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A Day in the Life of a French Baker

PUBLISHED: 11:15 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:12 20 February 2013

A Day in the Life of a French Baker

A Day in the Life of a French Baker

It's a 2am start for Liz Miller when she heads to Salcombe to spend a day with baker Jerome Perez-Garcia. <br/><br/>Photos: Sarah McAdam


2.30am


While most of Devon is in a deep sleep, French baker, Jerome Perez-Garcia wakes up to begin his working day making bread, baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat ready for the breakfast table.


3.30am


Jerome arrives at his bakery tucked away on the first floor of a building behind Island Street in Salcombe where he starts his disciplined daily routine by turning on the large stainless steel oven.


Jerome, who moved to Devon to be closer to his partner Zaras family, started his career as a baker in bread shop Upper Crust in Salcombe 12 years ago where he learnt to make bread English-style. He graduated to running his own deli, Casse Croute, in Salcombe with Zara, with the idea of selling French loaves and pastries, like those he grew up with in Poitiers, France.


"I wanted to do some French bread for the deli so I went over to France three times to work with friends of my family and learn about all the different breads," he says. "I learned how to be passionate with the dough and not to rush the bread making."


Word of his delicious produce spread, and now Jerome has moved on from the shop and is a full-time baker supplying around 14 delis, cafs and hotels in the South Hams including Mangetout and Red Earth in Kingsbridge, Avon Mill Deli in Loddiswell, and South Sands Hotel and the Winking Prawn in Salcombe. He also has a stall, run by Zara, at the twice monthly Farmers Market in Kingsbridge.


4am


Once the oven is warmed up, Jerome takes all the loaves he has already prepared the day before out of his tall stainless steel proving cabinet, where they have been slowly rising, and the baking begins.


For the next three hours trays are sliding in and out of the oven with tin loaves taking around 45 to 55 minutes and baguettes around 25 minutes. Steaming freshly baked products are laid out on trays ready for delivery. While the winter season is quieter, in the summer Jerome bakes three or four times as many loaves and croissants to keep up with demand from the tourist trade.


"I use two and a half to three bags of flour a day, thats 75kg. When theres a Farmers Market Ill use five," he explains. "I have to import the flour from France for the baguettes, it has more gluten and its richer so there is more elasticity in the bread."


5am


In between baking for todays deliveries, Jerome starts preparation for tomorrow with four different types of dough to produce using the industrial size mixer; white, granary, wholemeal and baguette. Croissants take four days to perfect and Jerome says the secret of French baking is in giving the dough time to rise.


"On the first day you make the dough, on the second you put the butter inside its 1kg of butter to 4.5kg of flour, on the third day you mould them into shape and on the fourth you bake them," he explains.


The French way obviously works, as his croissants won first prize in a Southwest competition last year run by regional bakery supplier Bako Western in Cullompton.


8am


All the bread, croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisin and doughnuts are stacked up in plastic trays ready for Jerome to start his deliveries. He takes around an hour driving around the South Hams to reach all his customers, a round trip of 45 miles per day, and aims to have all the product on the shelves by 9am.


9.30am


Jerome arrives back at Island Street and starts working on dough to put in tins and on trays for the next days baking session. A huge mound of dough is cut in to chunks, which are weighed, rolled and put into tins and on trays. Equipment is cleaned and loaves are put into the prover so everything will be ready to go at 3.30am the next day.


Midday


With everything left in order, Jerome drives back home to Kingsbridge ready for some lunch, which invariably involves a baguette or a multi-seed loaf. "I eat a lot of bread" he laughs.


1pm


He turns his phone off and relaxes for a couple of hours before his children, Max and Mabel, get home from school, then its an early dinner with the family.


8pm


Time for bed with the alarm set for another early start. Although he has assistants, including another French baker, Jerome is always the first to start work and the last to leave. And while his six-day-a-week 2.30am start might seem challenging, the winter period is positively relaxing compared to peak season.


"This is the quietest time of year, so I start later, but in the summer I am getting up at 11.30pm and starting work at midnight," he says.


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