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Interview with Gilles Castel, CEO of Cabinet G.SIR

Gilles Castel, CEO of Cabinet G.SIR and founding member & administrator at Resto France Experts, gives us an update about standards an entrepreneur must adhere to when planning to open a boulangerie with a catering section. He also talks about his work with Le Cordon Bleu institute on setting up the boulangerie of future.

In just a few short decades, bread consumption has evolved dramatically from a basic necessity to a treat. This fundamental change has inevitably had a major impact on the products on offer in boulangeries. What is your opinion?

For several years now, the French boulangerie sector has been following in the footsteps of developments taking place in the restaurant and then the pastry industry. Eating 'well' while respecting the environment and personal health is possible! Eating in, or taking away, in an alternative style, while being fully in control of time constraints, is possible! Today, a boulangerie must have quality products on sale (organic bread, in-house production etc.) as well as an array of meal options based on what would typically be for sale in a boulangerie (tarts, salads, sandwiches, pastries, soups etc.). Leading chefs are opening high-end boulangeries both in France and abroad, perhaps due to the fact that foreigners considered bread and freshly baked pastries to be refined, even luxury products, long before we did. Another example is Eric Kayser, who has replicated his concept and format in France and on a global scale, competing with other food concepts such as Prêt à Manger and Exki.

What standards must an entrepreneur adhere to when planning on opening a boulangerie with a catering section?

The health regulations governing a boulangerie are different to EC health regulations for establishments which handle and process products of animal origin. Boulangerie chefs, who want to be in charge of the whole process from A to Z, must manage all the products that they use for making the food on sale (roast pork, chicken, salmon, vegetables etc.). As with the production of bread and freshly baked pastries they must be fully aware of the regulations. This will enable them to design and/or restructure a boulangerie in line with standards and evolutions.

What are the risks if these standards are not adhered to?

Criminal liability is the main risk, as for a caterer or restaurant owner. The notion of performance requirements applies; they must therefore provide their customers with guarantees concerning the safety of their products and their traceability.

These standards can be very restrictive (available space, lack of training). What is your opinion?

For everyday running, the different areas need to be split up, by separating supplies, creating an area for unpacking, waste management, and separating the production area. Highly sensitive food products of animal origin (cooked or raw) must be isolated from the bakery in order to avoid the risk of cross-contamination, particularly with flour. A few fundamentals include isolating the access points: deliveries, personnel, and waste, and separating the circuits: soiled and clean. As with any workplace, the importance of natural light, air quality, ensuring the floors are not slippery, washable surfaces, separating the different networks, are factors which must be taken into account regardless of the business in which the boulangerie is involved. A well-designed boulangerie does not necessarily need more space, but rather the best possible organisation of the existing space.

What advice would you give to a youngster who is keen to open their own business?

When a youngster invests in a business, it is often going to be one of the main projects of their life. They must, therefore, create a business plan, in order to clearly identify what they are planning to sell, the processes involved and the economic implications (investments and running costs), until they find the best economic model in the short, medium and long term. This evolution over time is essential in order to foresee the precautionary measures which need to be anticipated. The first establishment can often lead to the development of other points of sale, without having to duplicate all the premises, but instead, using the first site as a central lab. This solution is feasible, but must be anticipated: managing is anticipating.

Can you describe working on setting up the boulangerie of the future with Le Cordon Bleu institute?

RFE has been a partner of GL Events ever since its launch. Our association brings together expert consultants and manufacturers who are specialised in the restaurant field. We were committed to providing Europain with our support on the issue of the shift of boulangerie professions towards those of the restaurant field. This does not imply that boulangerie chefs are going to become cuisine chefs, but rather that they will become more versatile and autonomous in the future. We already have some fine examples of farmer/boulangerie chef/restaurant owner.

Invited to sit on the jury organised by Le Cordon Bleu Paris institute for choosing the Boulangerie of the future, we offered our support to Olivier Boudot, Boulangerie Chef Instructor and Technical Director, for the organisation of the back office. This enabled a food and regulatory aspect to be included, while ensuring his expectations in terms of production were met. It was important for us to share our experience and knowledge in our respective fields, for choosing production equipment, deciding on how to structure the space etc. We tried to remain true to the students’ and Sylvie Amar’s vision in terms of design and sustainable development, despite the complexity involved in creating a pop-up boulangerie. We will work alongside Le Cordon Bleu institute during the exhibition, providing information, reassurance and giving advice and support to visitors on the developments in our professions. We will be present at both the Expert Advice Hub and the Europain Lab.

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