David Powell, Deputy Master of the Worshipful Company of Bakers and global director innovation/bakery, Rich Products
And so to Paris in glorious spring sunshine for Europain. It was eye-wateringly cold, so spare a thought for a delegation from the National Baking Industry Association (NBIA) of Australia who had left temperatures of 28C to fly over.
In many ways, their attendance at a French exhibition was odd, as yet again my trip highlighted that although the UK and France are separated by only 20 miles of water and getting closer, with the new St Pancras Eurostar link, in baking terms the gulf is very wide and probably increasing.
As an example, on my way to catch the train home I made a small detour via Arnaud Delmontel (www.arnaud-delmontel.com). Apart from being Patisserie of the Year in 2006 and winner of the Best Baguette in Paris, it is also the bakery of choice for President Sarkozy and Carla Bruni’s daily baguette. In Britain, do we know or would we care where Gordon and Sarah buy their bread? And if we did, I suspect most would assume it was based on some commercial or sponsorship deal, rather than taste and quality.
My discussion with a couple of the Australian group highlighted that although our two countries are separated by over 10,000 miles, in terms of bakery we are very similar and share many of the same issues: recruitment of good young people; a lack of quality accredited training; a reliance on often transient immigrant labour; constant downward price pressures and so on.
The NBIA is working very hard to get some formalised training system in place and seems to be achieving some success, although it struggles with a reluctance from employers to release employees or to contribute financially. Sound familiar?
They also mentioned a reluctance to work together to the common good and the vast distances between settlements. Yards from where we were talking, a large part of Hall 1 was dedicated to French baking schools and institutions, all busily selling their courses to enthusiastic youngsters, and the end of the Hall was taken over with numerous identical mini bakeries for the students’ live competitions.
One other thought that my meeting highlighted was how fortunate we are in the UK with our proximity to bakery shows. They are, or should be, essential visiting for anyone involved in the trade who wants to catch up on current trends, ideas and innovation. It only takes one idea that ends up in your shop or product range to more than justify the cost of the trip.
So I hope to see you at one or more of this year’s shows or even at the Mobec exhibition in Tokyo next year? Yes, I know it’s nearer to Australia, but a visit there and to the bakery shops in Tokyo will transform your thinking!