Xan Devoss has been working to perfect her sourdough loaf for nearly a decade. Since she began experimenting at home with a warm levain starter, virtually all aspects of the business have become more difficult: from soaring overhead costs to the impacts of climate change.
Against these odds, Devoss unveiled Fox and Lion Bread on March 29 at 18th and Capp streets—her first dedicated storefront—where she said she’s hoping to keep prices affordable enough to serve the working-class residents of the Mission.
Devoss’s business strategy materialized when she moved into a commercial kitchen in Bayview seven years ago. With a desire to cater to her customer base, she developed a sandwich menu with base prices that hovered around $10 and extra items like chilis and avocado that people could choose to add.
Of course, maintaining affordability is still a challenge, Devoss said, especially in light of inflated grain prices.
“Some people at the farmers’ market couldn’t believe five out of the eight dollars for the loaf is actually the grain,” she said. “It’s really insane.”
When Devoss first launched her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) sourdough subscription program, she was also working as a bartender and raising a young child. Hoping to shift away from the 12-hour work days that kept her from her family, she tinkered with a levain-style loaf, which uses active yeast cultures to ferment, accentuating the vivid flavor of the grains.
Devoss likened her first loaves to the heavy bricks many home bakers were making at the beginning of the pandemic. Almost a decade later, she still hasn’t reached the platonic ideal of sourdough.
“I don’t know if I’m even happy now,” she said, laughing. “But every time it comes out of the oven, I’m surprised. The fermentation process is wild.”
Fox and Lion Bread’s name is a tribute to Devoss’s parents—her father’s last name is Dutch for “fox” and her mother’s Jewish roots trace back to the Levites, an ancient Hebrew tribe that roughly translates to “lion.” She explained that many people stigmatized her parents’ Catholic and Jewish intermarriage back then.
“So I wanted to honor those differences,” she said.
Launching an artisan bakery in 2023 is no easy feat. Over the past decade, Devoss has seen the impacts of climate change on agriculture firsthand. Drought conditions in California have created a spate of lower yield harvests that, over time, drove up the price of grains. It’s the same outcome when the fields flood, as is the case this year. Devoss works with Early Bird Farm in Wilseyville, California, which uses regenerative practices to try and mitigate the fallout from a rapidly transforming planet.
“The farmers are definitely feeling it, and they understand it’s all directly related to climate change,” she said.
With all of those factors to consider, Devoss added that doing right by the environment, farmers and her customers remains a difficult balancing act.
“There are so many things to consider when you’re buying bread, down to the workers growing the grains,” she said. “At the end of the day, you have to help the people growing our food.”
Fox and Lion Bread
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]