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Seoulites line up to get a taste of Tartine Bakery

Feb 07,2018
San Francisco’s famous Tartine Bakery has chosen Seoul as its first location to open outside of the United States. Just as many pastry lovers line up outside the bakery in the Bay Area, locals here are showing similar excitement about the Hannam-dong shop which opened in central Seoul on Jan. 28.

The hype means that the shelves at the Seoul branch have never be full of baked goods for more than a few minutes as customers have been splurging on buying in bulk. An official at the bakery said that some people have even dropped 500,000 won ($460) on bread and pastries at once.

There are about 30 bakers and staff working at the bakery, but since everything is hand-made, some people wait for over 30 minutes just to be told that what’s written on the menu isn’t available at the moment. If a new kind of bread comes out after you have already paid, you have to go back to the end of the line and wait again.

The prices of pastries and bread range from 3,500 won to 20,000 won. The shop’s famous sourdough Country Bread costs 18,000 won and can be reserved early in the morning to be picked up later in the day, but that is subject to change due to surging demand.

Despite the wait, it doesn’t feel too long for customers as they get to watch the bakers move back and forth in the bakery’s open kitchen.

“Baking real time in an open kitchen is what Tartine is known for,” said Chad Robertson, a founder of the Bay Area bakery and who is in Korea to help with the store’s opening, to the Korea JoongAng Daily. He kept the kitchen going for days along with staff from Seoul and the Bay Area.

Seoul was a natural choice, Robertson said, because he has been working with many culinary professionals of Korean background in the United States. He has developed new recipes using ingredients he learned about during recent visits to Korea, such as pine nuts.

What’s known as rye bread in the U.S. store is called Hannam Rye in Korea, and includes pine nuts as well as pine-nut-flavored makgeolli, fermented rice wine. Marinated beef dish bulgogi, one of the most popular Korean dishes, is served on a sandwich. Robertson said last week that this is an item he plans to bring back to the San Francisco location.

The exchange between the staff in Seoul and the staff in San Francisco will continue, as at least one staff member from the United States will stay. Newly hired bakers for the Seoul location were trained in the Bay Area before the shop opened last month.

The bakery’s next move is to open the Tartine Manufactory in Los Angeles within the next couple of months. There are plans to open up four more branches in Korea over the next two years, the bakery said.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]