LOS ANGELES — It’s National Sourdough Day, and this bread is on the rise. During pandemic lockdowns, many people turned to their own kitchens for entertainment, trying to master the art of the sourdough starter. Then they turned to the supermarket for a finished product after realizing the amount of time and effort it takes. But even as the pandemic fades, sourdough sales aren’t. With its numerous health benefits and classic tangy taste, sourdough is finding a permanent place in consumers’ hearts … and on their plates.

Chef Jon Davis, culinary innovation leader for Los Angeles-based Aspire Bakeries, said this is welcoming a new era of innovation. To celebrate National Sourdough Day on April 1, Davis reflected on how different things look today than they did when Nancy Silverton — who’s credited with popularizing sourdough in America and pioneering the artisan bread movement — founded the Aspire Bakeries brand La Brea Bakery in 1989.

“When Nancy started, we had one type of flour: Hard No. 1. Now we have such a wide variety of flours to choose from, and each one gives a unique characteristic to their sourdough,” Davis said.

This experimentation is happening with different cultivars of flours, such as rye or Einkorn, and different types of starters, such as rice or whole wheat. And when it comes to additives, there are countless grains to choose from — such as spelt and quinoa — for a nutrient-dense product. Davis has even seen bread producers using fruit and vegetable juices, just for fun.

“I just made a purple sweet potato sourdough in our test kitchen,” he said. “All these variations yield a completely different flavor, profile and experience.”

If making sourdough wasn’t already complex enough, this kind of diversity with ingredients and techniques ups the ante. While it can be difficult to replicate these products on a mass scale, La Brea Bakery has been producing sourdough for a long time and has mastered the balance between science and art along the way.

The bakery is known for its high-quality artisan sourdough, borne from the original sourdough starter it developed back in 1989. It was made using only flour, water, salt and wild yeast from the skin of organic grapes. This has ultimately become the signature ingredient in all La Brea Bakery’s breads — even beyond sourdough — giving each loaf a depth of flavor, texture and other artisan characteristics.


“A lot of people want to come in here and see how we’re doing it, but it’s no big secret. It’s just bigger than what you’re doing at home.” —Chef Jon Davis | culinary innovation leader | Aspire Bakeries


When it comes to other ingredients, La Brea Bakery’s secret is simple:  Don’t use many at all. The company understands that less is more, so its breads are made without preservatives and additives.

Borne out of time-honored traditions, La Brea understands that genius can’t be rushed.

“We had the commitment to quality right from the beginning. Unlike other large bakeries, we don’t try to push things through quickly,” Davis said. “We strictly maintain a very long fermentation process. It takes a lot of space and time, but we’ve built the infrastructure for that, and it makes us unique.”

These sourdough starters take at least 12 hours to mature. After that fermentation process, the doughs rise in bulk for four hours. Then after shaping the loaves, the team lets them rise slowly in a cool environment for another six hours. La Brea Bakery’s 24 hours of processing time sets this company apart. Davis said it’s something that not many other bakeries can replicate, and it helps the team innovate in that area.

But sometimes, the best way to revolutionize a product into the future is by relying on centuries-old practices for the best tasting bread. Davis’ parting lesson? Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

“A lot of people want to come in here and see how we’re doing it, but it’s no big secret,” he said. “It’s just bigger than what you’re doing at home. It’s just really exciting to see all these people get involved with sourdough and the appreciation for it. And I can’t wait to see how people continue to innovate in sourdough, around the country and around the world.”