Mastering everything from baguettes and sourdough loaves to burger buns, ciabatta and rolls, Bread Artisan Bakery in Santa Ana, California has become a major player in the bread category in Southern California. Today, the bakery makes bread products for more than 300 top restaurants, shops and hotels in the area.

Former advertising executive Jonnie LoFranco had never dreamed of getting into the bakery business. However, following a divorce and the passing of her father, the single mom of two took over her dad’s small bread bakery. Not only did she keep the business running, but has made it flourish in ways previously unimaginable.

“I worked with creatives in the ad world and now I still work with creatives, just in the baking and cooking world, with chefs and bakers,” LoFranco says about the transition from advertising to baking.

In 2011, Bread Artisan Bakery scored its first major wholesale client in a major amusement park in Orange County. To this day the bakery not only supplies all the bread to the park’s specialty restaurants, but has grown to supply some of the best restaurants and hotels in the area, such as Marché Moderne, Montage Resort, Water Grill, Jon + Vinny's, HiHo Cheeseburgers, Matu and more. Bread Artisan Bakery is also carried at specialty grocery stores, along with Cookbook in L.A. and The Butchery in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. The bakery started with one delivery truck in 2011 and now has 11 to deliver its bread products across Southern California.

Bread Artisan Bakery’s secret weapon is a master baker from Brittany, France who has been baking bread for more than 40 years. Yannick Guegan is a soft-spoken gentleman with a thick French accent who makes real deal, hearth-baked, French-baked artisanal bread. Guegan found his true calling back in 1984, attending an after-school apprenticeship at a small bakery in Milizac, France. He dedicated ten years to learning every aspect of the bread business, from the art of the kitchen to challenges of wholesale and retail. By 1994, he was ready to bring these skills to Southern California. 

Guegan happily works seven days a week at the bakery (his choice), and on the weekends, comes in to make pastries such as croissants and tarts for the local farmers markets.

“Finding him enabled me to take things to the next level, in terms of being able to achieve that artisanal, old-world, real deal level of bread making,” LoFranco says. “When I met him, we hit the ground running. Before that I was making ends meet, but working with Yannick immediately opened up a whole new world for the business, with the kind of bread we wanted to make and it all just clicked. Since then, it’s been go-go-go. With him we finally had really great bread, which is always the key element to getting the business going and everything else just fell into place.”

BreadArtisanBakery_Buns.jpgSource: Anne Watson Photography

Not only does Guegan create a high-quality product, but he strives to improve it every day.

“With him leading the way, there’s a constant education happening. It’s always about how we can do things BETTER not about how to do things more efficiently.”

LoFranco and Guegan make an unlikely but incredible bread dream team – she runs the business end while he spends day in and day out doing what he loves most: baking everything from amazing artisan breads to gorgeous pastries, from pain au chocolat to Kouign Amanns.

The bakery’s signature sourdoughs are its mainstays, hands down. Also beloved are the viennoiseries and pastries at its weekend farmers markets. Guegan’s specialty is the Kouign Amanns, and that’s no accident considering he comes from Brittany, the birthplace of the pastry.

Bread Artisan Bakery looks to continue making farmers markets a significant part of its business. Since it doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar retail presence, the bakery uses these markets to connect directly with customers and communicate its passion to them and with them.

LoFranco believes that the biggest change in the industry since she started is the awareness of artisan bread and good quality ingredients.

“When I first started, we had to educate people and potential customers on what artisan bread was and now, people already know, they are actively seeking high-quality breads,” she says. “To see our breads on the store shelves of very popular specialty grocers today and at more than 300 restaurants, theme parks and resorts, that’s evidence right there of how much has changed in the bread industry.”