The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bonjour from Paris!

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l'Anglais's picture
l'Anglais

Bonjour from Paris!

Hello everybody

My name is tom, i'm 27 and have been living in paris for over 4 years now. I came here to learn french cuisine, patisserie and now boulangerie.

For the last 3 and a half years i have been working for the 3 michelin star chef Pierre Gagnaire in his main restaurant in paris, Rue Balzac. Here i started as a commis in the patisserie and have worked my way up to be chef de partie and 3rd in command of the pastry section, where we can have upto 9 or 10 people working. I have worked on every section in the patisserie in paris (as well as Courchevel, london and Honk Kong in other restaurants for Pierre Gagnaire) creating the very abstract and special desserts in the particular style of Pierre Gagnaire. Many people think that he is like el bulli and specialises in molecular gastronomy - they are all wrong! It is a very classical french restaurant with modern influences and many asian influences as well. It is REAL food!

But what i found most interesting is the bakery section, where the bread is VERY VERY good! For just under a year i was responsable for the bakery, producing (on my own!) several different types of bread for the 3 star restaurant at rue Balzac as well as for mr gagnaire's 1 star luxury bistro Gaya, on rue du bac. All the breads are using a levain starter, various organic flours, as well as "label rouge" flours (this is a trace of origin mark in france, applies for many foodstuffs and assures quality!). 2 years ago i was introduced to a baker from Brittany on the northeast coast of france, Michel Izard. He is a friend of mr gagnaire's and is the bakery consultant for him. When i took on the role of boulanger, he came to paris and showed me many techniques, such as the autolyse, the rabat and how to properly look after my levain starter.

So after 3 and a half years of working for Pierre Gagnaire, i have just resigned! For the moment i am on holiday and relaxing! But as of september i am looking to work in an artisanal boulangerie here in paris and continue to learn what i have come to love. 

 

l'Anglais's picture
l'Anglais

Oh I forgot to mention i'm English!!

lumos's picture
lumos

The most enthusiastic welcome to Tom! (Love your username!) Wonderful to have you on boards!  My obsession passion on bread baking is strongly based on my deperate attempts for many years to make French style breads (mainly levain based and baguettes) in my home kitchen with readily available UK flours.  So I'll be very, very interested to listen to whatever tips you can share with us and also up to date info about what's happening in the baking world in France!

lumos

fminparis's picture
fminparis

Boy, am I jealous.  This will be the first year in 30 years that we won't be visiting Paris. Definitely will return next year.

Fred Melnickhttp://www.anamericaninparis.comYour Gateway to Parise-mail: FMinParis@aol.com
ehanner's picture
ehanner

Welcome to the site Tom. I think you will find this to be an interesting place to hang out. We are mostly home bakers of artisan breads but there are a few professionals around as well and a professor here and there in the food industry. It sounds like you are looking for an adventure. Do you have any plans for opening your own shop?

Eric

l'Anglais's picture
l'Anglais

Hi eric

I have in fact decided in the last 2 days that i plan on opening a shop (or several!) back in england. This is something i've always loved doing for the last 5 or 6 years and now i'm going to try and make a real career out of it. Since finishing my job, i've had many ideas about where i should go next and what to do, but the idea of baking full time, leaving the restaurant situation, is the one that has really caught on in my mind. I have been working in restaurants since i was 16 so this is quite a big career change for me!

I plan on educating the british on real fresh bread. But within my boulangerie i will also sell the best cakes, gateaux, tartes and macaron's known to man!!!

lrlntad's picture
lrlntad

What will you suggest in terms of Pastry education and training if someone wants to open a bakery?

Do I need to attend a Pastry School? How about short classes in Continuing Education - Pastry Area that are non credited Programs?

Thanks!  I envy you!

 

l'Anglais's picture
l'Anglais

Honestly, i have NO qualifications! I worked in various hotels and restaurants in the north norfolk countryside in england, until i was 22 when i decided to move to paris on my own without knowing a word of french! My first job was in a small fish restaurant called marius et janette, where i learned some very simple french desserts, 9 months later i found myself working in (what was then!) the 3rd best restaurant in the world! Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire. They took me on after a 2 day trial. The first 18months were HORRIBLE. I got shouted at, nothing i made was good enough, nothing i made was right and then 1 day something in me just clicked and i found i could suddenly do everything without thinking about it.

So what i'm saying is put in the hard work professionaly and you dont have to do the training or schooling that gives you a whole day to make 1 apple tart or 1 baguette or 1 roast chicken. Go and work in a busy pastry shop or bakery and you will get the best training on earth and the bonus is you get paid as well, not the other way around!!

JustinB's picture
JustinB

I'm jealous! I work for a local bakery here in California as head baker, produce around 300-400 loaves daily, It exhausting (mix and bake by myself!).. But that would be amazing to do in France or England, I think! I'm very similar, I was put into the bakery for how hard I worked, got yelled at for a couple of months, and then it all just clicked one day :)

SpellBinding Artisan Baker's picture
SpellBinding Ar...

OMG I miss Paris!  

 

I trained in a little family run bakery on Rue des Martyrs about 13 years ago and I LOVED it.  I gained my Boulanger de Practique there, but left feeling I had so much still to learn :S ....

 

Hey Tom, If you happen to know of a French Flour Exporter to the UK ... ;)

 

Lots of fun and frolics in Gay Paris

 

Kal xxxxx

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Tom,

You will find, as far as the UK is concerned, that "The Time is Now" for good bread.   There are loads of people looking to make and eat it.   Just making it available is enough, the education is already spreading well.   We're called the Real Bread Campaign...come along and join us, you'd be very welcome and a lot more powerful than just a one-man mission.

It's really good to have you on TFL

Best wishes

Andy

lumos's picture
lumos

As a person who's been a British citizen half her life, I sort of understand how some people outside UK 'd see the state of British culinary life, especially when I recall how depressing (Sorry!) it was for me when it comes to food in this country when I came here a long time ago.  And that's precisely the reason I started baking breads so seriously, too.

But Susan (Wild Yeast), I can honestly,  and very strongly, can assure you that British food scenes these days are not like that AT ALL Not any more.  The changes and improvement of food culture in last 10-15 years or so is really amazing, probably thanks to very long economical boom period (until the recent bust...) and even larger infux of immigrants/visitors from many countries, plus more British people travelling much more widely and frequently. 

I'm known among my friends and family as an obsessive food fanatics :p, so passionate about anything to do with food, I even started teaching cooking in my modest domestic kitchen which will have been running for 15 years this autumn. So I do spend a lot of time and effort (and money) to enjoy my culinary life, and these days, I can really tell you I'm so glad I'm in UK, especially just outside London where lots and lots of exciting things are happening food-wise and all those supermarkets and ethnic shops you can buy all sorts of foody goodies from all over the world, very easily.

Yes, it's true there're still lots of people who don't care what they eat and who love to devour really unappetising (to foreign eyes) or bad quality stuff, but I'm sure that's exactly the same in US, isn't it? 

I don't feel so strong as brit above that I need to ask you to delete your post, on the contrary, I'd rather you (or Floyd) would leave the post as it is. But I just would like to ask you please try to update your knowledge/conception about British food and how my fellow Brits eat their way these days.  We (I'd proudly say 'we,' which I couldn't do 25 years ago) are not as bad as some people outside UK may think any more.

Better still, come and visit us someday!  I'll be happy to be your foodie guide in London! :)

With best wishes,

lumos

brit's picture
brit

Well said lumos.

I may have been a bit hasty in my reply to Wild-Yeast, but some of the comments in Wild-Yeast's post really rankled me when I read them. I didn't like the broad-brush application of negative comments to the entire British population 'they do this and they do that' and felt I had to say something. You post is a much more resonable and eloquent reply than mine and I'm not going to say anything else on the matter.

Apologies to Tom for hijacking your thread. I found it fascinating reading your post and I wish you all the best for the future. I hope I can taste your bread and cakes sometime if you do set up in Britain!

Cheers,

another Tom.

 

lumos's picture
lumos

Hi, Tom the brit!  thank you for your kind words.

Aaaand, Sorry, Tom the English Man in Paris. I'd like to second the other Tom's apology for hijacking your thread and all the best for your future.

Really, seriously looking forward to the day when you come back to us and open an authentic French boulangerie here!.....preferably not too far from me. .........Want my address? :p

 

....now I go and shut up!

lumos

 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Lumos,

I may be mistaken, but I believe the person posting as Wild-Yeast above is not the same person as Susan, the author of the blog Wild Yeast.

 

SteveB

www.breadcetera.com 

lumos's picture
lumos

Isn't she (he, then?) not?  OK, I'll delete 'Susan' part from my post.  Thank you for letting me know, SteveB.

 

btw, I'm been a fan of your site for a long time, too.  Thank you for giving me a lots of information and inspiration over the years.....and sorry for the belated gratitude.  :)

Best wishes,

lumos

 

ETA:  Gosh.....I seem to have gone over the editing limit with that post and can't delete 'Susan' anymore......  So if you're reading this thread, Susan of THE Wild Yeast blog site,  and if that post is not yours, I'm so, so so, sorry!!!

msbreadbaker's picture
msbreadbaker

Well, I'd like to know where the posts from Wild Yeast went to. We got to read all the responses to it/them, but the actual post was not included in the material sent to me, was it deleted after all? Jean P. (VA)

ananda's picture
ananda

Something to consider in light of the opinions recently expressed on this thread:

One of my ex students has just returned from  3 months work experience in a Patisserie in Catania, Sicily.   This is his original home town, although he has been living in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK for over 18 years.

He has returned bemoaning the white and fluffy "no time" breads now dominating the bread scene as he found it in Catania, Sicily.   He had to beg for some local flour from his boss and a local miller who claim this flour is unwanted and either given for animal feed, or, thrown away.

He has returned enthused by his time working in Catania, but wanting no future part of the local baking scene.   Instead, having studied with me for 2 years he is absolutely confident that there is a huge potential market for high quality breads and pastries in his adopted home town, right here in the cold outreaches of the UK.   OK, so we are a few years behind the Artisan movements of France and the USA, but I maintain there has never been a better time to set up here as a baker....ever.   Yes, there is lots of poor food and lots of dietary problems here in the UK, but it is as nothing compared to the US, surely?

I'm much in agreement with lumos here.   There is some excellent food to be found, and plenty of people out there actively looking for it.   I also offer apologies for hijacking the thread!

All good wishes

Andy

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Tom,

You are the perfect age to charge forward and seize the day. From the sounds of it you have the knowledge and work ethic to run a small business on your own. After working for myself all my adult life, I can tell you there is nothing more satisfying. Sure it is hard work but when you make the decisions about the quality of the products, you establish your own reputation in the community around you. If you establish yourself as a person who will not compromise on quality and deliver outstanding breads and pastries, the world will beat a path to your door. I wish you success in all that you do with your new direction.

Eric

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

WOW! You are living my dream! lol

I am currently in a local culinary arts program, but just plain ole' cooking isn't really my passion. Baking is my passion, life, and future. After I finish culinary school, I plan on going to the Culinary Institute of America for Baking and Pastry Arts. Although, I was offered an internship at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, so I might take some time off in between.

 

I would love to live and work in Paris. Traveling is my other passion and I want to combine the two. But, what self-respecting European would want an American to bake his morning croissant! lol May be someday I'll get there.

 

But, you know, Europeans have it right. It's so beautiful and romantic (I don't mean lovie dovie) to sit in a cafe with a pastry and a cup of cafe noir. We just don't have that here in America. Everything here is so fast-pased and poorly made. I don't mean that rude, but we just don't have the passion for artisan and slow food. Our food is mass produced on an assembly line with no love or respect for the ingredients that go into the product. To me, being a master at one thing in your life and doing it well is romantic and earthy. That's what I love and respect about Europe.

 

Food is alive and vibrant; you have to treat it with love and respect. If you forget that, you loose sight of simplicity.

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

Oh and I'm extremely sad that El Bulli is closing its restaurant. I haven't had the chance to do a pilgrimage! lol But, on the bright side, they are opening a little cooking school in a few years.

moma's picture
moma

Hi Tom

Wow - a pastry chef/ baker living in Paris .... sounds amazing! (I absolutely adore the city)

I hope you will share some of your knowledge in the pastry section of this site too.

/moma from Denmark

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

Nous sommes tous jaloux (sp?)  Well, we are are jealous in French or English (or Fringlish). Think TFL needs to take a trip to Paris where we can take a tour of the bakery and have samples (of everything) of course!!!  Bienvenue,      

Pam

Then we could visit Mini and have samples, and maybe Karin could visit and bring bread and then ...... don't forget Joakin...oh, oh I think I'm down the proverbial river.     tom, you'll get used to us!! 

Danai Wangsiri's picture
Danai Wangsiri

Hi Tom,

I will be in Paris within two weeks time, apart from famous boulangeries most of us knew where can you recommend me to taste best Croissant? Many thanks in advance.

Danai