Richard Reinwald, Reinwald's Bakery
Speaking in front of the United States Congress on behalf of the entire baking industry isn't in a typical day for Richard Reinwald, 1st vice president of the Retail Bakers of America (RBA). But, New York State Senator Charles Schumer wanted to hear from a small business owner trying to cope with exploding commodity prices. Reinwald not only fit the bill, but he spoke eloquently and honestly on the subject in a setting that would have proven intimidating for some.
Reinwald and his wife Carole own Reinwald's Bakery in Huntington, N.Y. Bakery trade associations are in their blood, with Rich's grandfather and father part of the Manhattan Bakers Association since the 1920s and Carole's father, Helmut Gerst, on the executive committee of RBA during the 1970s. The couple actually met through their fathers, who were good friends in the associations. This year wasn't the first time, Rich visited legislators in Washington D.C. His future father-in-law spearheaded an RBA march on Washington during the sugar crisis of the 1970s.
“The lobbying wasn't like it is today. The common man had access to the political process,” Reinwald says. “When you knocked on a senator's door, he was actually in the office, and he talked to you.”
Despite the inaccessibility of today's politicians, Reinwald managed to reach Senator Schumer through a letter writing campaign and through his participation in the Band of Bakers March on Washington this spring. Retailers through RBA and wholesalers through the American Baker's Association (ABA) banded together in the nation's capital to bring attention to the government's ethanol program and its effects on food and ingredient prices.
“As a responsible American citizen, I viewed it as an opportunity to make myself heard,” Reinwald says. “That is the way I was brought up. The neighborhood worked together to make the community better.”
The testimony brought Reinwald's Bakery national publicity and reaction from both supporters and opponents, who came primarily from the corn-farming contingent. Most importantly though, Reinwald says his customers were very supportive.
It is this connection to his customers that Reinwald truly loves about being a retail baker. He wants to spread that passion to the next generation of bakers through his participation in local and national bakery trade associations. He recently acted as judge for the national SkillsUSA baking competition for high school students.
“Going forward I would like to challenge every baker to show their passion by giving back to the industry. I would like RBA to give people the opportunity to participate,” he says. “I would hate to see the retail baking industry be represented only at historic villages like Williamsburg.”
Lionel Vatinet, La Farm Bakery
While baking is ingrained in the fibers of French tradition, Lionel Vatinet found the United States to be a land of opportunity for artisan baking when he arrived here in 1991. Vatinet, who trained under the prestigious French artisan guild and apprenticeship program, Les Compagnons du Devoir, sees no borders in spreading the word and technique of artisan baking. He arrived in the United States in the middle of an artisan baking renaissance and today calls Cary, N.C. his home, where he and his wife, Missy, own and operate La Farm Bakery.
A position with Marvelous Market, Washington D.C., brought Vatinet to the United States. Later, he became a founding instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute where he helped train the 1999 Bread Bakers Guild Team USA that took first place at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie.
He is a member of the Bread Bakers Guild and Retail Bakers of America, and contributes much of his time to teaching the science of baking, particularly the fermentation process necessary to achieve the highest quality breads.
“Baking is my passion, and so is teaching. I don't think there are any secrets, and I want to have more people touched by the quality of bread,” he says.
Even running his own retail bakery since 1999, Vatinet incorporated teaching into his business by setting up apprenticeship programs with area culinary and technical schools and hosting baking courses for Cary residents.
“Through teaching, we can open the door to more people who want to learn the trade. We need to let people know there are so many opportunities in baking,” Vatinet says. He spreads this word wherever he can and consults worldwide on using artisan baking techniques while increasing production capacity. Next month, he heads to New Zealand to train more bakers on this process.
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