The Manufactory: Disneyland for Bakers Makes its Mark on The ROW
“Manufactory means ‘handmade’,” says Chad Robertson, the principal baker of The Manufactory, explaining the massive new food palace he has crafted at The ROW DTLA. “In the beginning [of my career] I was monastic, spending hours alone baking, but when I started working with people that I trusted, my work became a lot more fulfilling. I decided I wanted to build something big enough for a lot of creative teams to work together. The idea was to bring in more hands and build a space where people can come, share ideas and improve each other.”
Prior to The Manufactory, Robertson has been guiding Tartine Bakery in San Francisco for the last twenty years alongside his wife Elisabeth Prueitt, who crafted the pastries and the overall aesthetic of the space. After a few lean early years, Tartine became the bakery, and Robertson became the bread guru. Prueitt’s pastries were equally celebrated, and soon people were lining up around the block to purchase their baked goods, which have been selling out daily for years.
When The ROW began to develop the former American Apparel warehouse they reached out to Robertson to show him the 40,000 square feet of space and ask if he was interested in bringing the Tartine empire to Los Angeles.
“My initial reaction was to run away as fast as I can,” laughs Robertson.
He reached out to Chris Bianco, whom Robertson describes as “a dear friend for 25 years.” Bianco’s resume is equally impressive: His pizzeria in Phoenix, Arizona, Pizzeria Bianco, is considered the best pizzeria in the United States by everyone from Bon Appétit magazine to Oprah and Martha Stewart.
These exemplary talents worked together to open The Manufactory, which consists of a bakery, a market, a cafe, a coffee roastery, two elegant restaurants and a top-notch bar. The leadership of The Manufactory is a veritable who’s who of Los Angeles’ bar and restaurant scene, with staff coming in from Bouchon, Otium and Bestia, to name a few. Bianco has perfectly described The Manufactory as a “Disneyland for bakers.”
Their food is exquisite. It would be hard to go wrong with just about anything. Standouts include the egg sandwich with bacon, the citrus tartine, and the fried potatoes, which former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl claims she dreams about. The croissant is the best croissant you’ll ever taste. Ditto the scones. Ditto the flatbreads. You simply cannot go wrong.
What this represents for ROW DTLA, and downtown Los Angeles in general, is a major high water mark. The Tartine and Bianco teams are thoughtful and deliberate with their actions -- it’s what has given them distinction as two of the best in the business -- and to craft such a massive flagship is DTLA says a lot about their commitment to quality and craft. It also says a lot about downtown Los Angeles, and how it continues to fill with exciting and distinctive spaces.
Robertson says that he is inspired by LA. Many of the chefs he considers peers have found their home in Los Angeles, and he’s excited to eat in their restaurants, go to art galleries and to hopefully find time for his first passion, surfing.
“I am happy, proud and humbled by the team I have here,” he says. “I look forward to becoming part of the fabric of LA.”
The feeling is mutual.
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by Rebekah Lemire