Renowned bakery continues to give French their daily bread despite COVID-19 threat

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Updated 01 May 2020

Renowned bakery continues to give French their daily bread despite COVID-19 threat

  • Maison Poilâne, founded in 1932, has remained open to provide French people their daily baguettes or pain de campagne
  • The bakery's famous customers include Frank Sinatra, actor Gerard Depardieu and Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali

PARIS: Despite the strict lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the people of France have not been deprived of their daily baguettes or much-loved pain de campagne (country bread).

As in other countries, bakeries are considered an essential service and many remain open. However, not even one of the most famous has been able to completely escape the effects of the pandemic.

Apollonia Poilâne is the 33-year-old chief executive of the world-renowned, family-owned bakery Maison Poilâne. It was founded in 1932 by her grandfather, Pierre. Her father, Lionel, took over in the early 1970s and remained in charge until 2002, when he and Poilâne’s mother, Irena, died in a helicopter crash off the coast of Brittany.

Their daughter immediately took over the business. She was only 18, had just graduated from high school and was working in the bakery while she waited to begin studying for a degree in economics at Harvard the following year. She ran Maison Poilâne from Boston while completing her degree.

Work continues at the bakery during the pandemic but some changes have been unavoidable.

“In our business, we were always very careful and followed the highest standards of hygiene,” said Poilâne. “In the present situation, we have tried to do more, adapt to the specifics and strengthen our normal hygienic practices.

“In Paris, we have four shops, with the oldest being in Rue du Cherche-Midi. That one was founded by my grandfather, Pierre. We also have two shops in London. The bakers normally worked day and night shifts but we have had to reduce working hours. Our bakeries now open at 8 a.m. and close at 3 p.m., and we have one team that works that shift. We change the shift every week so each of the employees has a good, solid rest. At the same time we are trying to serve our clients according to what they want, and to cater as far as possible to their needs and desires.”

One of Maison Poilâne’s branches is normally devoted to producing bread for retailers and restaurants.

“Of course now, with the crisis, we have zero restaurant business but we do have our other business and we are trying to serve the small businesses and supermarkets who buy our bread,” said Poilâne.

Even though her business is still open and generating income, leaving it better placed than many others to survive the lockdown, it has not been immune to the adverse financial effects of the pandemic.

“It has certainly been affected but we are still selling bread,” she said. “We are in a privileged position but let us not fool ourselves — the situation is far from what it was before.”

Apollonia said that the London shops welcome many clients from the Gulf and all over the Arab world. Maison Poilâne is best known for its rustic sourdough bread, which is commonly called “miche” or “pain Poilâne” and shipped to more than 40 countries. The dough is made from stone-ground flour and sea salt, with no artificial additives, and baked over a wood fire.

Famous customers include Frank Sinatra, actor Gerard Depardieu and Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali. In 1971, the artist enlisted Lionel Poilâne to make an entire bedroom out of bread for him at Le Meurice hotel in Paris.


Biden slams Trump friendship with ‘thug’ Kim

Updated 23 October 2020

Biden slams Trump friendship with ‘thug’ Kim

  • Trump insists that he has avoided war through his summits with Kim Jong Un
  • Trump calls India, China air ‘filthy’ as he hits Biden’s stance on climate change

NASHVILLE, USA: Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Thursday denounced President Donald Trump for befriending North Korea’s “thug” leader, likening his diplomacy to working with Hitler.
In a sharp clash in their final presidential debate, Biden attacked Trump’s insistence that he has avoided war through his summits with Kim Jong Un.
“He’s talked about his good buddy, who’s a thug,” Biden said of the young North Korean leader.
“That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe — the rest of Europe. Come on.”
But Biden indicated he was also willing to meet with Kim, saying his condition would be that Pyongyang works to make the Korean peninsula “a nuclear-free zone.”
Trump said that former president Barack Obama had left him “a mess” on North Korea and had warned him of the risk of “nuclear war.”
After the summits, “we have a very good relationship. And there’s no war,” said Trump, who also played down North Korea’s recent unveiling of a massive new long-range missile at a military parade.
“He didn’t like Obama,” Trump said of Kim not meeting the former president. “He didn’t like him. He wouldn’t do it.”
Biden, who was vice president under Obama, hit back that Obama would not meet Kim because he was pushing stronger sanctions.
“President Obama said we’re going to talk about denuclearization. We’re not going to legitimize you.”
Trump first met in June 2018 with Kim in Singapore, the first-ever summit between the countries still technically at war, and later said that the two leaders “fell in love.”
The two leaders have met two more times and North Korea has since held off on nuclear and missile tests but analysts say Pyongyang has kept advancing its weapons programs.

Climate change
On climate change, Trump described the air in India and China as “filthy” as he denounced Biden’s plans to tackle the controversial issue.
“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia, look at India — it’s filthy. The air is filthy,” Trump said.
Trump charged that Biden’s climate plan was an “economic disaster” for oil states such as Texas and Oklahoma.
Biden said that climate change is “an existential threat to humanity. We have a moral obligation to deal with it.”
“We’re going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years,” he said.
The planet has already warmed by around one degree Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, enough to boost the intensity of deadly heat waves, droughts and tropical storms.
Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius.
Trump’s remarks come days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper visit New Delhi for talks on building the growing US-India partnership.
At the first presidential debate, Trump also spoke critically of India, questioning its coronavirus data amid criticism of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.