Where did you ﬁrst learn about bakery?
I grew up on my grandparents’ farm in a small village in the middle of France. It was actually in the wheat region. There was only one shop in that village – a bakery run by Mr Barré. My grandmother used to send me there to buy bread every day, and whenever I walked in, I used to see him hard at work, surrounded by the most amazing aromas. As a ﬁve-year-old, I decided that he was ‘The Man’ – and I didn’t dream of becoming a ﬁreman, or policeman or astronaut – I wanted to be like him.
How did you get into the industry?
After completing a university degree (totally unrelated to bakery) in the US, I had no idea what to do. I looked at what I had loved the most and that took me back to my childhood and Mr Barré. So, I ﬁnally decided to become a baker. In France, one usually starts out as an apprentice at 13 or 14 years old. Despite this, I was fortunate to know people in the milling industry who helped me get into two of the best bakery schools: École Banette and the National Baking and Pastry-Making Institute (INBP). I qualiﬁed as an ofﬁcial master baker and pastry chef, then started working for chefs such as Éric Kayser, and I also worked at Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris.
So how did you end up at Spinneys?
I ran bakeries, restaurants and bars in Chile and Russia, then consulted for a number of companies in Georgia, the Ukraine, Armenia and Kazakhstan. I joined Spinneys after all that, in 2015.
One of your ﬁrst projects was redeveloping the Spinneys bakery range – tell us more.
During my ﬁrst six months, the team and I reformulated all our recipes – which has resulted in the entire spinneysFOOD bakery range (including any new products) being free of trans fats, hydrogenated fats, artiﬁcial ﬂavours and colours. We worked with, and continue to collaborate with, the team at Eurogerm SA, who develop exclusive recipes for Spinneys, using high-quality ingredients.
What does your average day look like?
Every day is different. I could be in the ofﬁce, the factory, a store… My team and I concentrate on strategies, new product development, new packaging designs, recipe development and the commercial side of things. We’re pretty busy.
Are there any processes you've put in place to reduce waste in the bakery?
We’re always looking at ways to combat waste. Just one example is our Wurzel Bread. Because of its shape and the way in which it’s handled, there could be quite a lot of waste, but we decided to develop garlic dough balls from any leftover dough. They’re now so popular that we have to produce more bread to keep up with the demand!
The spinneysFOOD Honey Cake is arguably the most popular confection behind the counter. What’s your secret?
It’s based on a traditional Russian medovic recipe and we use some of the best ingredients we can ﬁnd, including sour cream sourced from Lithuania, which really gives our cake an authentic taste.
What’s most important when developing new products?
Any new recipe needs to be clean and relatively easy for my team to produce; the product must be feasible for the company; and most importantly, we need to create something that will excite our customers.
What will hit the shelves next?
We’re launching two high-ﬁbre loaves soon, and we’re working on hearthealthy bread, chia seed bread, black buns and chocolate brioche, among others. And there’s a range of gluten-free products, which we’re developing with The Lime Tree Café.
Why do you love what you do?
I have a passion for it. It’s hard work and long hours, but I love it. I also like to win, and for me, that means seeing a smile on a customer’s face when they buy one of our products.
You were invited to be a judge for the Richemont Masterbaker competition – what did it involve?
This was the ﬁrst national championship of its kind in the UAE, where all levels of pastry and baking chefs are invited to compete.