Tahini and wasabi are easily acquired in quantities large enough to be included in Au Bon Pain’s dishes, but the chain’s executive chef, Thomas John, still can’t find one ingredient in the state and volume he desires: hearts of palm.“You get those canned ones,” John says, “but the fresh ones from Hawaii make a great salad.” However, he’d need “thousands of pounds” if the hearts were added to a dish at the 262-unit bakery-cafe chain based in Boston. ABP also operates kiosks, nontraditional ...

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