Head baker, Nicolas Queruel
Early in the morning, just when the first batches were coming out of the oven, we went to meet Nicolas Queruel, head baker at La Grande Épicerie de Paris. Follow him backstage in the production labs of our Rive Gauche store.
What is your role as head baker at ÉLa Grande Épicerie de Paris?
I trained as a baker and I joined La Grande Épicerie de Paris 27 years ago. I manage the bakery, which is composed of 27 people, including 21 bakers, 3 interns and 3 supervisors. It is an important stand that supplies various departments within our stores. For example, we make the bread for the La Table restaurant and the pie bases for the Pâtisserie.
Each day, I spend a lot of time with my staff helping them to knead more than 850 kilos of flour, shape 100 kilos of croissants and prepare 75 kilos of brioches!
We also work as a team creating new recipes, which we then offer in the department.
What are the little extras of your department?
All our bread and pastry are made in-house. We are one of the last in Paris to make our own croissants. Controlling our production in this way allows us to meet our customers’ different needs. Because of their requests, our 2016 Christmas brioche with orange peel has become one of our permanent products!
We also stand out due to the care we take with our products. We offer classics that are both delicious and generous.
Finally, we work with producers who are passionate about their products, who supply us with our Piedmont hazelnuts or the "Montaigu" Charentes-Poitou AOP butter for our croissants. It’s a pleasure working with them, especially with their top-quality products.
You were talking about your latest creations. How and at what pace do you bring out new items?
We work on creations according to the seasons, twice a year, at the same pace as fashion collections. Each time we offer large sliced loaves and pastries that we combine with new flavours depending on the store’s themes. Recently, we offered a pain au chocolat for Easter or a sesame seed and vegetable coal bread.
When we create a new recipe, we never get it right the first time! We try each one 3-4 times each to find the right ingredients, the right amounts... Everyone on the team puts forward proposals, since they will be in charge of its production.
Inspire us! What are the must-try products in your department?
I recommend you try Le Grand Pain, our signature bread. It is made of a mixture of wheat flour and einkorn wheat that make it light with a fluffy texture.
Le Grand Pain is also kneaded in advance, so the day before for the next day. It rests for 14 hours so that it has time to rise. When cooked, the crust becomes thick and crunchy; the two characteristics for good bread! Like many products of La Grande Épicerie de Paris it is made large-scale so that the flavours can spread and develop better.
We also offer very good baguettes that we cook all day so we can serve them still warm to our customers. We carry out the baking process several times, so we can offer lightly baked to well-baked loaves to satisfy different people’s preferences. It’s like the made-to-measure of the baguette world!
As for sweet things, I recommend our apple pie. We make the dough, of course, but also its apple compote used as a filling.
After preparing, we soak pieces of apple in sugar so that they caramelise slowly in the oven.
Finally, do you have tips to share with us?
Keep your bread in a linen bag or cloth. It lets the dough breathe so it retains its fluffiness. In these conditions, Le Grand Pain can be kept for up to 7 days!“ Il laisse respirer la pâte et lui permet de conserver son moelleux. Dans ces conditions, Le Grand Pain peut se garder jusqu’à 7 jours !