It’s 12.30 in the morning and I’m eating a croissant from Artisan Boulangerie. Finally! A genuine, not-a-chain Parisian bakery opens in Singapore.
My ex-schoolmate Ian declared these “the best croissants on the island” on Facebook–and then to me, a warning not to expect Pierre Herme. That was a fair warning; this is a good croissant, although it doesn’t approach M. Herme’s level of perfection. It’s a traditional croissant (unlike Tiong Bahru Bakery’s unusual, modern take), so it is multi-layered, crunchy, and crumbly. Hints of saltiness and sweetness; crumbly but not too crumbly, like the lousy croissants are; fairly fragrant; a bit burnt at some parts.
Maybe I should have toasted it lightly, but it is 12.30 in the morning and I don’t want to wake my family up with unnecessary kitchen ruckus.
I’m looking forward to trying the baguette I bought from the bakery, too. That’ll wait till proper morning. In the meantime, however, I want to take umbrage at something else about this new bakery: the claim that its head baker won Paris’ (actually, the entire of France’s) most prestigious award from boulangers.
I could be wrong about this.
However, what I’ve found online suggests completely otherwise. Here’s a comment I submitted at DanielFoodDiary*:
This looks like quite a find, but I’m curious about the statement, “Eran is a two-time recipient (2008 and 2012) of the prestigious Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Francaise.”
Did he win in those 2 years? Because the phrasing makes it sound like he did, but it seems like the winners those years were other boulangeries:
Au Duc de la Chapelle – 2008
Boulangerie Mauvieux – 2012
[*My comment was submitted once, yesterday, but hasn’t been published since. I’ve resubmitted it again in the hopes that it’ll show up. You can see for yourself if it does.]
Look, I’m very happy to have the standard of French baking raised in Singapore. It’s more than about time. And I certainly wish that Artisan serves great bread at reasonable prices.
But all that is quite independent of marketing claims, and when it comes to a claim about the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Francaise de la Ville de Paris, the most serious and coveted award for any French baker, you have to be respectful. 100 to 200 bakers take part in this every year, and it is the result and proof of a lifetime’s work in the art of baking; winning it can see people flocking to your store. It’s also about pride–personal and national. While we in Singapore treasure the uncle who makes good wanton mee, or aunty who brews our favourite kopi, the blunt truth is we don’t want their jobs for ourselves or our children. We don’t want blue collar jobs.
For the French, it’s different. There is a level of respect for many, many trades that Singaporeans would turn their noses up at. And when it comes to baking, the Grand Prix is awarded in Paris because Parisian baguettes are considered the best in the country; therefore a baker who wins it, essentially is said to have the best baguettes in all of France.
Did Eran Mayer ever win the Grand Prix? Information is scarce–we must allow for the fact that French news on food is not systematically published online. I basically only found records of Mayer in relation to the Grand Prix on ParisbyMouth and Artisan’s own website… and I’d go with the former as an accurate source of information. Perhaps it’s all in the phrasing (that he was “a recipient” not 1st in place), but you’d have to agree that if you didn’t think about it, it would sound like he placed 1st, no?
In any case, placing 4th and 8th is absolutely no mean feat at all. If you have been to France and found a bakery you liked, you know what I mean when I say that there are essentially no bakeries in Singapore that even deserve mentioning in the same breath as French bakeries. In all likelihood, M. Mayer will wipe the floor with the other bakeries. And I’m sure nobody else really gives a damn about this food award, like I do. It would be nice to know the truth behind it all, though.