Passionate and perfectionistic, Paulin Leuridan isn’t a man of compromises. He only works with locally produced organic flour and everything you see when you set foot in Pain Paulin – his bakery – is there because he wanted it there. From the furniture to the kneading machines and the selection of bread. The result is as atypical as the project itself. A high-quality bakery, in which work ethic is everything, located in Petit-Piquey, a scenic village in Cap-Ferret. It’s in this bakery, surrounded by scales, sour dough and production sheets that we met up with Paulin.
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GOING BACK TO BASICS.
Opening my very own bakery wasn’t a spur of the moment decision at all. It was a plan that had been brewing in the back of my mind for close to 10 years, while I was working in the world of finance in Bordeaux. I took the time to let the idea mature and started learning the trade during weekends or whenever I could. Benoit Fradette’s bakery in Aix en Provence was where I took my first steps, later on I also got a proper schooling by Thomas Chambelland at the International Bakery School.
It’s true that I left behind a life that was easy and comfortable in order to do what I’d been dreaming of for so long. In a lot of ways, it enabled me to get back to basics. It really is all about offering a quality product to those that want it. Every detail counts. Without wanting to throw around terms like “bio” and “organic”, our bread obviously always is organic, handmade from natural sour dough. But these terms should never be selling points. I want people to buy my bread because they love the taste, that’s it.
I wanted Pain Paulin to be very transparent. Where we produce is where we sell and that’s because I believe that the bond between the product and the customer is very important. Nothing’s hidden, everything’s out in the open, from the flour bags to the machinery and the inevitable mess sometimes. I’m an architecture enthusiast so before opening here I already had (Parisian architecture bureau) Cigüe in mind to work with. It took a few years and I really had to insist but when the project finally took off, it all worked like a charm. They decided to connect two opposites: the bakery is a modern and elegant laboratory, almost industrial in feel, while the living quarters have the charms of an oyster shack or a log cabin. I live there and there’s another chamber that’s available for rent.
The same type of ambivalence can also be found in how we create an authentic, artisanal product with the greatest respect for tradition, but we present it in an environment that is not at all retro or antique.
TRYING TO GET TO BORDEAUX.
When I can, I go back to Bordeaux, but that has become a rarity honestly. The success of Pain Paulin makes it hard to leave. It’s not exactly the quiet life with the little bakery I had envisioned but it’s worth it. It can be very challenging, especially during the high-season. During those 3 months we generate a third of our yearly revenue so you can imagine how crazy it gets. What little spare time I have is spent with friends and family, but it’s hard to establish or nourish relationships when you’re working 100 hours a week. Even on weekends away with my girlfriend I lug around a package of sour dough (laughing).
I would like to further focus on the creative side of things, rather than the repetitive nature of the production process. In order to do so, I’m working on a foothold in Bordeaux, to be designed by Cigüe. That should also help me to enrichen my social, cultural and emotional life.
STIMULATING AND NOURISHING CREATIVITY.
Starting this month, we’ll be launching a new type of bread every month. It will be available temporarily before disappearing again. I think it’s a great way to stimulate the creativity inside of our team. Every month I’ll be giving carte blanche to one of our employees so they can create their own thing. It’s a win/win because it’ll allow our customers to discover something new and we’ll get the chance to do something a little different, to research and experiment. Plus, it’s fun.
I’ve been working with an alternating “bread calendar” for a while now, with different types of bread every week. Some are always available, others rotate. It’s kind of like how some Michelin-chefs run their restaurant, a concept that has always inspired me. It means less repetition, more creativity, more diversity. So, this new initiative ties in easily with the idea behind that calendar.
Another project that’s in the works is our own henhouse, to be located on a piece of farmland that I’d like to acquire around here. I’ve recently contacted the local authorities to obtain the necessary permits. Having our own eggs would help us become more self-sufficient. I like that idea. Then, between the orchards and the henhouse, I’d like to construct another cabin, a nice to place to stay and to experience the region.
Pictures by Thibault de Schepper
Words by Alice van Marcke & Bjorn Dossche