Let Them Make Bread


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Let them make bread
By Joe Ray, Globe Correspondent, 5/1/2002

PARIS - Teams from the world over converged last week at La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie - The World Cup of Baking - for a chance to claim the title of the best bakers in the world. Team USA came to defend its title, which they won three years ago, this time with Rehoboth's Ciril Hitz, a baking and pastry instructor at The College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence as part of their four-man team.

''It's great to come here and talk about trends in bread with other countries,'' says Hitz, who moved to the US from Switzerland with his family when he was in fifth grade. He was often seen chatting in his native German with the Swiss team. Alas, after working for a year and a half on baking projects and flying all over the country to bake together, the American team took second place, falling just short of first-place Japan, but beating out third-place Belgium and a young, but upset France.

Some of Hitz's students at Johnson & Wales went to the competition, and they had the awe of sports fans watching their favorite teams. ''It's great to see how people from across the globe work and how they apply what we've been taught,'' said Kara Leo, who took two faculty-approved days off from classes in Providence to be at the event.

Christy Timor and Abe Faber, owners of Brookline's Clear Flour Bread, who came here to learn more about bread, shared this enthusiasm. ''We got to go to a bakery where nothing looked like it had been changed since it opened in 1940.'' The duo were impressed with what they called the ''French aesthetic'' - the way the goods were displayed. Also in attendance was Peter Franklin of Marblehead, head of Peter Bread Consulting, and chairman of the Bread Bakers' Guild, which sponsored the American team.

Held every three years in Paris as part of Europain, Europe's giant trade show for bakers, La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie brings together 12 teams consisting of three participants and one judge-coach. The setup, with four 12-foot-by-12-foot kitchens facing out toward television cameras and a packed seating gallery, makes for a hybrid somewhere between Iron Chef and the Yum-Yum shop.

The American team was rounded out by coach Craig Ponsford, owner of Artisan Bakers in Sonoma, Calif., who led the team to first-place in 1999; captain Tim Foley, who owns Bit of Swiss Pastry Shoppe in Stevensville, Mich.; and Tim Healea, bakery operations manager at Pearl Bakery in Portland, Ore.

Each group of bakers, of course, tries to outdo the others. Bakers from Uruguay made croissants big enough to choke a horse, the Polish team came with a rowdy cheering section decked out in red and white, and a 23-year Finnish baker, Katri Salonen, wound blue ribbon in her pigtails (the announcer seemed to have a crush on her).

Teams competed in three categories: Baguette and specialty breads, Viennoiserie (pastries), and artistic design, which meant the creation of a bread sculpture that fit in a one square meter cube.

The sculptures, Hitz's specialty, created using only edible ingredients and a sugar-based glue, were real showstoppers. Countries went all-out to strut their stuff around the theme of ''Bread: our national identity.'' Japan's formidable team featured a meticulous Japanese garden with a bridge and a blossoming bonsai cherry tree and a towering Mount Fuji in the background - all made from bread.

Hitz's entry, the flowing stripes of the American flag, was created by gently draping a thin, three-dough (one for a base, and one for each color of stripe) ''flag'' into a cradle then baking it. The Swiss team took a more lighthearted approach with its sculpture: a long-jump skier in a perfect ''V'' formation, flying through the Alps.

And, ohhhhhh, the breads.

Team USA featured Foley's Mount Hood bread, with candied hazelnuts on the inside and a sifted flour snowcap, baked by Foley. Japan created works of art with golden honeycomb-like interiors inside their baguettes. The baguettes made by team France looked like the baguettes made by French bakers for hundreds of years - and perhaps the familiarity of those breads kept the international judges from awarding them one of this year's top three.

The Americans take this competition very seriously. They took most of the last 18 months off from their day jobs to prepare. Foley left Bit of Swiss in the hands of his co-owner and wife, Pat; Healea's employer, former Team USA member Greg Mistall, gave him the time off; and Hitz was sponsored by the Bread Baker's Guild of America and Johnson & Wales.

Train they did, working under the watchful eye of coach Ponsford, along with French-born Didier Rosada, head instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute, and with an Institute instructor, Jeff Yankellow, the team's primary formula tester. ''The team really needed to work to come up with the best high-quality products - products they were proud of,'' said Rosada.

The team's selection process began just after the US victory in 1999. Since then, team members have spent hundreds of hours practicing on their own and together, going from coast to coast to work together. On April 12, after appearing on the Today show, the team hopped on a plane (again) and went to France to adjust for atmospheric conditions, to make sure any changes in climate and ingredients were accounted for long before the competition.

Before the awards, when Hitz was asked what he wanted to take back with him, he joked, ''Hopefully, the cup.'' Later, he said, ''Bread in America is starting to take a higher standard.'' And he hoped to return home with knowledge to share with other bakers.

La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie lived up to Hitz's expectations. As a chorus of ''Polska! Polska! Polska!'' chanted in the background, he held his second-place trophy and beamed, ''I got to see and meet members of the brotherhood of bakers from around the world who have now become friends.''

In the end, there's always the smirky pleasure that comes from beating the French at their own game. But as Bakers' Guild chairman Franklin said, ''La Coupe is a great way to increase bread awareness, step by step, in America and around the world.''

The Boston Globe, May 1 2002


Joined Apr 4, 2000
You're welcome M. :)

I'm curious about one thing, if the whole thing was taped, will it ever be broadcast?
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