Friday, May 29, 2009

Rollin' the dice again

Faced with another game time decision. Which weather site should I base my decision on? The national weather service says 30% tomorrow before 1pm., says 30% after 10am. We'll keep an eye on it. We'll make the call this afternoon at 4pm. Why can't it just be nice on Wednesdays and Mondays? Go ahead and rain away the other 5 days.

Yesterday I covered my intro the BBGA and the NBC. Needles to say, I didn't make the baking team. Not that time, or the next. But I did earn a spot and compete on the 2005 team. That 1999 team went on to win the whole deal. It was a real shock to the French. First time the US won. I've been to Paris many times. I've spent a lot of time with French bakers. Nice guys, a lot of things make it difficult for us to compare our business model to theirs. But they face the same challenges we do. Worse news for them, they are going through the same infusion of grocery stores that American bakers have been going through since the 60's(?). Every trip to Paris/France, I see fewer and fewer bakeries. More and more frozen dough. There are still way more bakeries, per capita, than we have here. I think there are more than 10,000 bakeries in Paris alone.

I spend a lot of time talking to bakers, from both sides of the water. Not only the French. When you meet an American baker, he/she will say "how's business"? Every time. Never fails. When you meet a French baker, he(very few female bakers in France) will say "what flour are you using"? Kinda funny. I learned the flour ins and outs from a French guy, Didier Rosada. Great guy, great instructor, great friend. Came here from France to work for Bay State Milling. He became the bread instructor at the NBC. He does a lot of work for the American Wheat Council. Also, coached the 2005 team I was a part of. My dad taught me how to work, taught me perseverance, gave me the freedom to learn, Didier changed the way we bake.

I've been sitting here, motionless for a good couple minutes, hesitant about saying this. I'm gonna say it because I really, really believe it. Don't want to hurt any feelings, so I am sorry ahead of time. It's as easy to find good bread here as it is in France. There, any issues, take them up with Didier and a second guy, Phillipe LeCorre. It's their fault. They offered and I listened. They taught me to respect the process, and I do. You just have to know where to find it. Now, one thing. The reason the bread/pastries are so good in France is because they are always fresh, hours out of the oven. It's simple, they have tiny, tiny bakeries. From oven to store. They bake baguettes all day long. Not just once a day like here. They have tiny ovens. As I understand it. It's to costly to have any payroll, with the tax structure and all. Eighty percent of the bakeries in France have five employees or less. They are also governed regarding the selling price of a baguette. A small bakery, will produce 500-600 baguettes a day, a few other varieties of bread and some croissant.

Again, I apologize to my French friends, and my French customers. But I think they'll agree. After all, they know where to look.


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