September 14, 2012 9:54 pm

FT Foodies: Richard Bertinet

‘What’s the greatest technical challenge for me? Chocolate - if I work with it, I get covered with it. It’s a real skill’
Richard Bertinet

Born and trained in north-west France, Richard Bertinet runs The Bertinet Kitchen, a cookery school in Bath that focuses on breadmaking and pastry.

. . .

What was a food or drink treat as a child?
Coming from Brittany, the best thing was seafood, which we’d eat at a big family dinner. A platter of crab, lobster, langoustines … yum. My grandfather used to take me fishing from the rocks, too, and we’d pick up mussels and crabs. Pâtisseries, on the other hand, were part of everyday life. You’d treat yourself on a Sunday at the local bakery, with a tart or millefeuille, and take it to a party.

Why did you come to England?
Girls. I came out of the army, started to work in a bakery, and then I went to Méribel. I met an English girl there and stayed at her family’s house for a few weeks in 1988. I never really left. In England I felt I could succeed; in France I felt restrained.

Have you been surprised by the demand for breadmaking?
It’s been phenomenal. Thirty years ago if you said you were a baker, people would say “poor lad”. Now the cooking school attracts people from all over the world; it shows a revival of basic instincts of being at home. The kitchen is a nice place to be.

How do you spot someone’s talent for baking?
Usually they don’t know they’ve got it. You see by their hands – it’s like music or poetry, they can do it but don’t understand it. Lots of people who work in the City dream of opening a bakery, but you’ve got to be careful – it’s a hard business.

What’s the greatest technical challenge for you?
Chocolate – if I work with it, I get covered with it. It’s a real skill; I wish I had the time to learn to use it properly.

Where do you eat out?
In Bath there are plenty of tiny restaurants that do proper food, where you feel comfortable. There are some great pubs, too – bread and beer are very similar things, in reverse. It’s interesting there’s a revival in both of them.

What would you make for a Sunday morning brunch?My kids love a good bacon sandwich – two slices of my sourdough with bacon from our local butcher, lashings of salted butter and brown sauce on top.

 

Who would work in your dream bakery?
I had the great chance of meeting Lionel Poilâne just before he died. He had agreed to write the preface for my first book, and he was my hero growing up in Brittany.

‘Crust’ by Richard Bertinet is published by Kyle Books on September 27 (£16.99). He will also appear at The Cake & Bake Show, September 22-23, Earl’s Court; thecakeandbakeshow.co.uk

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