If you’ve stayed with us in Austin, you’re probably familiar with the deliciousness that is a warm basket of Chef Ben Baker’s sourdough bread.

What you may not know is how that bread has a legacy of its very own.

There is a lot of work and dedication that goes into sourdough bread, and the key to it all begins with, well… the starter.

A sourdough starter is a living organism and keeping it that way is no small task. It requires careful attention each and every day – being refreshed or “fed” with water and flour and then given proper time to rest and grow. They are truly a labor of love, which is why having one that can be traced back to before 1896 is such a remarkable feat!

That’s the year two brothers made their way from Basque where they brought their family’s sourdough legacy to San Francisco. The Larraburu brothers journeyed from France with a starter that had been passed down for generations and began their namesake business. Larraburu Brothers Bakery was known for its highly sought after, delicious sourdough bread and thus it’s reputation as “San Francisco’s Finest Tradition” began!


How did the delicious dough make it’s way from early San Francisco to Travaasa Austin, you may ask? It was not by direct flight. The next stop is our favorite island, where Chef Ben resided at the time.

When the Larraburu family opened their bakery, they were happy to share with the community and gave pieces of their infamous starter to anyone that simply asked for it. Lucky for us, some of what was given out made it’s way to the hands of a talented baker named Scotty Hessler.

While Chef Ben was living and working at a restaurant in Maui, he began working with Scotty, who was trained to bake in Oregon convents. The story of the bread was one of many told by Scotty, but it was one that the two bonded over while working together. Chef Ben with California roots grew up with his mother’s homemade bread and wanted to keep that tradition alive for his family, too (they are The Bakers after all!).  When the time came for Ben to leave Maui and relocate to Texas, the two baked the sourdough in a cast iron skillet over a campfire on Scotty’s land in Haleakalā. Before he left, Ben was elated to get a piece of the starter from Scotty as a farewell gift.

These days, the starter and its delicious final product continue to carry on the Larraburu legacy at Travaasa Austin, calling Chef Ben’s kitchen home. Scotty also calls Travaasa home these days, but his talents are being used in Hana!

Thanks to Chef Ben’s dedication to the century-old starter (and his amazing baking skills, of course), word of his delicious sourdough has spread and made it’s way to the ears of the Larraburu family, who tracked him down for a documentary that will help tell their full story.


Bread by the loaves.

Each day, Chef Ben refreshes the starter, goes through the process of adding to it, mixing, letting it rest for several hours before he can begin baking. He makes approximately 21 loaves of his sourdough bread for the guests dining in The Preserve Kitchen + Bar at Travaasa Austin, spending at least three hours doing so. If you’re doing the math, that is approximately:

147 loaves of bread a week
638 loaves a month
7,665 loaves a year

For a grand total of 1,095 hours spent baking sourdough bread!

And guess what he does in his free time? Chef Ben Baker bakes with his family, of course. The Baker tradition lives on!