A chance to visit Europain 2014, Paris – the biggest bread exhibition in the world? I just had to make it happen. I guess it was a bit risky, deciding to go to Paris and back in the day. The evening before my fears came true. Air France sent me a text to say that the flight would be delayed 2 hours. You can imagine my reaction! I eventually got to the Villepinte exhibition halls at 12:30 and had precisely 6 hours before I had to leave again. Where to begin? I quickly realised I needed a plan as I ended up in the industrial equipment area. There were machines larger than most bakeries. No need for people here, everything was automated. Off to find the section for Artisan Bakers.
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So many different types of bread were being made all around me. Some made purely to show off a company’s ovens, others to showcase flour types. It was fascinating to watch how bread was shaped and slashed and baked. Beautiful loaves of every shape and hue were displayed: different shapes, some with seeds, others with nuts and fruits. Some were almost black and others almost day glow yellow – but all natural ingredients. There were even a surprising number of gluten free loaves. Visiting bakers quizzed those giving the demonstrations for tips about the flour, shaping, baking. Having recently worked in an organic bakery, the range of organic flours and breads were fascinating to compare. Truly a baker’s heaven.
It’s a trade exhibition, so as with many other such exhibitions, many stands were set up to receive current customers and future customers. These were enticed in by the offer of drinks and tasty morsels. I was very impressed with the pop up bakery in one, looking every bit as if it had been there a 100 years. You might have seen shops in France with elaborating tiling on the outside showing pictures of agricultural scenes, milling wheat, baking the bread, etc. I had assumed that these were original until I discovered many are made by a specialist company who make bespoke exteriors.
Bakery Masters Competition at Europain
The Bakery Masters competition was of particular interest, as Great Britain’s Wayne Caddy was setting up for his 24-hour baking marathon creating a long list of breads. Whilst contestants could bring their starters and some smaller equipment with them, they had to content with a completely new kitchen and potentially different flour than they were used to. As Wayne set up, pounding music played as that day’s entrants paraded past the judges, showing what they’d made. Each baker described his particular techniques which were then (not always acurately) translated by the master of ceremonies.
Bakers from 18 countries around the world were split into 3 categories: bread, viennoiserie (sweet doughs) and creative. This third group of bakers were creating vast sculptures in bread, which whilst amazing, seemed a long way away from the tasty breads we love. It was so inspiring to see Wayne competing and what a fanastic achievement to be one of only 6 bakers competing in his category – in the World. There are some great videos to watch if you’d like to see some of the breads the masters made. A baker from Japan, Yuki Magata was overall winner.
Elsewhere in the exhibition I watched elaborate decorations being created, discovered chocolates to die for; myriads of beautifully decorated patisserie and lots of bits and pieces, from the charms that go into Galettes des Rois to metres of linen for proving and rather lovely wooden baskets for individual breads.
As mine was an amateur’s perspective, I asked Deirdre McCaffrey, Marketing Manager at Arbutus Artisan Bread in Cork who also visited to give me her reaction to the exhibition.
“Walking in the door for any baker is a mind blowing experience. We were there to see bread, the ingredients and technology and we found it. We had 2 very exhausting days walking around the exhibition. It was clearly laid out but we still managed to get lost many times. The array of equipment was for any baker like being a child in a sweet shop. Declan Ryan Owner and Baker at Arbutus Bread and David the Bakery Manager were in their element. They browsed ovens, prover retarders, cutters, mixers … the list goes on”.
“We had a fantastic experience with Foricher who supply our French Tradition flour, they had their own bakery at the exhibition. We were able to see new flours being used and some beautiful bread. We have taken back lots of ideas to try from Foricher and also organised for one of their bakers to come and visit us. It is vital that we have someone every year to show us how to use the flour as each harvest is different. I took a little time away from bread to browse the confectionery and pastry areas. I’m not familiar with confectionery but the selection of accessories were beautiful. This was a one stop shop. I spent more time down at the Master Baker Competition which for me was art in motion.” I so agree.
Not all the exhibits were so mouthwatering, there appeared to be large number of companies selling frozen goods and many of them looked tired and uninteresting, not at all inspiring. Dee felt the same “There were some negatives. For a bakery that uses traditional methods, there were way too many mixes – by this I mean just add water. This for us was a worrying trend and one which has been noted by many . Convenience has hit France! The cakes and pastries were a little too glazed for my liking. I follow a lot of bakeries both in Ireland and the UK and I have to say our Artisan Bakeries are producing some amazing breads, pastries and cakes. We should be proud that tradition is on the up in both countries”.
The exhibition is held every 2 years. Would I go back? Absolutely and by then I hope to have a more professional eye.
Many thanks to the wonderful Arbutus Artisan Bread for their photos and perspective.
Find out More
Europain 2014 Facts:
- Over 800 exhibitors from 29 countries – 34% from overseas
- 79,750 visitors – 30% from overseas and 138 countries
- 9 different competitions with 170 competitors
- 2,480 demonstrations over 5 days
- 13,281 pieces of bread produced by the exhibitors and competitors as well as 35,086 viennoiserie, 89,614 cakes and 23,650
- 6 tons of cakes, bread and other products given to the Red Cross at the end of the event.