Our Daily Bread at Le Pain Quotidien

In the business world there's a saying that if you're not growing, you'll be eaten up-and nowhere is this more true than in the food & restaurant sector. Le Pain Quotidien (French for "daily bread"), a popular bakery & restaurant chain with 12 locations in California has grown to nearly 150 locations worldwide since 1990, and is poised to add up to another 50 in Japan with a partnership that could make it happen.

Yet the owner / founder of this privately-held company is a simple guy who builds restaurants where every loaf of bread must be made fresh by hand the day it is served, and the locations should remind guests of a simpler lifestyle than the urban, corner locations where you'll often find Le Pain Quotidien. Belgium chef Alain Coumont started with his own modest restaurant in Brussels in 1990 and the chain concept grew out his inability to find a reliable source for fresh bread. He'd have to make it himself, so the story goes. He also liked the idea of a central, long table in the restaurant where people would sit and maybe look at strangers once in a while, just like the old days. While the bakery-restaurants include plenty of tables for two or four, the long table is the key to the concept, Coumont believes.

The first Le Pain Quotidien restaurant was named for something Coumont's father once said, referring to eating, and not any religious connotation. The cafe grew from one to several in Belgium, and it wasn't a hard sell in a country where quality, fresh pastries and breads are essentials. Now located in 17 countries and expanding almost on a daily basis, the concept remains the same. The restaurants serve fresh breads, pastries, tartines (sandwiches), breakfast items, salads, soups, and desserts in a menu that strives to keep it fresh, offer some vegan dishes, and find organic sources whenever possible.

In California the bakery-cafes are located around the Los Angeles area in upscale neighborhoods of Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and West Hollywood. When visiting trendy Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, be sure to stop and buy a tasty pastry with a delicious tea or coffee at the cafe. Just ask for (le-pan-ko-tid-e-un). On the web: lepainquotidien.com

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