Frank Sally: award-winning pastry chef plans to open Fournée Bakery in the former Bread Garden space in the Claremont neighborhood

Frank Sally has had his eye on the Bread Garden in Berkeley’s Claremont neighborhood for a long time. “I have always really liked that spot,” he says. “It’s a pretty area, and busy. It seemed a natural fit for a bakery.”

And now it will be his bakery. Sally, an award-winning chef who teaches at San Francisco Baking Institute, and has worked as pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Meadowood in Napa, has taken over the lease at 2912 Domingo Avenue from David Morris who closed the Bread Garden last month, after 38 years in the same location.

Currently in the throes of meetings with inspectors and contractors, Sally is renovating the space in the hope of opening Fournée Bakery (“batch” in French) before year-end.

The bakery will offer a range of morning pastries, breads, and cakes, mostly in the classic French style, but also “whatever people want.”

Fournée will be Sally’s first venture into running a small business, but he has the perfect mentor to guide him. Michel Suas, who founded the San Francisco Baking Institute in 1996, has helped many well-known bakers hone their skills and run high-quality artisan bakeries. “I have learned so much from Michel,” says Sally. “He’s a thoroughbred in the pastry world.”

Sally himself has won his share of plaudits. In September last year he snagged first place in the organic bread category at the Mondial du Pain competition in Lyons, France, where he represented the U.S.A. He wowed the judges with an a teff sunflower seed loaf. Unusual grains and seeds are one of his areas of interest.

Sally, who lives in Oakland, roughly a five-mile commute from his new bakery, says his goal has always been to own his own place. He has worked in a number of bakeries, restaurants, and hotels in the Bay Area, including Meadowood, Campton Place and Montclair Baking. His interest in food began when he was 15 years old and he made ice cream for a small Boston neighborhood shop throughout his high school and college years.

A new bakery, Fournée, is set to open in the Bread Garden bakery space which had been in the same spot since 1973 and closed last month
A new bakery, Fournée, is set to open in the Bread Garden bakery space which had been in the same spot since 1973 and closed last month

The Bread Garden opened its doors on Domingo in November 1973. Owner David Morris was not always happy with the way the business went there. In July 2009, he posted a notice in his store telling customers that business was so bad he was considering not renewing his lease. He was helped by his local councilmember and neighbors but, in early 2010, he threatened to close again after launching a campaign against next-door neighbor Peet’s who, he claimed, were making inferior pastries.

On the eve of the Bread Garden’s closure, Morris said he was competing with an estimated 38 bakeries in Berkeley, compared to eight when he opened. “The market isn’t any bigger than it was in 1973. There is intense competition for the bakery dollar,” he said. He recently opened a new bakery in Paso Robles.

Sally says he is looking forward to serving  Berkeleyans. “I will be making everything by hand in a small artisanal setting and I believe people in Berkeley will support that approach,” he says.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...