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La Victoria Bakery: Reinventing the Concha 

Wednesday, Jun 6 2012
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When he joined La Victoria Bakery as head pastry chef almost a year and a half ago, chef Luis Villavelazquez wanted to perfect that pan dulce classic, the concha. The fluffy white conchas now in La Victoria's display case are soft and somewhat chewy, dense like conchas I enjoyed in Oaxaca, with sugar topping that doesn't seem like a distraction from dry bread, but simply an elegant final touch.

Having perfected the concha, Villavelazquez now wants to reinvent it.

Villavelazquez has a vision for a dough infused with cacao nibs, little pieces of raw chocolate. These are crunchy and bitter like espresso beans, but he believes they'll work wonders in this concha 2.0, which he plans to top with freeze-dried strawberries in lieu of the traditional sugar.

Villavelazquez keeps busy running La Victoria's kitchen, which hosts nine rental kitchens where the likes of Hapa SF and Wholesome Bakery cook. He estimates that La Victoria bread and pastries make their way to over 50 locations before noon everyday. No one in San Francisco mass-produces pastries at a high level, and Villavelazquez suggests that this is a void that La Victoria is on the path to filling.

Villavelazquez suggests that what he wants to do for Mexican pastry is something that doesn't exist on either side of the border. "Mexican pastry chefs come up here for training and go home to open French pastry shops," he says. "I want to make a perfect tres leches cake with raw goats milk. I want to use Mexican ingredients. I'm not interested in macaroons."

His deadpan tone almost breaks as he discusses the chorizo and jack cheese biscuit he is developing using home-brewed stocks.

As he describes this new addition to La Victoria's soon-to-come brunch menu, he notices that it's almost 6 p.m. and mentions that he has been on site at the kitchen since 11 the night before. Though he hopes his team will soon be trained enough that he can afford himself some days off, Villavelazquez is only positive about this fast lane he is paving for himself — and even more enthusiastic about where it might lead.

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Camila McHugh

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