On Sunday, February 24th, Parisian import Maison Kayser bested twelve other area bakeries to win Grand Prix and title of “Best Baguette New York” for the second time.
Readers of French Morning, who hosted the event at SPiN in Manhattan, selected the competitors in the contest which also included Almondine, La Boulangerie, Breads Bakery, Choc O Pain, Le District, Epicerie Boulud, Le French Dad Boulangerie, Orwashers, Pain d’Avignon, Récolte, Silver Moon Bakery and Vaucluse.
Among the industry sponsors of the event were Buerremont and Cacao Noel. Five baguette experts judged the event, as over 400 guests sampled their way through those same baguettes and had a chance to cast their votes as well. Public Prize for Best Baguette was awarded to Breads Bakery, whose large cheering section was delighted when the winner was announced.
The competitors also submitted their own specialty breads, which displayed a wide range of techniques and trends. Récolte offered their award-winning Pink Lady, which contains flavors of lychee, raspberry, rose, strawberry and walnut all in the same loaf. Other bakeries showed their abilities to incorporate current health trends into their work, such as Almondine’s Kale Bread and Vaucluse’s Golden Sourdough, which uses turmeric to color and flavor the dough. Ultimately, the award was presented to Pain d’Avignon for their Seeded Sourdough, which features sunflower, poppy, flax, sesame and caraway seeds.
Chef judges Charles van Over and Priscilla Martel said they were not surprised that a French bakery won the top prize. Since baguettes have distinct features, judging based criteria such as uniformity helped them stay objective. For example, though most of the submissions tasted good, some of them were too sour to be considered a traditional baguette. Rounding out the judges table were author Marc Levy, George Masraff of Gourmet Garage and chef Antoine Westermann.
“It’s a good feeling to be there, meet other bakers, be among the finalists and win,” Yann Ledoux of Maison Kayser stated when he was awarded the top prize. Most of the bakers expressed excitement just to be a part of the event, even if they didn’t come away victorious. “For me, it’s not a competition. It’s to show the people of New York what’s happening,” noted Almondine baker Hervé Poussot.
At the close of the event, Mr. Masraff remarked that “bread is life.” That certainly rings true for all of those involved in the event, but most especially the team at Maison Kayser as they celebrated their win.
French Morning is hosting similar events in other major cities. Pitchoun won Grand Prix for Los Angeles on February 16th. Miami is scheduled for March 17th, followed by San Francisco March 24th and hopefully London in the near future.