Charles Kaufman, owner of Bread & Cie, worked at Buckeye Bakery in Atlanta; the Firehouse Bakery in Alexandria, Virginia; Grace Baking in Berkeley; La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles.
  • Charles Kaufman, owner of Bread & Cie, worked at Buckeye Bakery in Atlanta; the Firehouse Bakery in Alexandria, Virginia; Grace Baking in Berkeley; La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles.
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Behind the glass that separates the kitchen from the customers at Bread & Cie Bakery and Café in Hillcrest, steam heat pours from the oven. Bakers in long aprons and French bonnets lift loaves of artisan bread from the oven and place them into baskets.

Patrons gather at the wraparound counter, pointing to this loaf or that quiche as the line to order swells. Order-takers with earrings and tattoos help the customers.

If he sees the line beginning to snake, Charles Kaufman, owner of Bread & Cie, assists the staff in taking orders while entertaining hungry people by cavorting and telling jokes. At 62, he moves nimbly around his bakery. Kaufman looks distinguished, despite an REI outfit and Merrill Walkabouts. He swears he “never intended to be a bread-maker.”

A mixing bowl lift drops 300 lbs. of dough onto a table. It will be cut and placed in plastic bins to be sent to a temperature-controlled proofing room for the dough to rise.

Kaufman grew up in New York City. When he was eight years old, his mom took him to see his first show, Ethel Merman in Gypsy. Upon viewing that “first set of boobies in the strip-dance scene, I knew exactly what field I would go into,” Kaufman laughs.

Despite a stutter, he dreamed of being an actor; his hopes and ambitions were encouraged. “My dad was an independent lawyer who moonlighted in amateur theater,” Kaufman says. “My mom was an unconventional narcissist with a passion for Broadway. It fit.”

Lorena Valasquez worked her way up from cafe cleaner to head baker at Bread & Cie’s Cafe.

Kaufman grew up in midtown Manhattan. His address, a brownstone on 65th, between Park and Third avenues, screamed privilege. At five, he was sent to Trinity Academy, one of the best all-boys’ schools on the Upper West Side. “At the time, I didn’t think I was privileged. I didn’t think it was a privilege to be away from my family from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. every day.”

Lorena uses a lame to score the dough before it goes into the stone hearth oven to bake.

Kaufman tried to get his parents’ attention when he was home. “My parents were very busy with work and philanthropy.” He found his way by being funny. For a year, he carried a puppet around and talked in a puppet voice. “That fell flat after awhile, especially after my parents brought me to a shrink.”

Soft loaf breads are baked in these large computerized convection ovens. Each style of bread has a program to control heat, steam, and venting.

He began telling jokes. His mom took notice. “I lived for making her laugh, and I knew very young that if I could make her laugh, she’d be pleased with me. There was nothing quite like that feeling of approval and comfort.” Also, if he told a joke and people laughed — validation that they enjoyed his company — he wouldn’t stutter.

Kaufman enrolled in classes at the Stella Adler School of Acting. “I remember being onstage for scene-study for what felt like hours, as my partner would wait for me to say my lines.” He grimaces. “My acting career didn’t last long.”

Charles serves a cookie to one of his customers

In high school, he was class president. “I lost many nights’ sleep before speeches, but I knew if I could just make them laugh, I could get through it.”

This mural is an artist rendering of Lorena at work.

He graduated from high school in 1967 and went on to college at the University of Connecticut. He was accepted into UCLA’s graduate film school, graduating with honors in 1973. “My first real-world job out of film school was as an intern for NBC Studios in Burbank.

“I was given the clandestine task of driving to Bob Hope’s house to pick up paper ‘receipts’ that contained the topics Hope wanted to cover in The Bob Hope Show.” It was live television, and Hope left nothing to chance: the receipts had to be delivered in haste to Hope’s writers. “He was very secretive and didn’t want his topics getting out.”

Every day, Kaufman would drive to Hope’s house in Burbank, pick up the slips, then drop a slip off at each of the show’s writers’ homes. Some lived in the Valley, some across town in Culver City, near the airport. “The trip would take hours. I’d get lost all the time.” Kaufman would wait for the writers to come up with material, then he’d drive it back to Bob.

“Sitting in traffic in my red 1968 Volvo, on the dusty, hot, polluted streets of Los Angeles was torture. In order to keep myself entertained, I’d peek at Mr. Hope’s topics. If the receipts said he wanted jokes on ‘inflation’ or ‘Nixon,’ I’d come up with my own jokes and tell them to a make-believe audience. Other drivers must’ve thought I was nuts.”

He began writing his own gags and sneaking them into the pile with the paid writers’ submissions. When Kaufman wrote, he didn’t have a speech impediment. “I had great timing on paper.”

Hope and the producer of the show figured out that additional scribbled jokes were coming in on the sly. After reading Kaufman’s gags, they knew their intern had comedic talent. They offered to hire him as a writer, as long as he passed a typing test.

Kaufman didn’t know how to type, but “I told them I did.” Determined to begin his writing career, he spent three days hunkered over a Remington typewriter, teaching himself. “This was a job writing jokes for Bob Hope. I was going to walk barefoot over hot coals, if I had to.”

He passed the test, got the job, and worked as a writer on The Bob Hope Show for four years. What he remembers most about that time is how Bob Hope wouldn’t laugh when he thought something was funny. He’d read through the “gags,” checking off the pieces he wanted to use by saying “That’s funny, that’s not funny, that’s funny” as he went down each writer’s list. “This guy was such a pro, he didn’t have to laugh, he just knew.”

To this day, Kaufman doesn’t think Hope knew his name. “I tried to distinguish myself by wearing a jacket and tie every day, but it only made the other writers think I was a twerp.” He wanted to make an impression, stand out somehow. Now, he laughs: he made such a big impression that, when the show went off the air, “Mr. Hope gave me a keychain with his picture on it.”

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bohemianopus July 4, 2012 @ 11:37 a.m.

I loved this story almost as much as I love the biscottis I buy at Sprouts that come from Bread & Cie. They are the closest thing to the ones my Italian family used to make from scratch.

Now, every time I dunk one of those Bread & Cie biscottis into a strong cup of coffee and savor the taste, I will remember the story behind how they got here.


dwbat July 5, 2012 @ 6:07 p.m.

Good article. Who knew there was such a story there. I just have one correction. Bob Hope didn't live in Burbank. He lived for many decades (until he died) at his house at 10346 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake.


SurfPuppy619 July 5, 2012 @ 7:15 p.m.

dw I knew Hope lived in Toluca Lake-but how did you gtehis address!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


tomjohnston July 6, 2012 @ 11:13 a.m.

Dude, seriously? You just need to do a search under "Bob Hope House". You'll be surprised at how many different sites there are. Besides that, up here it's pretty well known in the area. I think he bought the place back in the late 1930's. The intersection of Lankershim and Moorpark was recently named for him and his wife. They got married in the Catholic church on the corner and that's where his private funeral was. It's a pretty popular church with celebrities who live in the area. BTW, I'm not surprised that someone may have confused the area with Burbank. The Hope Estate is pretty big. It's like a block long and is only about 3 blocks from the Toluca/Burbank city limits. The oldest Bob's Big Boy is only like 5 or 6 blocks away, in Burbank, but people still refer to it as being in Toluca, so I guess it's just too confusing for some people.


SurfPuppy619 July 6, 2012 @ 1:32 p.m.

That Hope estate is probably on more acreage than any other high end home in metro LA area, even bigger than Spellings pad, acreage wise. He has what looks like a full golf hole complete with sand trap on the property. Awesome pad. I knew he lived in Toluca Lake but not the pinpoint address-the only time I have heard Toluca lake mentioned in media is in the movie Pulp Fiction...........


tomjohnston July 6, 2012 @ 6:21 p.m.

I'm not sure that it is bigger the house that Aaron built which is on about 5 acres. Just from looking at it, I would guess the Hope estate is around 4 acres or so give or take a little. The golf hole you see isn't a full golf hole, it's more like a little pitch and put area. Plus you can tell by comparing it to the pool. There are quite a few estates over 5 acres especially over on the west side around Brentwood and in the Beverly Hill Post Office area there at least a couple over ten acres. One of them was for sale a month or so ago for only $39 million.


SurfPuppy619 July 6, 2012 @ 8:12 p.m.

There are a few over 5 acres, I am sure that Hopes pad is over 4 acres-thinking it over I think the Beverly Hill Billies house at 750 Bel Air in Bel Air is 8 acres and I have never seen anything that big in acreage-I think there are a few homes near the 750 Bel Air home that are 5-6 acres. I think the Playboy Mansion on Cairncross is 5 acres and that is pretty big-bought that home in 1971 for $1 million!......I have not seen a 10 acre estate in a high end area, do you have the address???? The old Harold Lloyd estate Greenacres was like 20 acres when he built it in the 1920's, and probably the biggest estate ever-but after he died the heirs subdivided that property to probably 2-3 acres. Same with PicFair-that estate was originally on many acres but was subdivided down.


tomjohnston July 7, 2012 @ 10:10 a.m.

I'm pretty sure that the 750 Bel Air Road property is 6 acres, not 8. I don't have the address but if you search BHPO properties, I'm sure that there aren't too many listed at $39 million. There's also David Geffen's 10 acre estate in Beverly Hills. I'm sure you remember when he bought it in1990 for $47 million, at the time it was the highest price ever paid for a private residence. There's also a 10 acre lot for sale in BHPO, but I doubt anyone is going to pay the price and build a single home on it so it will most likely get subdivided, if it ever sells. I believe a property in Holmby Hills that Sonny and Cher owned in the 60's is around 10 acres. They bought it from Tony Curtis for about $750k, from what I've read. It backs up to LA Country Club. Of course, then there's the late actor Robert Taylor's ranch in Brentwood. It's been on the market for for several months for around $20 million. Sounds like a lot, but considering it's over 100 acres, sounds like a bargain. I know it's not really metro LA, but there are also a lot of 5+ acre estates out in Malibu also. Greenacres was 15 or 16 acres, depending on what you read. Lloyd's heirs sold it to a middle eastern businessman. He sold the mansion on 4 or 5 acre parcel and split the rest off into 15 parcels that were mostly under an acre, but he was still able to get $1-2 million for them. Not many people know that Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers actually tried to give Pickfair away. They wanted it maintained after they were gone. But nobody would take it because of the cost of upkeep. We went there a couple of times. You could see the house pretty clearly from the front gate. Very cool and pretty good views, too.


tomjohnston July 7, 2012 @ 5:06 p.m.

Actually, it turns out we both were wrong, though you were closer to being right. Rather than write a bunch of stuff, here's a link to an old interview with Hope:

BTW, the former Crosby Estate, at 10500 Camarillo St. just sold again around Christmas time fore just over $4 million.


SurfPuppy619 July 10, 2012 @ 1:46 a.m.

What I have noticed is that there are MANY homes priced in the tens of millions, but few actually sell that high. I remember the OCR listed all the beach houses in OC and there were tons that were over $10 million listed but not one had sold at that price.........that one big Holmby Hills pad, the french one FINALLY sold, I forgot the name and price, but it took like 3-5 years to build and was hideous. here it is...argggg..


tomjohnston July 10, 2012 @ 12:19 p.m.

Actually, that place hasn't sold yet. According to MLS, (#11-540771) it's still active and still listed at $125 million. I don't know about hideous. An even bigger place, the site of Walt Disney's former house, is right across the street it's not a whole lot better. I don't know about selling price vs. asking price, but a friend of ours who sells high end real estate told us there have been probably 75 properties at least in LA that have sold for over $10 million in the last 3 yrs or so and probably 8-10 that have sold for over $20 million. I think it's probably been a year at least since I read of a place sold in OC for at least $10 million. The last one I remember was in Laguna.


SurfPuppy619 July 11, 2012 @ 12:57 a.m.

I thought it sold.......but it is UGLY IMO, the back portion is nice, but the front-YIKES!!! It is no where near as nice as the BH home at 750 Bel Air, now that pad is beautiful......I know the spelling manison was listed at $150 million butI think Candy Spelling closed escrow at half that- $88 million- I think is the price it sold for..........I would prefer Malibu or coastal OC over Bel Air/Holmby Hills/Beverly Hills area.


tomjohnston July 11, 2012 @ 8:54 a.m.

I believe it was $85 million. It was purchased by Bernie Ecclestone's daughter Petra. She also bought a place in Chelsea for about $90 million. I know her father is a billionaire, but omfg!! Nice payday for the 3 agents that handled the sale, though. The problem with coastal OC, and I assume you mean south coast, is that it's too congested. When we sold our condo in SD a couple of years ago, we used part of the money to buy a place in Dana Point. Nothing spectacular, just a little 2br place a couple of blocks from DP harbor. We've spent a decent amount of time there over the years and there's really just no large estates there to speak of, at least close to the coast. Yeah, if you have $10-20 million, you can find a huge house in Newport Coast or CDM, but almost all of them on on small lots, usually about 1/2 acre. I think think the most expensive place on the market right now in South OC is in Crystal Cove. It's only .85 acres, 2 lots combined, about 18K sq ft and last time I looked it was listed at $35 million. If I have that kind of money, I'm living in Malibu. Probably dozens of places, on the beach, in the colony, above PCH, small lots, multi acre parcels, you name it. The variety is so much greater in Malibu than south OC, and as contradictory as it may seem, I think you get more for your money.


dwbat July 7, 2012 @ 11:45 a.m.

I Googled. And here's a photo courtesy of Google Maps.


SurfPuppy619 July 10, 2012 @ 1:41 a.m.

Yes, MASSIVE awesome homestead........beautiful........thanks dw!!!!!!!!


jeannedunn July 9, 2012 @ 2:02 p.m.

Jeanne Dunn Heaven is here & now, at Bread & Cie. I like your interview/history of Bread & Cie, which continues to reign as the best, most authentic cafe in the region, with its delectable bread and equally sublime pastries and sandwiches - -all served in a cosmopolitan atmosphere. It is interesting that other readers in the comments above are all caught up in Bob Hope's several nests and don't's see the delightful trees because they are looking at one element of the forest (there's a metaphor for you). Charles and Dori Kaufman are each hard-working dynamos, and have both done great things for the people in San Diego. In your article it's great to conclude that the film industry, through Charles Kaufman, spawned a kind of people's theater that goes on naturally at Bread & Cie on a daily, hourly basis. And here you can eat what you see.


violadace July 12, 2012 @ 4:29 p.m.

There is no one more professional-- or a nicer guy-- in the San Diego food world than Charles Kaufman. Thank you, Reader and writer, for offering a happy story for a change and for profiling someone in our community who deserves to be celebrated. Splashy joints may come and go, but quality lasts. Thank God for Charles, his staff, and Bread and Cie.


dmckenna1 Oct. 14, 2015 @ 7:55 a.m.

Charles Kaufman - thank you for your bread it is the best in California , and thank you for your infectious smile. Maybe we can get another movie out of you?


dwbat Oct. 14, 2015 @ 8:22 a.m.

Maybe the Mayor should hire Kaufman to be San Diego's new "film czar" to attract more movie production.


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