It’s not new news that Tartine has grown wildly beyond the walls of its original 18th Street bakery, where devotees still line up for morning buns and bread each day. However, the rising star of the brand has reached a new height with the announcement that chef-owners Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Roberston will open a food hall in the busy International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport, with the help of star chefs Gabriela Cámara of Cala and Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao.
Slated for summer of 2018, the Manufactory-esque operation will occupy more than 3,200 square feet near boarding area A, with quick-service dining experiences from the chefs, grab-and-go options, a full bar, coffee, and a pantry of Bay Area products for purchase.
The specter of “airport food”
The main concern for the team was making sure that their offerings didn’t fall into the category of “airport food,” that dreary realm of warmed-over sandwiches and greasy fast food. This is San Francisco, after all, and is the first and last impression for a bevy of international travelers expecting world-class food.
“The Manufactory is becoming our collaboration brand,” says Chris Jordan, Tartine COO and the driving force behind Tartine’s Coffee Manufactory brand. That already includes a second Tartine Manufactory destined for Los Angeles, which includes a collaboration with master pizzaiolo Chris Bianco (Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco).
For SFO, pulling in Cámara and Techamuanvivit made the project easier, says Jordan. “It’s actually one of the easiest [projects] I’ve done, since we are all excited to learn from each other. We’re all competitive and want to get it done right, trying to prove a model that will serve our customers better.”
Jordan says that SSP America, the operator of food and beverage at SFO and other major airports and partner in the endeavor, gave the chefs full control of the menus and oversight of the food, including training of airport employees and design influence of the space.
In order to control the quality of their products, the chefs will use Tartine Manufactory’s Mission commissary as ground zero for production, ferrying fresh products to the airport multiple times each day.
“This is not us licensing our names out — this is us cooking and serving the food,” Techamuanvivit told Eater SF.
“We’re obsessed with quality, that’s a common thread,” adds Cámara. “But the obsession with quality control needs to be tasted in every bite at the airport.”
Why they’re venturing into the realm of airport fare
“We have a lot of things going on, including travel,” said Jordan. “We all think that food and coffee should be in airports but with the right partners.”
The chefs are all frequent travelers, with discerning tastes. “We all travel a lot and we all agree that we wish there was something really good at the airport that we could eat. There is not much going on at the airport,” said Techamuanvivit.
“This is both exciting and terrifying, because I have always thought of airport food as terrible food,” said Cámara. “I’m excited to change that notion and I think the way that our life is going it’s obvious that people are spending a lot in airports.“
It’s also a new challenge for the foursome, who’ve never expanded in this capacity before. “Kin Khao is casual but it’s still full-service,” said Techamuanvivit. “We’ve never done anything fast-casual, or even takeout, so for us it’s an interesting, challenging puzzle to solve. “
And, the partnership between the three entities is a unique one. “If I were to be approached by a company to go it alone at the airport I would very quickly say no, I’d feel at a huge disadvantage to go into something we know so little about,” admits Techamuanvivit. “But because we are doing it with Liz, Chad, and Gabriela, I know they’re not going to do something to compromise quality.”
What Travelers Can Expect to Eat
Though the menus are still in development, here are few things that one might expect to find at the Food Hall:
Much like lunch at the Mission original, simple soups, salads, and warm sandwiches using Tartine bread will star on the menu at Tartine’s full-service restaurant. A pastry counter filled with Tartine Bakery goods will include morning buns, seasonal tarts, and other items, with a Coffee Manufactory bar serving drip, espresso drinks, and bags of beans to go.
Cámara says “I am thinking lots of things with fresh masa.” That could include fried quesadillas with fillings inspired by street stands in Mexico City, alongside options like seasonal salads, breakfast tortas, and tacos in the style of Tacos Cala (the taco extension of Cámara’s Cala). “I can’t have a fish-driven menu because I want it to be more accessible,” said Cámara. “But, I’m looking forward to making good airport food, as absurd as that sounds.”
Rice bowls, noodles, grilled meats, and salads will channel the style of Techamuanvivit’s native Thai cuisine, while taking the inherently transient nature of airport food into account. “It’s going to be different food than what we serve at Kin Khao,” emphasized Techamuanvivit. “The reason we don’t do takeout [at Kin Khao] is because much of our food isn’t great when you wait a while to eat it; a lot of textures and sauces that won’t be as good as if we put it in front of you on the table.” There’ll also be Thai ingredients and cookware available for purchase.
Stay tuned for more details on when traveller might find themselves eating at Manufactory Food Hall; in the meantime, make due with SFO’s other dining options, which can be found in Eater SF’s SFO Guide.