In a small kitchen crowded with white ovens near Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, the humble daily bread is being raised to new levels.
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It is here, at the café-restaurant-bakery Bread Story, that ideas are a crucial ingredients in the loaves, and innovation is dashed into the recipe as much as salt and sugar.
Every batch of bread starts with a suggestion from someone on the team, or from a customer. That suggestion turns into an idea, which becomes a recipe, which is tested in the bakery, made into dough, and kneaded, floured, glazed, tested, and baked.
If it comes out good and crusty and not too expensive or crumbly, a new and original bread is added to the shelf.
Bread Story takes its grains seriously. For each of the 20 dishes on its menu, a separate kind of bread is baked and served.
For carb-loaders and gluten aficionados, this means a broad range of possibilities.
They start with a roll made with a paste of garlic and pepper and filled with a spicy egg and tuna; proceeds to curry bread piled with tandoori chicken, roasted cauliflower, cilantro and pickled onions; continues to salami bread with an omelet, cream cheese, tomato and fried onions; and a hamburger that gets its cheese from the Gouda roll that it sits upon.
There are also menu items paired for their breads, which include a ketchup roll, a cranberry kugelhopf, a Druze flatbread, an English muffin, a pizzetta, a focaccia, a Durum grain bread and a basil brioche.
And if that's not enough, the place also functions as a bread shop, selling breads and baguettes all week long and adding to their stock with sweet challahs and brioches on the weekends.
“People have seen everything and tasted everything,” says Yogev Yaros, the chef who, along with baker Yaron Shneller, built Bread Story's menu. "There's a huge inundation of boutique bakeries and that’s terrific. This past year it’s been possible to find a good French baguette almost everywhere, so the time has come to take it up a notch."
Yaros' vision for Bread Story is a place where bread is the star and the rest of the food just supporting characters. "It’s a kind of evolution," he says. "Each bread is tailored precisely to the menu item, but baked in the traditional way – we haven’t reinvented the wheel.”
Bread Story is backed by two powerful Israeli business groups: the 141 group, which is manned by four Israeli pilots who also run a number of successful bars, and the Benedict Group, the force behind Tel Aviv's popular Benedict's breakfast franchise. They have worked together before, joining forces to create the Vicky Cristina tapas bar at the Old Railway Station in Neve Tzedek.
One of the pilots of the 141 group, who prefers to be referred to simply as Roi because of his sensitive Air Force job, says he is absolutely crazy about bread.
"Anyone who is into food always dreams of a bakery. I’ve been head over heels about bread ever since I was very young – it’s really a sickness," he says.
"There's a saying that goes: If there's no cake, eat bread," says Yair Kindler of the Benedict group. “At Bread Story we are exposed to masses of bread lovers – a bread culture is truly budding here, which from my perspective is amazing.”
The ultimate comfort food
Another thing about bread, Roi adds, is that it is truly the food of the masses.
“Bread tastes good. It’s comforting. And ultimately it’s a thing for everyone," he says. "It’s important to us that our breads not be expensive. Some of the ideas we developed were nixed because of the costs. It’s easy to come up with a loaf we’d have to sell for NIS 50, with the best ingredients there are. But we are trying to keep prices low."
And for those who prefer to keep it simple, who prefer their daily bread without the gourmand bells and whistles, there's plenty of down-home fare, as well.
"We sell plain rolls, like plain French country rolls you can use to make great sandwiches at home," says Roi. "Every bread does an honor to its owner."
Bread Story is located at 88 Dizengoff St. in Tel Aviv.