it certainly looks delicious, doesn’t it? but you can’t eat it. not even if you could afford it – because it’s display only! for europain 2010, an international gathering of all things bakery, pastry, ice-cream, and confectionary related. in other words, things i love.
five days, eighty thousand square meters of space, six hundred and fifty exhibitors… and two very happy north americans.
being that it was held in paris, and that i lived one hour away from paris, there was no possible way i was not going to go. so with a pass given to me from a certain boulangerie in evreux, i was able to enter and look at the other side of the bakery world. not for the consumer, but for the professional.
chocolate products for chocolatiers of all sorts. the usual demonstration as well as all sorts of materials and products being showcased. the mysteries of how chocolatiers get that “ooooo” response from customers was all unlocked here. i saw their secrets!
a fun subtle detail: for the uniform of a chef/patissier/boulanger/etc, the collar is usually white. but sometimes, it will have stripes with the colors of france. the only people who can wear those stripes are people who have been awarded the meilleur ouvrier title, which is a stringent competition for a wide range of skilled crafts held each year. and the prestige that comes with it is high high high! so when you see that striped collar, you know that person has made something of impeccable quality.
pastry making on an industrial scale. and the equipment used to do it. an interesting contrast from the salon de l’agriculture a week earlier, where the goal was to promote the artisanal handmade local product.
speaking of contrast – i noticed a lot of vendors for frozen products touting how they were as good as fresh. so keep in mind that unless a bakery or shop you’re visiting has the actual word “boulangerie,” chances are it might be frozen… something we don’t like to believe when we’re buying food, but it’s definitely a common practice.
and why weren’t any of these pastries for sale? i took me a few minutes as well. because what’s being sold isn’t the pastry – but the display case/refrigeration system. and obviously if they are empty then they don’t look as nice.
a display stand of bread. but again, that isn’t the real product. the real product is the flour used to make the bread – note the little wheat stalks. after all, bags of flour aren’t very attractive – actual loaves of bread are what really draw people in.
once finished, they have to present their breads to the judges. as well as decorate one side of an eiffel tower. so by the time europain is over, there will be a mini tower of bread from all the competitors.
this is the best part because they take it so seriously – olympic opening ceremony style music blaring , trilingual announcements, and people crowding the ropes to support their favorite baker as well as hoping for a taste, if you can imagine.
(in case you’re curious, for the bread part of the competition, they had to make a baguette, a sandwich loaf, a loaf typical of their country, some more types of loaves, as well as an improved bread from a basket of random ingredients. in only one day.)
a judge being served. they just nibble, write down some comments, and the dessert is whisked away… to the trash? to the servers? who knows! and then a new dessert is quickly brought out for them to nibble and repeat.
i saw a lot. learned a lot. ate a lot, as usual. but the most striking thing to me was simply seeing the commercial side. before, i was a bit naive and really did believe all the romantic notions of the baker and his bread…. but after seeing frozen doughs, mixes, premade fillings, etc., i definitely have a more realistic view of how the bakery world functions.
but regardless, i’m even more in love with bread and pastries after this show.