William & Mary

Alumni bring natural food to Los Angeles

  • Red Bread:
    Red Bread:  David '06 and Rose Lawrence '06 named their L.A.-based organic kitchen and bakery Red Bread because every language has a word for red and bread. They offer a variety of different breads and award-winning baked goods, as well as food education classes.  Photo courtesy of Rose Lawrence '06
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This story originally appeared in the spring 2015 issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine. - Ed.

David ’06 and Rose Hess Lawrence ’06 might live 2,700 miles away from the Sir Christopher Wren Building, but they have never felt more at home with their lives and careers. These days, the couple resides in Venice, Calif., where they own and operate Red Bread, an organic kitchen and grocer that serves the Los Angeles area.

“We met at William & Mary,” said Rose. “I was a psychology and theatre double-major, so the first time David saw me, I was acting in a second season play called ‘On the Verge.’ He was a literary and cultural studies major and after our time in Williamsburg was up, we both went our separate ways, but managed to stay in touch. Eventually we reconvened and got married!”

While still on the East Coast, Rose worked for international human rights law firms, as well as the U.S. State Department. David applied his master’s degree in media studies by forming Modest Conspiracy, an industrial creative think tank. After making their livings as newlyweds, the Lawrences picked up and moved to California in search of a different life, and to escape Virginia’s frigid winters.

“Rosie and I were looking for something vital to launch a company of our own,” said David. “Around the same time, she was seriously researching nutrition, sustainable practices and the perils of the industrialized food system. When we discovered there wasn’t a single organic sourdough bread company in Los Angeles, we knew it was something worth building.”

In 2012, Red Bread was born. “We both had the general desire to do capacity building in the community, something tangible that would integrate people’s basic needs with what excited us,” Rose said. “We began thinking about food and how we could use it to teach and to give back.”

While the operation started as a small-scale bakery and bike-delivery eGrocer, it quickly became more. Now the couple also specializes in educating the public on the importance of clean eating and wholesome food preparation.

“With so many pressures on the 21st century global food system, farming and cuisine are professional fields where a vital conversation about the long-term future of humanity is taking place,” said David. “Those kinds of conversations fascinate me, and we have been at the heart of one here in L.A., working with many of the best farmers in the world. We hope Red Bread is adding a few drops in the bucket towards California and the U.S. adopting enlightened agriculture and food practices.”

David and Rose credit the College for their passion to serve the community, particularly their decision to donate 5 percent of every Red Bread sale to the L.A. Food Bank.  “So many of the philanthropic and community initiatives we undertake are shaped by our time at William & Mary,” said Rose.

“Those wonderful professors [at W&M] taught me how to analyze and synthesize culture, and that translates into everything I do for us,” added David. “Since we started Red Bread, the company has been responsible for over 15,000 meals served at the L.A. Food Bank. That we were able to generate that amount of assistance with our work is a source of deep pride for me.”

The transformation that Red Bread has undergone in the short few years of its existence proves that its organic roots already run deep. “Everything we do is a collaborative effort,” said David. “Food and a passion for sustainable growing and sourcing are at the heart of it all.”

Rose echoed David’s sentiments and summed up the satisfaction they feel through the food services they provide. “We are really after access to good, wholesome food for everyone,” said Rose. “When you teach people something as applicable as learning how to care for what they put into their bodies, it clicks, and brings out this childlike feeling in people of all ages. It’s really very magical.”