For The New Yorker, Anna Wiener explores the cuisine-real-estate business model and traces the rise of Tartine, the artisanal San Francisco bakery known for its delicious breads and pastries and hip, airy spaces. How did this beloved spot in the Mission become a world-renowned brand? And is this food empire really what it seems?
Certain gentrifiers, who consider themselves culturally savvy, “don’t want Le Bernardin, or some four-star restaurant, moving into their neighborhood, because that would ruin the charm,” Sharon Zukin, a sociologist and urbanist at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center, told me. “That would ruin the ‘authenticity.’ They might have a lot of economic capital, but they still want to have that authentic cultural capital that Roberta’s, or Tartine, signifies. Now, for me, and maybe also you, we’re asking: How can something still be artisanal if it has six branches in Seoul?”
“We’re perceived to be something bigger than what we are,” she told me. “There is no there there. It’s a water sandwich.”
According to Prueitt, Tartine is in debt and struggling not to sink further. Still, outside the Bay Area, it continues to grow.