Meet the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Baker Semifinalists: Lionel Vatinet
Lionel Vatinet spent years traveling the world teaching as a consultant before opening his own bakery, La Farm Bakery, in Cary, North Carolina in 1999
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 seven 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.
Following completion, Vatinet came to the United States to be the founding instructor at the San Francisco Bread Baking Institute, consulted for bread brands nationwide, and coached Team USA in France’s La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. 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.”
Rather than propagate secrets, Vatinet’s mission has always been to demystify bread baking. He’s dedicated his life to sharing his knowledge. 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 artisan bread baking industry in America.
“I’ve always drawn on the lessons and traditions I learned in my years in the French bread bakers’ guild,” he says. “That was a life-changing time for me, so those concepts will always be at the forefront for me. Our culinary community in the Triangle is a rich one. I’m inspired by what I see the chefs doing, by our local brewers and other artisans, and of course, by other bakers, even the bakers in our own bakery. Everyone is tapping into our local agriculture in their own way and bringing something with a real sense of place to the table.”
Lionel Vatinet is a multiple-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Baker award.