What does an industrial engineer, an actor, a model, and a baker have in common? In a narrow street of Lima called La Mar, inside a white minimalistic room covered in blackboards with names of breads written all over them, these professions all fuse together in one renaissance man: Jonathan Day.
Day could have had a 9 to 5 job. But when he discovered the charms of artisanal thick crusted bread, while studying theater in London, it was love at first taste. He became determined to learn how to make these wonderful breads, and as he learned, he started to sell them in street markets during the weekends. He didn´t go to culinary school or worked with famous bakers. Instead, he learned from trial and error, until he perfected his skills.
Some years later, and back in Lima, Day (also known as “la chola” by his friends), sold his bread during the summer at the door of Tragaluz, a restaurant in one of Lima’s most exclusive beach towns. As is sometimes the case with very talented, hard working individuals, word of mouth about this delicious new breads caught up fast, and turned him into an instant success. But despite the long working hours and big sales, this was not enough for Jonathan to make a living. At the time, his day began at 1:30 in the morning and did not end until late in the evening.
The dream of his own bakery kept growing in Day’s mind, and he wouldn’t stop until making it a reality. El Pan de la Chola, located in one of the busiest streets of Lima, was a game changer in the more traditional local bread scene. The refreshing new concept -and refreshing new baker– quickly attracted media attention, and a large group of loyal customers. Every day the place is full of people looking for the best bread in town, sandwiches made with homemade focaccia, fresh from the oven, the eventual cookies, or the most decadent, dark, gooey brownies around. Coffee, tea, wine, and fresh juices are served as well. If you want a glass of water, you can help yourself to it, just like being at home with friends.
If you’re wondering what makes this bread so special, the answer is that it only has three ingredients: flour, water and starter. There is nothing artificial in it. Day has an electric grinder in the back of the kitchen, where he makes his own whole wheat flour using fresh wheatberries. Seeds, nuts, and dried fruits are some possible additions, depending on the type of bread you choose.
While Jonathan prepares his own flour and bakes away, his sisters work the counter, and a small team helps him make granola and other homey delicacies from scratch. If you come to buy bread or have a snack, you will also get some free entertainment, watching the master at work in his open kitchen. He tells us this feels like being on stage, with a live audience observing his every move and even taking pictures. He plays his part well; after all, he is a trained actor.
The story of this cool bakery has been featured in every magazine and newspaper in Peru, and was even featured in Vogue. Don’t stop at reading about it. Go there. Watching La Chola at work, and tasting these products made with conviction, passion, and love, is an experience well worth having for yourself.
El Pan de la Chola. – La Mar 918, Miraflores. Lima, Peru.