Baker Eric Kayser is the king of France’s artisan scene. Born into a family of bakers, he combines modern technology with traditional ingredients and techniques.
With over 100 branches of his bakeries and cafes in 21 countries around the world, we Londoners are at last being treated to his magic with a new outlet in Baker St. Think beautiful crusty baguettes, speciality bread made with turmeric or fig, gorgeous pastries and patisserie in every hue you can imagine – all within spitting distance of Selfridges. Belle caught up with Eric who’s been on a mission to bring the world better bread for over twenty years.
What did you think of the bread and bakery scene in the early 90s and why did you want to change it?
I was bored of seeing dreary supermarket shelves with limp, plastic wrapped baguettes both in France and abroad. My desire to travel and to teach drove me to take my love of baking around the world.
Your big breakthrough came in 1994 when you invented a machine to keep the liquid leavening agent at the right temperature. Can you tell us a bit about this Eureka moment, why it was so important and what impact it had?
I was running training courses and work-placement schemes for the Institut National de la Boulangerie Patisserie (France’s leading technical college of bakers) when I met fellow trainer Patrick Castagna. We realised that many bakers wanted to return to using natural leavens in their bread but didn’t have the technical knowledge to do so.
So, in 1992 we began a baking consultancy and developed the concept for our machine that would work using and handling natural leavens. The gradual adoption of the use of a natural starter by French bakers meant that millers were beginning to offer bakers ancient varieties of high-quality wheat flour that had previously been abandoned. We decided this was the prime time to work on this machine – with commercial baking going through this transformation – and we’re really proud of where it has taken us today.
After setting up your first bakery in Paris in 1996, you now have over 100 branches throughout the world. How do you balance keeping the Kayser brand and identity strong while allowing for international tastes and differences?
The Kayser brand is so strong because we make products that are universally loved. We introduce variations and international flavours at our bakeries because we like to experiment with mixing our successful Kayser formula and local flavours and tastes.
Why have you set up a branch in London and why did you decide this was the right time?
We’ve wanted to open a branch in London but it took us a long time to find the right space. We wanted to ensure that we opened at the right time and with the right mix of bakery, restaurant and patisserie. We modelled London on a mix of our Parisian and New York branches – now let’s see if it works!
Why did you choose Baker St as the location for your latest Bakery-Restaurant?
We were attracted to Baker Street because we heard it was undergoing a culinary revitalisation. We wanted to tap into the all-day eating market and loved the proximity to innovative spaces like Carousel.
Your baguette was voted the best in the USA. What do you think makes your products stand out from the rest?
It’s simple – the use of quality milled flour with a natural leaven starter, together with skilled kneading and baking makes my baguette the best in the world.
Tell us a bit about what kind of flavours and combinations are exciting you at the moment.
I get excited by fresh, delicious baguettes – fresh from the oven and spread with butter. At the moment I’m really enjoying the turmeric bread and the walnut bread we have on offer – they bring out the best of our unique flour and retain that spongy, tasty sourdough bread.
Do you bake regularly at home? If so, what do you love to bake for friends and family?
I do bake regularly at home – I love it when my kitchen table is full of people. There’s nothing better than having those I love around me with a table full of food. I like to keep it simple with large spreads of fresh meat, cheese and vegetables paired with a good loaf. Oh – and if I smell a pain au chocolat I can’t resist a couple dunked in my coffee in the mornings so I like to make as many of those as I can!
- The new Maison Kayser bakery-restaurant is at 8, Baker St, LONDON, W1U 3BU. Phone: 02038973900