The sandwich industry belongs to bakers," Jean-Luc Poujauran, baker and chairman of judges at the Délifrance World Cup sandwich challenge, tells me.
He acknowledges that foodservice plays a major part in the distribution of good bread. Indeed, those who created the award-winning sandwiches for the competition were drawn from the foodservice industry, but Poujauran says that, in France, bakers have driven creativity in the sandwich market and are held in immense respect.
Poujauran himself is held in high regard among bakers. He began his career in a small shop based on the Rue Jean Nicot in Paris, making baguettes, croissants and pastry specialities.
Now he supplies the top Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris with his breads. He offers clients traditional country breads and speciality breads. His repertoire includes breads made with sesame seeds, cereals, figs, and hazelnuts from the Piedmont region.
"The key to good bread is good ingredients, good kneading and good fermentation," he says. For Poujauran, this means beginning the breadmaking process each day with a starter dough, made to a recipe handed down by his baker father 31 years ago. "My breads contain iodised salt from a specific region in France. But I don’t have to use too much, because the natural levain imparts the flavour."
The flours, too, are of his own specific choosing, right down to the region where the wheats are grown. Natural yeasts are next and water that has been through reverse osmosis [a form of filtration]. "Bread should be naturally healthy. You don’t need emulsifiers," he stresses. Perhaps he is blissfully unaware of Britain’s plant bread industry, but most French bakers - including Délifrance - do not use them, preferring the ferment to give the flavour and keeping qualities.
Poujauran loves making speciality breads and is always widening his repertoire. Basic staples, include walnut bread. He specifies where the walnuts come from and lightly grills them before