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  • Food & Fun

    Some bread and some ideas

    By Annabel Ross 12 September 2018
    Image – Du pain et des idées

    When Christophe Vasseur was contemplating throwing in a career in fashion marketing to become a baker in 1999, not all of his friends were supportive. “Some of them said, ‘You should go see a shrink, you’ve got some problems’,” he says. Others said, why not? Vasseur didn’t have a mortgage or children, and with nothing to lose,
    he decided to give baking a go.

    He was drawn to the singular, simple power of bread, “having that contact with raw material that’s alive and that can bring people together…I do not see an equivalent in life, in our world that is so important to people on a daily basis,” he says, adding that the French word for friend, ‘copain’, means “those who share the bread”.

    His baking endeavour turned out quite well – Vasseur opened Du Pain et Des Idées (Some bread and some ideas) in Paris’ 10th arrondissement in 2002, and fifteen years later as we’re sat out front on a Wednesday evening, customers are still swarming into the charming Belle Epoque-style boulangerie to pick up their last-minute bread, croissants and pastries.

    Vasseur has been named Paris’ best baker on a number of a occasions, his boulangerie attracting pastry pilgrims from around the world, and such was his reputation that when former aerospace engineer Kate Reid decided upon her own drastic career change in 2011, she headed to Du Pain to ask Vasseur to take her on as a trainee. Vasseur saw more than a little of his own passion and determination in the Australian, and spent the next two months teaching her his craft.

    Six years later, Reid’s Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne’s Fitzroy attracts nightclub-esque queues every morning upon opening and last year The New York Times named her croissants the best in the world.

    “I think it’s very good what she did, very impressive, I’m glad for her for what she fulfilled,” says Vasseur, noting, though, that the Du Pain way of baking is on a much smaller scale.  “It’s not my philosophy, having such a big store…there’s no way you can make 1,200 croissants the way I do them here,” he says, proudly pointing out the individual differences in each of his hand-made croissants, insisting the best croissant in the world is (still) in Paris. “Even if Kate makes fantastic croissants, when you work with such huge quantities, you have to do a compromise.”

    Where many bakeries churn them out in two to six hours, the full production process for Vasseur’s croissants (and for Reid’s) takes 36 hours. “I do as much as I can to make a product that is tasty, healthy and environmentally friendly.” He uses almost entirely organic ingredients in his croissants, except for the butter. “Only the butter is not organic because I can’t find top-quality organic butter,” he says.

    “We live in a society where time is money and that’s a big mistake, especially for food, time must be respected,” he says, pointing to additives and chemicals as corruptors of health, flavour and the environment.

    Like many French, he’s not a believer in working seven days a week, either – his shop is closed on weekends and for a few weeks each year to give staff a chance to recharge.

    Next year, he plans to open a bakery school in the Pays Basque region of southern France, on the Spanish border, where small groups of six will spend two weeks learning his craft and sustainable method of working.

    “I want to teach the people who attend my school not only techniques but the sense that they have a responsibility,” he says. “You have a responsibility towards your customers, the planet, your kids, what are you going to leave behind?”

    Du pain et des Idées

    Join us :  So Frenchy So Chic, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney festivals, January 11, 13 and 19, 2019. Book here.