The Bread Baker's Guild Team USA 2008 did not bring home the gold again this year, but I didn't return from the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie disappointed in our team one bit. Yes, a win would've been great. The last time I was in Paris for this competition was in 1999, the first time our team won the international event. It was thrilling to be a part of the fanfare and the upset victory that it was.
Team USA 2002 returned home with the silver, and Team USA 2005 again captured the gold, and in the words of the BBGA, “proved that Team USA's 1999 victory was no fluke: Americans do make great bread!”
This year's team had very big shoes to fill with other countries gunning for them. The U.S. team had already won this baking competition too many times in the eyes of the baking world, so we were the big dogs as a country needing to be knocked down a peg. As Americans, we may think we're underdogs in the artisan baking world, but from an outsider's perspective, it is tough to view us as anything but a powerhouse.
This is an international competition, but it is French-run and always takes place in Paris. French pride in its bakers and bakeries is understandably monumental since boulangerie is so ingrained in the country's history and culture. You probably already know that it is illegal in France to call a bakery a “boulangerie” unless it has an oven on site.
And, we have the French to thank for creating the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, which puts a spotlight on true artisan baking from around the world. Team USA 2008 may not have won the competition this year, but they definitely exceeded and continue to carry out the Coupe's mission: to gather artisan bakers from around the world to celebrate their profession, share knowledge of artisan baking techniques and reinstate the value and restore the image of the artisan baking professional.
In addition, this year's Coupe revealed to me just how far women in the male-dominated baking industry have come in the U.S. Solveig Tofte and Dara Reimers handled the extra baggage they were given in this international competition with grace and dignity. Certainly, there are still hurdles for females in the American baking industry and probably always will be. But, compared to other countries, the U.S. baking industry is the hands-down leader in opportunities for women.
I want to personally thank Solveig, Dara and Peter Yuen on behalf of the U.S. baking industry for representing the country with true class. The U.S. is not guaranteed a spot in the next Coupe because only the top three teams are automatically invited back. But, you can be sure that we'll be back. We'll return even stronger. No doubt about that.