« Caminante no hay camino, se hace el camino al andar »
(Walker, there is no path. You make the path as you go.)
The words of the celebrated Spanish poet illustrate well the path that led me to create la Forge à Pains here in Eysins. That path was by no means a straight one.
There is no path…
I was born in northern France, where the seeds of my passion for bread were first planted, most probably by my mother, who was a professional chef.
But it was some time before that passion bloomed fully. Far from being predestined to work in the food industry, I started out by studying economics, which led to jobs in the finance sector and a home on the shores of Lac Léman. So how did I become a baker?
… You make the path as you go
I believe that those years spent wandering through the forests of economic indicators and financial models have helped, as the poet says, to “make the path” that today has brought me to La Forge à Pains.
The longer I spent in that world, the more I felt the need to “come back to the earth” in my professional life.
The birth of a passion
While holidaying with my family in the Sisteron region of France in autumn 2017, we visited a good friend who was learning to make sourdough bread. It sparked in me an obsession with sourdough baking.
By happy coincidence, our host at the guesthouse, Sandrine, was a baker-farmer who grew her own wheat and sold her bread at local markets.
It was the perfect opportunity to have my first experiences of kneading and baking for real.
A long fermentation process
It took another four years for my own bread-making project to mature.
During that time, I talked to many professional bakers and read copiously about bread and the biology of leaven. Most importantly, I spent hours at home feeding my leaven, kneading, shaping and baking all sorts of bread for family and friends.
I was also fortunate to spend time in the premises of neo-baker friends, notably François from Levain du Nord in Arras (France) and Jérôme from levain.ch in Geneva.
I am eternally grateful to those talented sourdough neo-bakers.
The big step!
After a final period of reflection during the lockdown in spring 2020, I began looking for a place to set up my bakery.
I found out that the pottery workshop in Eysins (a former forge) was available for rent and realized, like Cinderella desperately looking for the right shoe, that this was the perfect place for me to put down my bags of flour, my oven and my bannetons!
After several months of administrative procedures, I finally obtained authorization to transform the old blacksmiths into la Forge à Pains!
Today, while kneading and shaping bread fermented with natural leaven, I savour the fundamental truth of the poet’s words and the salutary absence of marked paths.