Every pastry case in Los Angeles tells a story. Even commodity coffee shops showcase croissants and danishes that start from somewhere, an unseen wholesale bakery using wheat grown hundreds, or thousands, of miles away. Each case is a journey of soil, of buying decisions, of budgets, and of the bare hands that bring this city’s breads and pastries to life every day.
At Friends & Family, the anchor East Hollywood bakery and restaurant, the story of the pastry case reads more like a Greek epic. Spread across more than 40 unique baked goods each Saturday and Sunday morning, the shop’s ample glass box bursts with decisions made weeks ago and produce used at peak ripeness. It is, perhaps, the biggest and best non-chain-restaurant pastry case anywhere in LA.
“I bake six days a week,” says owner Roxana Jullapat as she buzzes between tasks early on a recent Saturday morning. She’s been up for a quarter of a day already, and the front door isn’t even open for customers yet. Her white baking outfit is flecked with sugar, filling, and flour. On weekends, the baking starts with Jullapat alone, turning on ovens and twisting her apron knot at 1 a.m. sharp. “People often wonder, ‘Do you really have to do the morning bake?’ Well yes, because I opened a bakery to bake. You think I opened a bakery to go write schedules and production lists? No, that’s the worst part of the business.”
Jullapat is a baker, through and through. She’s got that sharp-eyed morning focus and a deep love of coffee, and she’s also got one hell of a resume. Over 20 years, Jullapat has worked at Bastide, Lucques, AOC, and Campanile (to name a few), and she’s the author of Mother Grains, a 2021 finalist for the IACP Cookbook Award in Baking and the James Beard Foundation Book Award in Baking and Desserts. She also single-handedly kept her bakery afloat during the darkest days of the pandemic, working solo shifts in her empty restaurant just to make pastries like the ones she sells today for a few dollars apiece.
Three years on from those dim days she now employs a team of 10 just on the bakery side of things, plus more order-takers, coffee-makers, and line cooks. Together, the bakery team turns out dozens of unique and familiar creations every day, including loaves of wholesale bread that can be found all over the city.
Some might consider that a lot of people power for a single-location bakery, but Jullapat sees little value in trying to do anything less than the maximum. Why 42 baked goods, plus breads, on a Saturday morning? “You can’t not do it,” she says. “It would be so boring otherwise. Your responsibility as a person in food is, if you have this craft at your fingertips, you have to do it. This place is enormous. I have 10 bakers, so much talent. We get beautiful flour, all of these ingredients. With all of those gifts, for you to just mail it in would be so lame. Like, why are we here?
“If you painted, would you not want to use all the colors?”
Scroll through the photos below for one kaleidoscopic day inside the pastry case at Friends & Family. There are photos of literally every item on display that Saturday morning, with more quotes from Jullapat along the way. To visit the most beautiful pastry case in Los Angeles, get to the bakery early on weekends at 5150 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
“Monday through Friday, our case is pretty chill. We probably have 50 percent of what we have on the weekends. We have less staff, and we don’t have the same level of sales. I often say, this place will be fully manifested the day that I bake like this every day. On Saturday and Sunday at our bakery, it feels like Saturday night restaurant service. It’s the same approach.”
“I’m very focused on details and can get really lost in them. I have smart people working here that are total strategists. Between them and some of my input, we’re been able to schedule our preparation for a big bake throughout the week. So today is the combination of many hours of work, and a lot of talent.”
“I love the recipe for the cardamom buns, like I had when I was traveling in Sweden. I was like ‘What is this amazing thing? I want to have some more.’ We developed the recipe with ingredients from here, so like in Scandinavia you might not use dark brown sugar but we do here. We make it, and it’s still one of my favorite things that I like to make and eat.”
“There are recipes that I’ve made for 20 years that are dear to my heart still. And remember: When we opened the bakery, we rewrote my repertoire to become whole grain recipes. That process never stops, because whole grain is an ever-growing field. We might swap one cornmeal for another, or spelt for hard red wheat, or rye for buckwheat.
We have kept a couple of things pretty static, because people get bummed out. If I pulled the rye from the rye chocolate chip cookie, it would be problematic at this point. So we’re not going to do that.”
“My whole animosity, or where I am at odds with the industry, is that we think of food as something so elevated that the fun is taken out of it, you know? I don’t want to put flowers with tweezers on my pastries. Who has the time and the energy? And that says something different about you and the way you approach baking. I like the fact that this is very honest pastry.
The fact that you choose to start your day with a pastry of ours is a privilege. It’s an honor; thank you. I hope this warms up your day and was a delicious little bite.”
“We of course shoot for consistency, but we’re terribly inconsistent all the time. Have you tried making croissants? They’re a bitch.
So sometimes we don’t quite hit the mark on some things. And the fact that there isn’t so much riding on a pastry is nice, it’s comforting. Really, does everything have to be a $15 dessert?”
“These are my favorite things to eat anywhere. I would rather go check out bakeries in any city or country around the world than go to any Michelin-starred restaurant. You have coffee, the miracle food, the best thing that can happen to humans, and then something that you’re going to burn through the day. It’s just food, honest and simple.”
“It’s really great that I have talented people, but it’s also great that I have people who just show up. So many times I have seen bakers who don’t bake with ease, but man do they show up and give it their all.”
“I think I have like three cooking school graduates and the rest started baking when they walked in here. That’s the coolest part of the job. But let me tell you, I could not train these kids without that three or four who went to school.”
“The best person that makes that item is in charge. We have a joke that if you’re not good at a particular recipe, you’re fired from that recipe. But don’t worry, you have all of your other strengths. That’s the blessing; someone will always find something that they really excel at.”