La Bonne Parisienne
“A few years ago I could turn out a decent loaf or a fancy yeasted bun or two, but I had never baked a croissant, attempted a sourdough, or even tasted a brioche. I had driven through France a few times but never stopped and I certainly didn’t know a Poolish from a Levain, or a biga from a paté fermenteé
An enthusiastic home baker, my yeasty skills then extended no further than a crusty, wholesome loaf for my lunch every week. I would have a stab at something a little more challenging on a wet Sunday afternoon, with varying results, (bouncing bagels anyone?), but that’s as far as it went.
I was hardly an accomplished artisan, but I was hooked on the taste, texture and aroma of home baked bread, as well as the satisfaction and wonder of achieving such magical results. I found that I couldn’t go back to supermarket fare. I became quite passionate about the benefits of stoneground flours, traditional methods and, more generally simple, wholesome home cooked food. I loved nothing better than choosing which type of bread flour I was going to bake with, which new technique or bread type I was going to try, visiting food festivals and finding interesting foods to pair with my breads.
Feeling jaded with the world of working for others, I had already cut down my hours in order to indulge my passions – walking, gardening, drawing, baking and travel – hoping that my hobbies might lead to pastures new. Like so many people, I had for years secretly harboured the desire to open a little coffee shop. I liked the romantic idea of the busy, convivial atmosphere and the chance to do something I thought I would thoroughly enjoy all day long. Shrewsbury however was awash with cafes – all of them quirky, and wonderful, raising the question of how to be different? How could I stand out from the crowd?
Then it came to me.. There are only so many cream teas and cup cakes that Shrewsbury needs and it was bread that was my real passion and the yawning gap. There are so many interesting speciality breads from around the world, all with their own particular story that I wanted to share. At the time there was only one bakery in town, baking great artisan sourdoughs, but no-one specialising in any national, regional or celebration breads. We didn’t have a patisserie and a finding a decent croissant was a treasure hunt.
…An idea was born! La Bonne Parisienne. But first I needed to raise some cash, develop and fine tune my skills, find some premises and… leave my well-paid, secure job.”