Our fourth day in Switzerland proved to be just as instructive as the previous ones. Our escort Mr Sigisbert Bienz arrived at 6.45am to take us to one of the most prominent bakeries in the area, the Bachmann bakery, on a tour that he had kindly arranged. On arrival, we were greeted by Mr Bachmann himself and spoiled with breakfast before a personally guided tour of the whole bakery. It was really interesting to see some of the traditional skills we had learned being put into practice on a grand scale.
I was particularly impressed with the high standard of cleanliness and presentation. For example, one of the racks of finished bread looked absolutely delicious, but we were frantically waved away by a member of staff when we tried to photograph it. Sometime later, we discovered that the bread we so admired was actually on the rack designated for products to be scrapped!
Other things that definitely stood out were the company’s logo and equipment, coloured bright pink. Much to the delight of my six-year-old daughter, on returning home, I presented her with one of the pink bakery hats.
After an extensive tour of the bakery, we moved on to one of Mr Bachmann’s shops in Luzern to observe his wares on display. I was surprised to discover that Bachmann’s produce all their own packaging and paper goods. In my experience, all non-baked goods are usually bought in.
The open-plan layout and glass displays in the shop were very effective in enhancing the visual appeal of the products. I found it interesting to learn that the Richemont School also offers courses in varied shop display and presentation techniques. We managed to grab some lunch from the shop and then went on to view some of the competing bakeries in Luzern.
While we were there, Mr Bienz revealed some more of the sights that he deemed noteworthy, including the natural formations of the fascinating Glacier Gardens. The glaciers that had sculptured the Alps and the Lakes have left the most amazing and strange geographical features, and the earth still moves. A sign reading "beware falling rocks" is not to be taken lightly, as the rocks can often be larger than your car. Before leaving Luzern for the last time, we made a brief visit to the College of Music to see its beautiful gardens. We also managed to squeeze in a last-minute gift-shopping spree, as I was under instruction to top up my baggage allowance with as much Swiss chocolate as I could carry!
Mr Bienz then escorted us to the station where we said our thank yous and farewells. I cannot express what a pleasure it was to have someone so knowledgeable and enthusiastic as our guide; he truly was indispensible. He made the whole trip more enjoyable and a much bigger experience.
We boarded the strange double-decker train for the last time and travelled to the airport, and so our adventure came to an end. I look forward to keeping in touch with my fellow award winner Robert Campbell, to swap ideas and possibly reminisce a little too.
I am most grateful to Piero Scacco for this wonderful opportunity, and to The Worshipful Company of Bakers, for making the arrangements.
On Friday, which was the day of our return, Siggy had arranged for us to visit a local bakery called ’Bachmann’. This was run by Ramon, who took the time to show us around. Bachmann’s has eight shops and an annual turnover of £12 million. There are 80 people working in the bakery, which is the same amount as at Thomas the Baker, but we have 31 shops, which puts into perspective how in-depth it is and the amount of time they spend on finishing the products compared to ourselves.
We also got the opportunity to visit his shops, which were extremely classy. Bachmann prides itself on its service and display of products and it certainly does it well! Whether it was in their shops or cafés, the assistants were always of help and nothing was too much trouble. On the evidence of his products, bakery and shops, it is easy to see why Bachmann has a very wealthy business.
My two days’ training at the Richemont School has been the highlight of my bakery career. I never imagined that I would ever get the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills from experts like the people I’ve met in the baking industry. It has been a huge pleasure and quite an honour to have been picked for this award. I would like to thank The Worshipful Company of Bakers most sincerely for giving me this fantastic experience, which has been of great use and will never be forgotten. Hopefully, it will help me progress in my bakery career. I would also like to thank abim for sponsoring my trip and I owe a huge thank you to Thomas The Baker for all its support and training throughout the last 11 years, which got me into this position to enter for the award. n