Un jour d’hiver a Paris

February 19th, 2016 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Travel

Europain just ended in Paris last week and I had the chance to attend this world class baker’s fair, grasping the chance to meet amazing people from oven makers, millers and of course exceptional bakers; such as Mickaël Chesnouard, Xavier Honorin, Beesham Soogrim, Thomas Teffri-Chambelland  or Stéphane Pichard and without forgetting all the others I unfortunately missed in between the huge expo area. The expo was very fruitful and definitely a place to visit for any bakers interested in seeing what’s coming up and what’s going on in the industry. There was also the Coupe Du Monde de la Boulangerie (the bakery world cup) held every two years at Europain. There is a lot of creativity involved and the breads are baked at a top level considering the time pressure which is to me is the main factor affecting the performances of the competitors, let alone the thousands of people watching you!

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Du Pain et des Idees

Travelling to Paris wouldn’t be complete without visiting the city’s most talked about bakery and pastry shops.

Based on a few published listing from newspaper and “bloggers”, following the trail of the “Best baguette in Paris” award, and word of mouth from friends, we visited a good dozen of shops. Among them, Le Grenier a Pain, Au Levain d’Antan, Gontran Cherrier, Du Pain et des Idees, Jacques Genin, Des Gateaux et du Pain, La Patisserie des Reves, Pierre Marcolini and several others. The definite winner in my book was Jacques Genin, featuring his chocolatier craft in an amazing way, clean, sharp, perfect coating and fillings, I had stars in my eyes while eating his creations (which I did for the last 10 years anyway, LOL). Most of the shops had their fair share of good and bad. But the level of bad really exceeded my expectation. I won’t name who’s doing what because I don’t see the purpose of it, but the below photos speaks volume. My trip to Paris was supposed to be an uplifting motivation, a way for me to look up at the big names to be able to have a relevant benchmark for our future shop opening, but it definitely turned into a “things-to-do vs. things-not-to-do” experience which isn’t bad at all :)

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From a very well regarded bakery…

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shamelessly self-explanatory…

We also visited several normal eateries in Paris to have breakfast or dinner and they were all very average, the most negative experience being at a restaurant where they serve entrecote, salad and fries formula which was the most overrated experience I had in many years. In the end, we had the best meal of our visit at le Meurice. Of course, when you fork out EUR 116 for a breakfast for 2 you expect this, but it emphasized the massive gap present between the “everyday” eateries and the top of the league. As we strolled through a very “dirty” Paris, we came across an impressive number of fast food outlets such as kebab, pizza and the usual McDonald (no surprise when you know that France has the highest number of outlets per capita in Europe). I am well aware of the many superb eateries Paris has, the markets, the cheese mongers, the charcuterie and so on, and this is not what I am talking about. Here I am just concerned with the high amount of very average food places the once so-called world capital of food (and I don’t even talk about the service…), which to me, has already lost this title to other cities.

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Magnificent Jacques Genin shop

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La Patisserie des Reves

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At Europain from the Moulin de Suire

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Exceptional work!

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Breakfast at Le Meurice (Bread by Frederic Lalos according to the waiter)

If I would be in a relationship with Paris, the facebook status would be “It’s complicated…”. I love to visit the little hidden eateries and great artisans present in the city and at the same time, I hate seeing the gap between these good eateries and the “others” widening by the day…

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4 Responses

  • Geoffrey K W Lee says:

    Wonderful article. What you said coincided with what my friends told me about bakeries in Paris – that is, most of them are disappointing. I think it is a common phenomenon in major cities that the gap between good eateries and the poor ones are huge and nowadays you have to pay a lot in order to have a good meal. Luckily, here in Malaysia there is still plenty of affordable good food, particularly street food and hawker done painstakingly in the traditional way.

    • greg says:

      I think you’ve put the finger on the common factor being “major cities”. Here in Hong Kong we also see very greedy landlord charging insane rents under very tight conditions, squeezing the F&B operators to their last cents. Then it’s a spiral triggering other factors and in the end the quality of the food and service suffers. On the other hand, when going to small town, where the balance is much better, you can still feel the pulse of passion running in the veins of restaurant operators and bakers alike. What you still have in Malaysia should be kept preciously, street food and hawkers are disappearing fast in Hong Kong, and it’s a shame.

  • Jeremy says:

    Was the same for me a few years ago….sadly it’s global, just like NY is the hipster Brooklyn food scene, the average McD’s and other fast healthy junk food… I got accosted in Paris, then ate a pretty average Nicoise salad…most of the food I had was crap, I was on a sort of budget, but still…. Your article is spot on!

    • greg says:

      I feel you Jeremy… I think it’s very much what we were talking about on facebook. Food has to come back to it’s more simple and wholesome form. The question of why cheap food is so dirt cheap has never been so relevant as nowadays!



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