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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Boulangerie on the Ring Road
Peter Hanson

Alexander Matcheretm Wolkonsky

A new bakery has opened on the ring road, on the corner of Sadovaya Kudrinskaya and Malaya Bronnaya. A sign towers above the entrance ‘Konditerskaya Wolkonsky Bakery and Patisserie’, the establishment is run by Alexander Matcheretm Wolkonsky, a descendant of the famous Wolkonsky family, recently returned from Paris.

The bread and buns and cakes are really delicious; there is nothing quite like munching freshly baked bread. I am guilty of scoffing a quarter of a half of some of the loaves I have bought before I get home, although home is not far away from the bakery. The bakery is the first corner shop type food outlet to actually open in this part of Moscow, where the onslaught of shopping centres and supermarkets has led to the closure of most community and one-stop food stores. They are being replaced by exclusive restaurants and clubs, which are great for those who enjoy them, but not so great for those who live there.

This bakery, has set out to reverse this trend, says Svetlana Kashirina, the bakery’s marketing manager. “We want to promote the concept of a local bakery, to return to the times when there was a local bakery in each part of Moscow; perhaps of smaller capacity than what we are doing here. But the baker knew the locals, he knew when people’s birthdays are, when somebody is going to have a baby, and he would make something special. Before the revolution here in Russia, there were a lot more small bakeries”. Production methods differ sharply from the usual centralized bakery system, which Svetlana describes as being ‘bread production”. Prices are more expensive than ordinary bread in the shops, but “cheaper than frozen, imported bread” adds Svetlana.

The bakery is being positioned as a traditional Russian establishment, but in fact it is a hybrid of French and Russian. An authentic French cook and baker lead the team, using French recipes with some adaptations to Russian style, some of which have been long forgotten in Russia.

The undisclosed investment, which was presumably significant, was enough to buy brand new imported bread making equipment and ovens. A couple of Russian staff were sent off to France to pick up the craft first hand. Others are been taught on the spot. French cook, Laurent Bourcier and baker, Sebastien Baietto, have been teaching Russians the art and craft of making bread and confectionary up to French standards.

According to patissier Laurant Bourcier, “we use only natural products. Chemicals are used in virtually every kind of bread produced here, to make the bread rise quicker, to reduce the baking time. But we don’t do that”, this is confirmed by the baker Sebastien Baietto, who said that he is often up all night baking in a process which can take as much as 10 hours.

Ingredients used are a mixture of French and Russian. Laurent Bourcier explained “we are using 30% from France, 70% from here. Partly this is process of getting to know where to source the right kind of quality here. For example, at first we imported all our raisins, then we found somewhere here. Our butter is imported from France, so is our flour, because we still can’t find anything equivalent here”.

The bakery has a small cafe next door, which serves sandwiches, cheese, salads, kolbasa, chicken, fish, caviar. A local delivery service is planned using well-dressed boys, with special hats, who will deliver on foot to the local area.

Patissier Laurant Bourcier

Opening the bakery has not been without a few headaches. Svetlana Trishina explained: “We have been somewhat overwhelmed by demand. We have had a real rush. We didn’t expect there to be such a demand locally for our products, until at least we have more a sign outside and some advertising. We have hardly had a break, the sales people have been under real stress as they are still learning the products, and the whole process is slower here than in France. In Paris, when a shop assistant is giving change to a customer, he or she is already asking the next customer what he wants. Our biggest problem right now is the size of these premises. Although it is quite large, we would like them to be even bigger. We would like to produce chocolate ourselves”.

Baking bread seems to be a something you have to be dedicated to. As Sebastien Baietto, who has been baking bread for 11 years put it, “I am the one who stays up all night and bakes the bread. If you don’t have a passion for this work, it can be very hard”.

Carry on baking Sebastian.

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