La baguette magique

This year, whoever wants to taste Paris’s best baguette must visit Boulangerie Leroy-Monti in the 12th arrondissement. Mademoiselle Lili talks about the world’s most famous French stick.

“How can you govern a country which has 365 different varieties of cheese?” General de Gaulle reputedly lamented. President Emmanuel Macron probably feels the same today. The yellow vest protests are still raging and shutting down entire parts of the city every Saturday – despite the many concessions that he is promising to his rioting people. Everybody wants everything to change, but without any big changes! Politically, there’s only one thing the French people seem to agree on: the topic of food. They quickly devise clear rules: there are constitutions for sausages, laws for bread and birth certificates for cheeses and wines.

For centuries, the baguette has been a pillar of national harmony. Most people like it like this: a golden brown crust, nice and crispy and baked right the way through, but with soft crumbs, a little moist without sticking to your mouth and with a taste more of nuts than of yeast. Six billion French sticks are consumed every year in France. 98 percent of French people eat them every day. The daily trip to the baker has become something of a sacred civic duty for the French, and is even protected by law: in the early 1990s, when supermarkets began selling industrially manufactured baguettes as cheap mass-produced goods, this ushered in the first bakery crisis and the legislature reacted quickly: Today, the only “traditional baguettes” are those that comply with the Purity Law and only contain wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. An authentically French bread stick must weigh between 250 and 300 grams and contain 18 grams salt per kilo of flour. It has to be between 55 and 70 cm long.

For the 25th time, this year Paris held the bakery contest for the “Best baguette in Paris”, and the 2019 winner is Fabrice Leroy: His Boulangerie Leroy-Monti is located at Avenue Daumesnil No. 203 in the 12th arrondissement. The jury rated his baguette as the best of 230 anonymous entries. He was not only rewarded a EUR 4000 prize and the honour of supplying the Elysée Palace and thus President Macron for a whole year, but he is also looking forward to a 30 percent increase in sales. “I really didn’t expect to win”, said the 43-year-old. “It was actually only a fun bet among colleagues. I’ve only run my own bakery for two years. Before then I worked for the railway”.

Incidentally, Leroy is one of the few winners in recent years without a migration background. French Tunisian Ridha Khadher who won in 2013, used the attention he gained from the prize to carve out his international career: He opened a franchise chain in the Emirates, acted as a role model for successful integration as he accompanied Emmanuel Macron on his latest state visit to Tunisia, and published his autobiography “La baguette de la République”. Even if the Republic is currently a little shaky, the baguette remains a solid pillar of national unity.