Companion has decided to partner with the St. Louis Area Foodbank for their 20th anniversary. I sat down with Josh Allen to talk about the bread revolution and his commitment to the St. Louis community.
Josh, you kind of grew up in the food industry, right?
Yes, my family ran a regional wholesale food distribution business in St. Louis for over 100 years.
What can you tells us about the open house on Saturday, November 9?
We’re so appreciative of the support that the St. Louis community has shown us since we pulled our first baguettes from our stone ovens in South City in 1993, that we thought the least we could do was have a bit of an anniversary celebration. The Open House is our way of saying thanks. We’ll have plenty of bread and pastries, chef demonstrations, kids’ activities, music, ice carving, factory tours and samples from other St. Louis area micro-producers.
What is your favorite Companion product to make?
Every weekend we make a special over-sized, naturally leavened country bread called Miche. It is truly the essence of bread making of simply flour, water, sea salt and lots of TIME. It makes me the most happy to pull these big large loaves out of the oven.
What exactly is the Early Bird Outlet?
The EBO is our retail factory store that is open every Friday through Sunday from 7 AM to Noon. We produce nearly 15,000 lbs of bread and pastry each weekend day, so we thought we would make a bit extra and have it available to the public. It’s sort of a pop-up bakery each week in that we transform our loading dock, after our last truck has left the building, into the Outlet.
Everything is on wheels and it all just rolls into place. Since we don’t have the same costs built into these products as we do when we have to pack and deliver around town, we pass the savings onto the folks who venture down to see us. All of the bread is sold for $2.50/lb. regardless of the variety which represents up to 50 percent savings on what you might find elsewhere.
Speaking of Birds, Chris Carpenter is not just a legendary St. Louis Cardinal. He’s also a Bread Revolutionary. Tell me about the bread revolution.
We wanted to create a campaign this year that took us back to our roots in simply making great bread. Our business has grown in a lot of different directions – two cafes, the EBO, frozen distribution, dipping oils, chocolates, jams – but at our core, we just bread bakers. The Revolutionary campaign was a way for us to remind ourselves and St. Louis about that. Aaron Segall of Ceregraphic deserves the credit. He’s been with us over 15 years helping define and design our look.
As a local business owner, how do you think supporting organizations like the St. Louis Area Foodbank has impacted your business?
We operate our business around what we call Taking Care of the 4C’s “Our Companions, Our Customers, Our Company and Our Community.” The entire St. Louis hospitality industry is full of the most amazing, caring, generous people. Three or four times a month, we participate in a wide variety of events in support of the community. It is truly who and what we are. We have been blessed by this community to still be able to bake bread daily. Giving back is what it’s all about.
What prompted you to partner with the St. Louis Area Foodbank for Companion’s 20th anniversary?
We wanted to partner with an organization that is not only committed to St. Louis and involved daily with the food industry but also one that continues to make a difference in the lives of those in need of food assistance.
We are committed to being able to give at least 20,000 meals!
For details on their open house go to http://www.companionstl.com/20th-anniversary-open-house/
By Patrick Delhougne
Development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.