Reading the Bread: a business + bakery + love story.

Enjoy the staple of civilization in the heart of Red Bank.

Reading the Bread: a business + bakery + love story.
Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

"Everything is literally made by hand. It is a labor of love, a labor of people."

It takes five days to make croissants at Bread & Butter, the beloved bakery in Red Bank. Five days. By hand. You mix on a Monday, laminate on Tuesday, freeze, then shape, and by Friday, you bake. Five days.

The Dayton Boulevard bakery is surrounded by drive-thru's to the left and fast food to the right, all of which serve many things, but five-day-croissants aren't one of them.

So, how does such a bakery survive? And thrive?

Handmade bread costs money. So when Bread & Butter opened its doors in 2016, one large question loomed: would people pay good money for good bread?

Croissants, Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

Early morning in 2016, as Bread & Butter unlocked its doors for the first time, there was a line of 50 folks out on the sidewalk, waiting. During Covid, they kept showing up. During rollercoaster unemployment rates. Surrounded by drive-thru-fast-food options. Without public transportation. They keep coming.

"The fact that we're still here. Still kicking," said Victoria Capdevielle, co-owner and co-founder. "That's what I'm proudest of."

To really know the Bread & Butter story, you have to look askew, aslant, from an angle. Kind of like the sun in an eclipse, you can't look straight-on. Yes, it's about bread. But also about business. And trusting your gut. And falling in love.

Victoria Capdevielle, Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

Since 2016, Capdevielle has noticed a similarity among the best bakers. They're also potters, artists, folks who move their hands easily. The ones who aren't afraid to get down and dirty and engaged with life.

“It’s tactile. It’s feeling,” she said. “You read the bread. Everything from crumb to crust. Slice in and see what’s going on. It’s all there.”

Let’s take a look.

Cheesy Grits sourdough, Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

Before she moved to Red Bank and opened a bakery inside a vacant Baskin Robbins on Dayton Boulevard, Capdevielle was striding through a career in high-rise NYC marketing, then, to Miami and vice-presidency of a real estate group. Her Linkedin, which suggests she was one or two NYC phone calls away from Beyonce and Pink Floyd, is summed up in two words: pretty badass.

In 2015, she left Miami for Red Bank – (who ever writes that sentence?) – for one big reason: to climb. 

To climb rocks, not the madhouse corporate ladder.

“And the affordable, quality of life,” she said.

Then, she stayed for another: love. 

She met Alex Whitman, also a climber, who moved here from Seattle. First real date: Sunset Rock. Whitman had returned from China, where a latent interest in baking and bread had been sparked.

Wanting a new career path, he decided to try baking sourdough to sell at farmers' market. Very soon, he painfully realized he was incapable of baking a good loaf: 

How can I be so terrible at a staple of civilization?

I have to get better at this. I have to give this a try. 

In 2015, Whitman and Capdevielle were living together in a tiny rental in Red Bank with one oven – “a terrible little oven,” she remembers – and the smallest kitchen she’s seen.

"You read the bread."

There, Whitman baked. And baked. Sometimes, two dozen loaves of sourdough, all in that terrible little oven, in his attempt to become decent, maybe even good, at this staple of civilization.

“The guy’s exploding the kitchen,” she remembers. “Flour, everywhere. Bins, everywhere. It takes all day. Twenty-four loaves out of our home oven.”

Food as a Verb thanks Little Coyote, our sustaining partner, for its generous support.

Now open in St. Elmo, Little Coyote blends together Texas barbeque, Cuban, Caribbean and Southwestern influences – smoked meats, stunningly original tortillas, 100 varieties of tequilas, sotols and mezcals – for a family-style restaurant experience unlike any other in Chattanooga.

Over time, he became good, quite good, and began selling at farmers’ markets. 

“He was selling out,” she corrected. 

Alex Whitman, Bread & Butter, Main St. Farmers' Market, Chattanooga, Tenn.

They started eyeing the old Baskin Robbins, empty on the corner of Dayton Boulevard and Mountain Creek Road.

Capdevielle? Wasn’t a baker then. Isn't a baker now.

“I got suckered into this,” she smiles. 

Whitman, 39, signs the lease. Capdevielle, also 39, realizes: I can contribute. 

Back in NYC, she had fallen in love with the Bushwick Food Co-op, becoming very interested in local food, farms and sourcing with intention. Now, she could build a bakery that invested in local food.

“The idea ignited in me,” she remembers. 

Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee
Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee
Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

Capdevielle combines a respect and love for local food with the sixth sense of a marketing and business exec. She has that embodied, gutsy, big-city boldness; endearingly, she doesn’t take any shit. Honest, kind, never a pushover.

"I need to have the guts to not listen to some people," she said.

Without that type of gut-courage, Bread & Butter wouldn't exist.

"I came from advertising and marketing. He's a self-taught baker," she said. "We don't come from a bakery or kitchen background."

They've created a sort of 1950s gender stereotype inverse: he's the baker, she's the business powerhouse.

Capdevielle's influence is significant. Chattanooga suffers from a female leadership vacuum. There are no women on the county commission. Yet to have a female mayor. Disproportionately low number of regional female executives and CEOs. It may not be garden-variety government work, but don't discount what Capdevielle's doing, what she's modeling and teaching those around her:

Stay true to yourself.

Trust yourself.

"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid," declared the feminist writer Audre Lorde.

That's why Bread & Butter works.

Victoria Capdevielle, Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

On her office bookshelf, there are more books about business leadership than baking sourdough. Unreasonable Hospitality – she calls it “the best business book ever” – and Traction and The Six Types of Working Genius.

"Get a grip on your business," she summarizes. "How to build vision and a team. It's not easy managing people."

When they opened their doors, they stepped forward with one big ethical vision:

Price it fair. Keep the doors open. Pay employees well. Don't skimp on ingredients.

Since 2016, Whitman and Capdevielle have stayed true to three principles:

Made from scratch.

Made by hand.

Made with local ingredients.

Bread & Butter sources an abundance of ingredients and products from probably two dozen local farmers. Its shelves hold locally-sourced granola, kombucha, Coyote Cove lotion, nut butters, honey and more.

Nearly all their bread is sourdough.

"Sourdough bread is one of the oldest forms of grain fermentation," they wrote in a published blog. "It’s believed that sourdough bread originated in ancient Egypt around 1,500 BC and remained the main form of bread leavening until commercial yeast replaced it about 100 years ago."

Using a starter called Levian, Whitman worked continuously – "every single day literally for a year-and-a-half," she remembers – towards finding the perfect balance.

"The Levain is the bakery's baby. We feed it and babysit it to keep it alive and happy," Capdevielle said.

Bread & Butter uses wild yeast and a long fermentation: up to 48 hours "building the bread."

"This allows for a yeasted and bacterial fermentation to occur and for the gluten to be broken down. This means that we've broken down some of the gluten in the bread and in return it makes it easier for your body to digest," they wrote.

So when folks taste Bread & Butter loaves, and return each week for more, and when Whitman's lines at the Main St. Farmers' Market are a dozen deep, it's because there is a literal, quantifiable difference in what goes into their mouth. You taste the local. You taste the 48 hours of handmade.

Alex Whitman, Bread & Butter, Main St. Farmers' Market, Chatt., Tenn.

"What people get at the grocery store is a bread product. Not real bread," Capdevielle said. "Since we opened, we care about what's going into this bread."

Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

In an age of instant-everything, sourdough, which takes its own sweet time, runs against the stream, a delicious countercultural reminder that good things aren't quick.

"To make sourdough bread, a pre-prepared starter culture is added to flour, water, and salt to make dough that is then allowed to ferment and rise for several hours before baking," the wrote. "The longer the dough ferments during its rising time, the more opportunity for the natural bacterias within the environment to come into play. These bacterias create acids as by-products as it feeds off sugars in the dough. These acids are what give sourdough its complex flavor and sour taste. In our bakery, this process takes around 48 hours."

Whitman believes in the baker's duty: "to provide a happy growing environment for this culture."

Victoria Capdevielle, Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

Bread & Butter employs some 17 people, from the remarkable pastry chef Jess Revels to area high school students.

"What we do here is hard. It's an artisan trade. It's all made by hand," Capdevielle said. "When you purchase from Bread & Butter, you are supporting your local economy in many ways. You are supporting not just our employees but also our farmers and local makers."

Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

Yes, it may cost more.

“If people don’t want to pay for this, we don’t deserve to be in business,” she said. “Everything is literally made by hand. It is a labor of love, a labor of people.”

To understand Bread & Butter, read the bread. Read the bakery, the businesswoman, the baker, their vision. Read the community of farmers, their cherished ingredients, the lines of folks who keep coming back.

It all makes sense. You see it, clear as day.

"You need to be good at reading the bread," she said. "Everything has a cause and effect. Everything has reasons in the bread."

Bread & Butter, Red Bank, Tennessee

All photography by Sarah Unger (

All design by Alex DeHart

All words by David Cook (

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This story is 100% human generated; no AI chatbot was used in the creation of this content.

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