There’s a new bread baker taking over the Los Angeles restaurant scene, and you’ve likely seen the unique name atop many menus. Bub and Grandma’s, a local outfit that specializes in breads rich with whole grain, is run by Andy Kadin, a self-described “outsider” when it comes to the world of baking.
“I was not brought up in the school of food. That puts me in catch-up mode as I don’t have the in-kitchen experience some of my competitors have,” Andy says. But, “it also frees me to do things they aren’t conditioned to do. I’m not thinking about the bakery from a baker’s perspective. I’m thinking about it from a random person’s perspective.”
A picky eater growing up, Andy says his diet consisted of pasta with butter and salt, plain Lay’s potato chips, green grapes, string cheese, orange juice and other comfort foods that rotated through family dinners. He notes that this early pickiness probably correlates to his perfectionism.
“I think my food obsession was born of my general obsessiveness with perfection. Why should I ever have to eat something that doesn’t taste good? We have the privilege of eating three times a day. We also have the privilege of listening to music every day. Of reading every day. Of talking a walk every day. Why sacrifice those opportunities? Why not strive to have the best experience in each of those facets of life every day?”
After “a depressing decade” working as an advertising writer and creative director, Andy says, “I knew I had to make a change or I’d completely lose my shit.” He started cooking often at home and became a fan of Cook’s Illustrated and J. Kenji Alt’s scientific approach. He did a couple stages (the culinary version of an internship), worked the deep fryer at a pub on weekends and learned the ropes at a Hollywood sandwich shop. And he started baking bread every day.
He eventually went freelance with advertising and continued baking on the side, “an attempt to find my place in food. I knew I couldn’t just roll in and say, ‘hey, I’m just going to make some food without any experience and you’re all supposed to just assume that I know what I’m doing.’ I didn’t know what I was doing. I had to learn how to do it for real—in earnest—or I’d be duping the people just like I had felt I was doing for my 10 years in advertising.”
After a year of food experimentation, various jobs and business plan development, Andy says he got close on a lease for a breakfast and lunch concept in Highland Park, a historic neighborhood located in Northeast Los Angeles. At the same time, he was making bread every day and giving it away to friends.
“One [friend] worked at Dune in Atwater Village and my bread managed to find the mouth of owner Scott Zwiezen,” Andy shares. “He called out of the blue and asked if I could do bread for them every day. The same week that lease fell out from under me, so I decided to follow the opportunity and started making ciabatta in my hacked home oven and delivering it to Dune.” And Bub and Grandma’s was born.
The name comes from Andy’s general inspiration for living: his grandmothers. But surprisingly, it’s not because of their cooking, but rather because of the way they live their lives. “I’m food obsessed because I’m living obsessed. I’m obsessed with finding a correctness to life, as frustrating as that unachievable goal might be,” he explains.
“My grandmothers both live that way, but in very different ways. Bub is a creative. A piano player and an artist and a music and film obsessive not unlike myself—constantly searching for the new best. Grandma is a pragmatist. No bullshit. Doing things the way she wants to do them and if anyone gets in her way, well, good luck to them. The combination of those two approaches to life are the engine behind Bub and Grandma’s.”
To make his breads, Andy uses whole grain flour from Nan Kohler at Grist & Toll in Pasadena, an urban flour mill that serves as a local resource for top-quality, freshly milled flour. Andy explains he uses a higher percentage of whole grain flour than any other bread bakery in town, which helps set him apart. Naturally leavened breads are his favorites to make, and the process takes approximately three days.
“We weigh out on day one and give the starter a little maintenance feed. The next morning we feed the starter in full and autolyse all the doughs. We then final mix and bulk for varying timeframes depending on the dough, levain percentage and bakery conditions. We then preshape, final shape and send the loaves to proof in baskets in the walk-in for 16 hours. They are baked straight out of the fridge the next morning.”
He credits much of his success to his team, and swears that happy bakers make happy bread.
“I am fortunate enough to have surrounded myself with some of the best bakers in Los Angeles and if my bread is ever good it’s because of them. It’s extremely important to me that these bakers are afforded a normal life, despite the abnormal choices they’ve made to dedicate their lives to bread. With that, we try our damndest to not start our day before 4:30. I want my bakers to see their families and eat meals on a normal schedule.”
Andy laments that bread is a moving target that can never be perfected. He’s constantly in development and no bread is ever done. New recipes are inspired from a variety of factors, including what his accounts are looking for at any given time, what helps round out the offerings of a “diversified and boundary-pushing bakery,” and interesting flour deliveries from Grist & Toll.
While the business has seen some great success during its relatively brief lifespan, Andy says successes are short celebrated and there’s always another obstacle looming ahead.
“I’ve never done anything more difficult in my life. I’m not a morning person. I’m not even a baker, I don’t believe. I’m just a person who wants to do things right. And when I get focused on something, I have no choice but to keep searching for the best way to do it. If I continue without it being the best, I don’t sleep. And when my alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., seven days a week for a year, with no one to bail me out, I have no choice but to hustle and find that correctness. Fast.”
He continues, “every time something goes wrong and I have to let an account know we’ve screwed up, it’s like stabbing myself with little needles. A large part of what gets delivered to stores every day is me. So when I get delivered all screwed up, I feel it. I hate it. I hate screwing up. This is the real motivation behind our craft: not eating shit.”
Bub and Grandma’s bread is baked in a dedicated 700-square-foot bakery space just east of downtown Los Angeles in a commissary called Reba’s Kitchens. Though the bread is currently only available at the popular Smorgasburg Sunday market in downtown L.A. and at a variety of restaurants and retailers around town, Andy says he’ll start looking into retail and expansion options. For now, find the complete list of locations here. And please, try some of this damn good bread.