Posted 14 June 2004 - 06:06 PM
I had a long drive yesterday and here are some somewhat less specifically technical questions I was pondering (and I hope you have a long drive to work on the answers!):
I'd like to know what guided the selection of breads (and to a lesser extent the other items such as pastries) you baked at Passe Partout. What influences were involved? Your previous experience? Personal preference? Competition? Complements to the restaurant food? Client requests/purchasing behaviour?
Did these influences guide or change your baking over the years, and in what ways?
If you had to do it all over again, would you start a bakery, restaurant, or both again? Or maybe a charcuterie? Or Jazz club?!? And I probably shouldn't ask, but any regrets?
Are there any specific things you'd like to see more bakeries doing these days? Ingredients? Products? Techniques? Philosophies? For example, I'm a big fan of serious European rye breads (no cocoa or caramel colouring please!!) and I definitely enjoyed yours (and have been working on my own from your formula, thanks), but find proper rye bread very difficult to find here...
Basically, rather than any specific technical question, would you have any Advice to Young Bakers?
Okay, that should keep you busy for a while, but not too long a while I hope...
Posted 15 June 2004 - 11:39 AM
Thank you for keeping me from aimlessly roaming the streets......
Our selection of breads and viennoiseries was basically an attempt to cover all the bases, but making what you're good ar is never a bad idea. Two things were unusual, though:
- We never made baguettes, prefering the basically unshaped pain rustique which professor Calvel invented. I think it's a terrific loaf, and it set us apart in a way that even great baguettes might not have because there are lots of baguettes made in Montreal, some of them pretty damn good. On a practical level it meant that one baker could handle things whereas baguettes would have required two, and it meant that just about everything we baked was baked at the same temperature. The other side to the coin is that with baguettes, we might have sold more bread overall, but the great majority of it baguettes ( in France, baguettes are about 85-90% of bread sales).
- The other thing is that we were never big on flavored loaves. I have always felt that it is much more agreeable to munch on a few olives while eating bread than to put the olives in the loaf ( a lot of the loaves I see are pretty dense, and the olives on the inside are cooked and pretty mushy). Calvel, who is a tough-talking purist, has written that because their bread has no flavor, bakers "season" it. Some of these things are pretty good, but to me the great majority amuse or distract the palate, and reaching into certain restaurants' bread baskets is like Russian roulette ( in a lot of those same places, tea drinkers are presented with a wooden case full of different "teas", all flavored things and often containing no tea. Any place that looks beyond the usual food service quality tea bag is on the right track, but make sure that some of it is tea...). We did make walnut bread, which goes wonderfully with goat's cheese, and one with walnuts and raisins which goes well with blues...
Anyway, the rustique covered the white category, the campagne had 15% whole wheat, and for people who wanted whole wheat it was stone ground and made with a levain. Our white levain contained 5% rye and was made in a more French style: we aimed for full but rounded flavors and for something just light enough to retain its crispy crust. I was proud of the rye you mentioned, but it never sold, and I was working on a multigrain loaf but hadn't begun selling it yet. This seemed like an okay range of choices, but still practical in terms of production.
The viennoiseries were pretty much what one would find in France: croissants, pains au chocolat, croissants aux amandes, roules aux raisins and various brioches. I have always wondered why most artisan bakers in the U.S. do not make these things, for they're a challange, but can be much,much better than what is found in the supermarket.
On the personal end, there has been much soul searching but no solutions. There are no regrets, and I miss all of the things I was involved with each day, and would find it difficult to permanently choose any one of the various trades that went on at Le P-P. The only thing I would tell a young person lucky enough to love these things would be to take better care of the business end of things than I did.
Thanks for the question
Posted 15 June 2004 - 03:33 PM
Posted 18 June 2004 - 11:26 AM
And for a person who does love these things and is thinking of going into the business, what kinds of things would you recommend as being priority items on the business end of things? In other words, do you think there are things you could have done differently that would have had an impact or created different results, and if so, what?
-- On the personal end, there has been much soul searching but no solutions. There are no regrets, and I miss all of the things I was involved with each day, and would find it difficult to permanently choose any one of the various trades that went on at Le P-P. The only thing I would tell a young person lucky enough to love these things would be to take better care of the business end of things than I did.
Thanks very much for sharing your story and advice.
Posted 20 June 2004 - 05:43 PM
I am the last person who should be giving business advice to anyone, and in any case, my own situation was so unique that it would be going off on tangents. Every business is a new business.
Over the past weeks we havie been discussing things within the context of artisan baking ( whatever that is. There was a question about it...). I feel that anything that is both genuine and delicious should sell, and that is the basis of everything. My experience was the opposite of what too often happens. I really knew how to make things, and feel that in terms of customers' perception of the product, we were on the right track. Yes, we could have "tweaked" things around somewhat, but you have to know what you want to make, and above all, all about it. Yes, if there is a demand for whole grain loaves, look into it, but no, don't make muffins if its not your thing. Also be sure that the salespeople are in tune with things, baking vicariously alongside those who are actually doing the job.
A lot of people who open up bakeries are long on business, but short on hands-on experience. Any artisan boss should be able to do every job in the place,. and customers should know it.
People who are merely cashing in on the artisan phenomenon, and who do not dream about ( and, yes, also have nightmares about ) perfect bread or croissants will never have that unique relationship with their customers, and all too quickly, muffins will make their appearance, along with dreams of selling stuff to Costco.