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Baguette machine breaks with French bread tradition

posted 31 Aug 2011, 10:28 by Mpelembe   [ updated 31 Aug 2011, 10:30 ]

Parisians can buy baguettes from a dispenser at any hour of day or night, as a French baker has created a machine which threatens the French tradition

PARIS, FRANCE (AUGUST 31, 2011) REUTERS - Parisians lined up for a different type of withdrawal on Wednesday (August 31) as a French baker has created a baguette dispenser which allows customers to buy a fresh flute, at any time of day. But for some Parisians, the automation could threaten the French institution that is the baguette.

Jean-Louis Hecht, a baker from the French Moselle region, invented the machine to allow customers to buy baguettes at any hour. Now on his sixth prototype, the baker said the machine has added nearly 50,000 euros to his annual revenue.

For Hecht, the machine is nothing but a natural progression for breadmakers to adapt to a changing world.

"The machine creates a product of very high quality. Quite simply, it keeps the quality that you put in it, with the difference that it always delivers a warm baguette. Fresh, warm and crunchy, no matter the hour, day or night," he said.

Baguettes are a closely guarded trade in France, where competitions are run each year to find the capital's best loaf. Traditionally, during the month of August, many bakers leave for the summer, leaving the capital in a doughy drought.

This summer, Hecht was quick to capitalise on the absence of competitors and monopolised the markets in the summer months.

And although certain bakers don't agree with the practice, Hecht said fellow bakers had no choice but to accept the "future of bakeries."

"I believe it has answered a real demand, an expectation that the people had a right to ask. Quite simply, today things have evolved in a way that people work in a different way, and they work later and later. They live life at a faster pace. And the hours of a bakery, even with the 35-hour working week that hasn't helped matters, we are forced to reduce the hours or raising costs by getting more staff. There you go. We created an automated miniature bakery which is here to provide for a real need," he said.

Hecht's machine allow bakers to regulate every aspect of their bread production, from oven heat to inventory. Savvy bakers can even control the software from a distance using their laptop or iPhone. The innovative baker is currently working on partnerships not only with other bakeries but with supermarkets to export the technology.

Although bread in the machine is never more than five hours old, certain Parisians are reluctant to give the baguettes a try.

"I am against the idea because I believe in smelling the bread. In a dispenser, you don't know if it's hot or cold. You don't know its texture. We need to smell the bread, to feel it, there you go," said one Parisian, Myriam.

"There is the relationship with the baker, the pleasure. I don't know, there's something particular in the bakery. I don't buy food much in dispensers," said another, Isabelle.