Originally from Brittany and a baker’s son, pastry chef Ludovic Richard teaches bakery in a vocational high school. For 35 years, he has been working in this fascinating profession which is his passion. He has had the chance to go through several interesting professional and personal encounters around the world that have been for him, a great source of enrichment. He began his collaboration with Jean-Michel Perruchon at Bellouet Conseil School ten years ago and for all of these years he says he had a lot of fun teaching bakery at this prestigious Pastry School.
Through his book ‘Passion et Tradition Boulangere by Ludovic Richard’, Chef Ludovic Richard hopes readers will discover recipes for breads, viennoiseries and savory products but also products from his region in France. “Very often simple and rational products that can be made, for the most part, everyday in your company because I know that for many of you, time is of the essence. With the increase of social networks and their predominance in our life and with this profusion of the importance of image, it is easy to place the appearance of a product before what is good and what is tasty. But our profession deserves more than just beautiful photos because bread is the symbol of our common food heritage and is the staple food of many societies around the world. Bread is a very simple alchemy but what is simple often masks an authentic complexity! To fully understand the complexity of the dough, it is essential to know it’s ingredients, the technology of the raw materials that you use and their fields of possibilities because, as everyone knows, bakery is far from being an exact science. This is why you will certainly need sometimes to adapt my recipes and their process according to the raw materials and the equipment that you will use, but also of your geographical situation. With this set of basic knowledge of a baker’s daily work, you can build, adapt and correct recipes and especially create your own recipes to fit your own image and your philosophy. Creativity and innovation must be part of a craftsman’s DNA and customers expect that,” he says.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef?
My parents had a bakery in a small village in Brittany that’s why I naturally gravitated towards the profession of a Bakery and Pastry Chef.
You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?
I worked for ten years in different bakeries and artisanal pastry shops after that I started teaching. It’s been 25 years I have been teaching young boys and girls who want to become Bakers or Pastry chefs in a vocational high school. If I had to do it again, I think I would do the same things all over again.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
When I think about creating a new product, the first thing that comes to my mind is that this new bread or this new pastry must be gourmet. After that several other criteria will follow such as, the cost of the implementation, whenever possible the use of the most natural raw materials and I also always try to put myself in the place of the baker or the pastry chef who will make this product later in his business (completion time, rationality, etc.)
What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie?
The trends today are an emphasis on good quality products and the most natural ingredients. For baking, it’s the use of flour from a variety of ancient wheat, processes including short kneading and also long periods of fermentation.
For pastry it is also a return to basics, pastries that have taste and are made with simple and natural ingredients.
What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
The use of products such as additives and the excessive addition of gluten in certain flours is one trend I wish would just go away. Today this ‘vital gluten’ extracted from wheat is added in many flours and it is for this reason that the gluten becomes more and more difficult to digest.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product?
I do not have a favorite dish, but rather different things that I like to eat and which will vary according to the seasons, the weather, my mood, the place where I am, the people who accompany me … This can be, good meat, grilled fish, or just a pasta dish with pan-fried vegetables or bread and cheese. As far as baked products are concerned, my choice will be on a baguette depending on the occasion or a good sourdough bread. Simple desserts like the mille-feuilles, the eclairs, the Baba with rum or even the pies are my favourites.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a pastry chef?
I was not inspired by one person in particular, but rather by several people I have met over a period of time.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
My advice to aspiring pastry chefs is to be curious and thirsty for knowledge. Before being able to create or produce products, it is essential to know the technology of the ingredients you use and their fields of possibilities because as everyone knows, baking is far from being an exact science. Bread is a very simple alchemy but what is simple often masks an authentic complexity!
Would you consider yourself as an artist?
No, I don’t think of myself as an artist at all but rather someone who is looking for new ideas to please future consumers. When you enjoy eating a good bread or a pastry, it inspires you to create better products for your consumers.
The topic of local food, from smaller, specialized and personally known producers, is becoming more important. What are some of your local partners from whom you source?
I try as much as possible to buy from the small scale suppliers. For example, in the school where I teach, we work with a very small mill which is located just an hour away from the school and I am also fortunate to live in an area where we can find a lot of raw material on site like butter, eggs, Guérande salt…etc.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations?
Simplicity, rationality, originality and great taste is the winning feature of all my creations.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
First of all it is important to have the intelligence, interest and palate to understand what exactly will delight the customer and then go ahead and create it. Then I try when possible to assemble different textures (for example, soft inside and crunchy outside) or different flavors (a brown sugar with citrus zest or even lactic or acidic ferments, sourdough fermentation …)
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
No, it’s not something I thought about, but I am nevertheless attentive to the evolution of consumption and I think that this new way of consuming will certainly increase more and more in the years to come. Bakery and pastry shops will have to adapt to this new demand and find alternatives to the raw materials that we currently overuse. It is certainly one of the great challenges of the future and of humanity.
What’s your signature dish?
If it’s a bread, then it would be a Apple and Cider Bread
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
We can communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant based food to others by reinventing ourselves and by modifying our ways of thinking and consuming while retaining the pleasure of eating and the taste. We can and should consume differently by replacing ingredients of animal origin with ingredients of plant origin. Man has always known how to cope by finding solutions to the problems he has created for himself, so let’s have faith in humanity and in the younger generations because it is through them that this mutation will take place.
How has the current pandemic affected your work?
It affected my work as a consultant because all my training was canceled. After three months of all work coming to a pause, I have just started my first trainings in France but for my work abroad I have no certainty for the coming months. But there are companies and sectors of activity that are much worse affected than me. So I put things into perspective because thankfully pandemic has not affected any of my relatives and I was able to spend a lot of time with my family, which usually I am unable to do while working.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
I cannot tell you which bread or pastry I am most proud of, however what I can tell you is that I am happy each time I create a new product.