3/12/2013 02:10:00 PM

5 Questions for Sullivan St Bakery's Jim Lahey

Jim Lahey, founder of cult favorite bread emporium Sullivan St Bakery, is a man of exacting standards. Whether it's chatting about his travels (recently, he’s been everywhere from Turkmenistan to Brazil to his old Italian stomping grounds) or sampling his new lunch offerings, Lahey is constantly finding ways to improve and evolve. (The soup broth? “Not enough salt.” The salad? The ratio of lettuce types needs to be 1:1.) We sat down with him to see where he sees his expanding empire - which he describes as “Subway meets French Laundry” - going in the future.

Zagat: Why do you share your recipes online? 
Why do we share our recipes? I’m trying to change bread culture here in America. We have a wine culture, a coffee culture, a vita culture...but no bread culture. If people can make these breads easily at home, their standards will go up. And if we can get the overall standard to go up, then breadmakers will follow suit.

Zagat: What new projects are you working on right now?
Well, we’re getting some new ovens soon in the uptown [Hell’s Kitchen] location. They’re going to be greener, more state-of-the-art. Our ovens are old and we’re not gaining anything from the four smoke stacks on top of the building. These new ones would also heat the water and provide some heat to the building. 

I’m also heading back to Italy in October for the promo of my book, which is getting translated into Italian. That’s a huge honor. 

Editor’s note: Lahey’s classes will start up again for April 27-28 at $250; they last approximately 3-4 hours.

Zagat: How would you describe the evolution of Sullivan St since you’ve expanded?
We’re kind of halfway between table service and not. I mean, it looks like we should...but it’s not really like that unless you’re sitting at the counter and talking directly with the server. It’s evolved more into a cafe. And it’s all about the experience, about delivering the consistency of the experience. I want the entire process to be good, from the food to the interaction with the staff. I don’t want to appeal to anyone; I want to appeal to everyone. And whatever we learn here impacts what we do uptown. 

Zagat: Any plans to open a sit-down restaurant? 
I don’t know. You know...I’d love to open a little pasta restaurant.

Zagat: Where are some of your favorite places to eat in NYC?
Bar Pitti was the first really cool trattoria in Manhattan and - besides the price - hasn’t changed in 20 years. You get good value for your money. And Lure Fishbar.

The Details:
Sullivan St Bakery

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