Paris Mosaic: meet Gontran Cherrier of Gontran Cherrier bakery
There is so much more to Paris than its famous monuments. In fact, one of the things we at MyFrenchLife™ love most about the City of Light are the beautiful artisan businesses that line the city’s streets.
In our view these small businesses and the passionate people behind them are exactly what give Paris its magic and unique charm: les fleuristes, boulangeries, patîsseries, fromageries, et bien sûr, les chocolateries.
Enchanted by their beautiful displays and inspired by their talent and dedication, we’ve brought together the Paris Mosaic series, where we introduce you to the faces behind these Parisian gems.
Gontran CherrierAddress: 22 rue Caulaincourt 75018 Paris or 8 rue Juliette Lamber 75017 Paris
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 7.30am – 8.0pm; Sun: 8.00am – 8.00pm
Métro: Lamarck – Caulaincourt or Malesherbes
Gontran Cherrier is something of a celebrity baker. As well as running his worldwide bakeries, he presents his own TV shows on Canal+, writes cookbooks and in 2013, became a judge on ‘Meilleure boulangerie de France’, a national TV programme that searches for the best bakers in France.
His products are inspired by his travels and offer surprising fusions of Asian flavours. Alongside French classics like croissants and baguettes, you can also find squid ink loaves and miso ryes. His bakeries don’t stop at French borders either, with Gontran Cherrier boutiques in Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Who is this globetrotting entrepreneur? And what motivates him to keep innovating?
Inspired by his story, we at MyFrenchLife™ were delighted to have had the chance to speak with him and are excited to share his story with you. Meet Gontran Cherrier, an artisan baker in Paris.
Was/is this a family business? If yes, how long has it operated/been in the family? How did it all begin?
You couldn’t call it a family business. I’m a fourth generation of baker, so for me, the bakery is a family affair, however, I opened my bakeries with my business partner Luc Bajot and we have partners in each of the countries where we operate.
What is a typical day for you?
I focus mainly on production in the mornings. I visit each of my boutiques and speak with my head bakers and pâtissiers. We discuss the quality and creation of new products. My afternoons are usually devoted to my meetings in the office: press, suppliers and my boutiques abroad.
What quality/ qualities does an exceptional baker need to succeed in this business?
Above all, it’s a physical job. You’ve got to be in good physical shape to be able to do it. After that, it’s certainly necessary to have the basic techniques, without that you can’t work and produce quality products every day. Creativity is a bonus and that allows you to differentiate yourself from the rest. Finally, I wouldn’t forget about passion; it’s a career where you’ve got to get yourself up every morning very early. Without passion, you would give up pretty quickly.
Small businesses selling local, artisan products seems to be an integral part of French identity. A sense of tradition has managed to continue in French communities, more so than in many others around the world – why do you think this is so?
It’s true. I think that, primarily, this comes from our ground, our land. We’re lucky to be able to have unique and varied land, which allows us to have products that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. In the boulangerie, this is particularly true for the flour and butter which I import from elsewhere for my overseas boutiques.
Next, there’s of course our savoir-faire, which is perhaps ancestral. The combination of the land and our expertise gives us this marvellous French knowledge that we’re envied for, and is recognised throughout the world.
Faced with the modern world and globalisation, it seems as if bakeries have adapted and become more innovative. Have you innovated with the products in your bakery? And in your opinion, what does the future look like for bakeries in France?
It’s true that you’ve got to be innovative to survive. The big distribution chains have done us a lot of harm these last 20 years. We innovate with quite a lot of things, and with what we can discover from international products. Diversification in terms of food on offer seems to me so essential. For a traditional bakery, they differentiate themselves by quality too.
The future? I think that the future is mainly in the quality and the combination of traditional flavours as well as more contemporary, international ones.
What are your three most popular/ most sold items?
The croissant definitely holds the number one spot, and after that, it’s the pain au chocolat. My miso rye bread is equally very popular.
Which is your favourite product? Which is the most difficult to make?
Croissant is the answer for both. It’s my favourite and at the same time it’s the most technical and that’s what makes it stand out.
Do you have any specialities particular to this bakery? Is there something that people really seem to come back for? Why do you think this is so?
I try to offer as many products using international flavours that I have found along my travels. The miso rye bread is a good example, so is the squid-ink bread. In Asia, I offer a croissant made with local Taiwanese tea. It’s delicious!
What do you do with bread left at the end of the day?
Unfortunately, in a bakery there is always a lot of waste because the products have a very short shelf life, for the most part, it’s just one day. However, there are some baker’s tricks. We use the unsold croissants and pain au chocolat to make almond croissants and almond cream for the next day. There are quite a few little tricks like that in fact.
Do you have some favourite addresses in Paris to share with us?
To eat: La cantine du troquet 101 Rue de l’Ouest, 75014 Paris, France
To drink: La cantine du troquet again, it’s a good place to stay on after eating.
To relax (perhaps on a Sunday!): The area in the 15th, the quays of the Seine where you can relax and even sit down or go jogging.
Introduction // Le Furet Tanrade // Thalie // La Petite Chocolatière // FJ Fleuriste // Boulangerie Bruno Solques // Rêve // Fromagerie Goncourt // Au-delà des Prés // Le Grenier à Pain // Au nom de la Rose// Boulangerie des Artistes // Les Fleurs d’Aline
1. ‘Mont Blanc and pastries @ Gontran Cherrier, Shinjuku, Tokyo’, Spektograf via flickr
2, 3 & 4 courtesy of Gontran Cherrier