Tuesday, March 2, 2010

here in Lille, finally

Boy, been a while, I see that my last post was February 17th. Not surprised, that whole Valentine's day/Fat Tuesday thing was the most whirlwinded situation I've ever been in. Right now, I'm in Lille, France, heading towards Europain 2010, in Paris. I am here representing the Bread Bakers Guild of America, acting as a manager type person for the American bakers practicing for the Maîtres de Boulangerie, Masters of Baking competition. The trip got off to a bad start when my flight could not land in Paris and we got sent to Frankfurt. Strong winds prevented us from landing. I was to meet Dara Riemers at the airport in Paris. She was arriving an hour after myself. That got twisted up, and on top of that, her flight landed. So we were set back a day. Once I found her, we got the car loaded and off to Lille, we went. Lille is about an hour and a half drive north of Paris, very close to Belgium. We are being hosted by the LeSaffre yeast company. We are working in a test kitchen in the LeSaffre baking centre. Incredible place, incredible people. Our host is a very jolly Brit named Nigel Saunders. When I competed in 2005, Nigel was our host then, as well. They take good care of us here, anything we need, they jump to accommodate us. We are complete guests of LeSaffre, so any bakers reading this, you need to be using Red Star/LeSaffre yeast.

Very impressive, the attitude and the attempt that these French folks are making towards the baking industry. We drove by a yeast plant, a mile or so from here, enormous. Nigel was telling me that they have two yeast plants in France, one in Maisons-Alfort and this one in Lille. They also have on just over the Belgium border in Gant. They produce dry yeast in one, compressed in another and cream yeast in the third. Yesterday, they were test baking baguettes, all I know is, there were baskets of baguettes by the door, for anyone to take on their way out. Each baguette was clearly marked 1,2 & 3. I tasted 'em all. Couldn't tell much difference between 'em. They all tasted fine, very industrious. Fine tight crumb, nice, nice crust, not much in the way of fermentation flavour. Beautiful colour, and scoring marks. Not surprised, it appears they were made by Francois, not sure of his last name. He heads up the team of bakers that does the baking in the LeSaffre booth at Europain.

The LeSaffre yeast company sponsors both the Coupe du Monde and the Maîtres de Boulangerie. When I competed in 2005, we rehearsed at the Maisons-Alfort facility. The countries that compete in the Coupe du Monde, go thru a preliminary competition to earn a spot. Those early rounds of competition are referred to as the "Louis LeSaffre Cup". they house, fly & feed, all the competeing teams and their coaches. Quite an undertaking. Later this year there will be a Louis LeSaffre cup competition during the IBIE show in Las Vegas, in September. Something all bakers should be looking forward to.

Hey, for once I gotta run, but not upstairs. I gotta check on Dara, see how she is doing. Had a great croissant at the hotel breakfast this morning, reminded me of home.


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