San Francisco

Red Tape Averted, Le Chat Rouge Readies For Grant Avenue Debut

Le Chat Rouge, an artisanal French bakery, is on track to open possibly within a month now that owner David Carbonell has successfully waded through the red tape.

After we outlined Carbonell's troubles getting building permits approved, he said Kanishka Burns, legislative aide to District 3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, called him and said she'd see what she could do to help. Within two hours, someone from the city called and said he'd sign off on the plans, Carbonell said.

Planner Nick Foster said some of the confusion arose because Carbonell initially applied for a conditional-use authorization to bake on-site. But after Foster looked into it and spoke with the architect, he realized the business was actually a neighborhood-serving retail use. Now, the Planning Department has signed off on everything and it's in the process of approvals with the Department of Building Inspection and other agencies, and there doesn't appear to be any more red tape—or red flags.

Carbonell actually will make the dough off-site in a commercial kitchen, and will bake the bread off-site as well, though he'll have a convection oven in the front of the shop to bake some things fresh. Since it's not a large-scale operation needing a full kitchen (it's similar to having a panini press, for example), Planning approved it. "The croissants are small ... we can do it here, no problem," Carbonell said.

Le Chat Rouge, the special bread with a recipe dating from 1775, takes three days to prepare and requires more space and a big oven because of the large loaves, so that'll be made in the commercial kitchen.

All ingredients are being imported from France, and the first shipment arrived early this week, Carbonell said. He's also hired two bakers from Paris. "I want the best for the bakery," he said. "I want the people of San Francisco to know what we really have in France."

People in France take for granted high-quality baked goods, he said, but here, "It's a pleasure to cook and make pastry and viennoiserie for the people because they really appreciate it." Viennoiserie are Vienna-style pastries, such as pain au chocolat, apple turnovers and even cranberry croissants. Carbonell says that his 75-year-old father calls him daily to discuss recipes and ingredients because he's excited about this being the family's first venture outside of their home country. 

The bakery's color scheme will be red and pale yellow, the same as his family's bakery in France, Carbonell said. The wood on the front of the shop will be cleaned and restored. Hours aren't set yet, but Carbonell said he plans to open the shop by 7am for neighbors on their way to work, and it could stay open as late as 8pm, depending on interest. 


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