Bellegarde Bakery began as a sole proprietorship, with a baker who paid intense, sometimes fiery attention to Old World craftsmanship. Graison Gill built his business around freshly ground flour and gained a following among New Orleans’ top restaurants and many artisan baking enthusiasts.
Today, Bellegarde opens a new chapter, that of employee share ownership.
Gill sold the Bellegarde property to a group of five employees, who now lead Bellegarde’s Employee Advisory Council.
Gill has now left New Orleans for London, where he plans to run a bakery next.
“Bellegarde’s energy and integrity will be preserved by the people who have nurtured it all these years,” Gill said in a statement.
He compares the new cooperative bakery model to the age-old roots of the bakery profession.
“Like baking bread, it’s a way of doing business where you get what you put in,” he said.
To create the new ownership structure, Bellegarde consulted with Project Equity, a nonprofit that helps with employee ownership transitions across the country. Other Bellegarde employees will be able to become owners after a year working at the bakery, Gill noted.
From its beginnings as a farmer’s market vendor, Bellegarde has developed a large following, especially among New Orleans restaurants, who frequently check the Bellegarde name on their menus.
The bakery grew as artisanal baking in general grew in New Orleans, and Bellegarde set a new standard by stepping back into the past.
At the heart of the farm are the house’s stone mills, which date back to ancient techniques and make the bakery unique in the region. The mills transform organic cereals into fresh flour for Bellegarde breads and produce a range of special flours and cornmeal sold by the bakery.
As he grew the business, Gill became a leading voice among the small circuit of those in the Deep South who care about the identity and quality of the grain we use.
In 2019, Bellegarde opened its first retail bakery, transforming a former party hall on a side street in the Leonidas district.
Bellegarde continues to supply restaurants and markets, and its retail bakery remains open.
8300 Apple St., (504) 827-0008
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