Le Pain Quotidien: The Daily Bread
When Alain Coumont opened Le Pain Quotidien in his native Belgium in 1990, little did he know then what his artisanal bakery would eventually spawn. Coumont, a highly regarded chef at one of Brussels' most prestigious restaurants, just wasn't able to source bread worthy of his clientele and so started making it himself.
The concept was a huge success from day one. By 1993, there were 16 different locations in Europe. And by 1997, Coumont had opened his first store in New York City. Fast forward to 2009, and you'll find a company, still privately owned, with more than 114 locations around the world. This year, new locations have opened or will open in the Middle East, the United States, Europe and Russia.
Le Pain Quotidien is a French phrase that means "the daily bread." Indeed, Le Pain Quotidien bread is made fresh daily, just as it was in the very beginning. Its whole wheat sourdough breads, called pain au levain, are naturally fermented. Organic stone-ground flour, salt, and water is kneaded and shaped by hand and then baked in a hearth under the watchful eye of artisan bakers.
Le Pain Quotidien restaurants are known for their communal tables, made from reclaimed wood, in which customers sit side-by-side. There, they dine on simple fare from soups and salads to tartines and homemade pastries and breads. The company uses organic ingredients whenever possible.
Each location offers a range of homemade baked goods, from buttery croissants, organic brioche and challah to baguettes, all of which are baked fresh at each location daily. Baked goods are also available for purchase at the counter, including whole and half loaves of wheat, rye, spelt, five-grain and walnut bread.
Vote now for what you believe is the best of breed in Gourmet Foods. Readers' Choice Awards for Food will be announced on November 30th.