing artisanal breads, and delivering them from his hearth to yours.