If there is still politics in the Sydney baking scene, La Tartine are firmly camped within pure sourdough, certified organic territory.
You have to admire the conviction of Mark and Nick Anthony. Their passion for pure sourdough and certified organics is legendary. In fact we first heard the legend from one of the (relatively) newer bakeries, Sonoma.
La Tartine began in France, operating for 10 years in the Alpine area between Switzerland and Italy. In the late 1990's, the bakers packed specialised bakery gear into a crate and shipped it to Australia. Nick is a bit of an inventor, designing their wood-fired oven and a setter to assist in loading sole and tinned breads.
La Tartine are based on the NSW Central Coast. They do have a Coast following, but most of the demand is actually from 30 or so outlets in Sydney. Macro Wholefoods at Bondi and Crows Nest are two of the most popular. La Tartine also have their own regular stall at Fox Markets, held every Wednesday between 9.30am and 3.30pm.
The markets is where I caught up with Mark Anthony. I watched Mark spend quality time with each customer, assisting them with informed purchases. Both Nick and Mark believe that many consumers are not aware of the difference between organic and certified organic.
Certified organic includes controls to keep flour from contamination right up to the point of consumption. For example, trucks that deliver certified organic flour must be certified as being suitable for the task. These considerations are enforced by regular inspections.
Another interesting snippet: When they baked in France, French authorities did not permit any bread with bakers yeast to be labelled as organic. The reason? Bakers yeast was not organic, of course.