Alain Coumont, the founder of Le Pain Quotidien: “I started with an oven in a garage in Brussels”

Alain Coumont lives more in the air than on land. He spends a large part of his life on planes, going from one city to another and visiting one of the The Daily Bread that I created, in 15 countries around the world. or see Le Botaniste, his chain of vegan and organic restaurants in the United States. Although he is constantly in contact with problems to be solved, he is very aware of what really matters in life, and This is perhaps the secret of the success he obtained with Le Pain: simplicity, the basics. As he cooked for the wealthiest people in New York, and passed by Michelin-starred restaurants, he turned around and decided to open his small bakery in the 90s, without knowing or projecting what she would become. Today comes out his fourth cookbook, “Tartine Confidential, A la mesa!”, and he passed through Buenos Aires to, among other things, learn how to make tartine, his flagship product.and invite users to get their hands on it and create new versions. How does Alain live and what does he think, the creator of this colossal chain of coffee and bakery who set up a whole new global trend? MALEVA chatted with him at Pain de Salguero, between toast and coffee.

What is your first memory of you in a kitchen?

I think he was about four or five years old; For a long time, I didn’t feel that I wanted to devote myself to this. My family was gourmet, and gastronomy at one time is a nightmare: you have to work at night, on weekends. While people are having fun and having fun, you are working. When I was fifteen, I was sent to America to learn English for two months. I remember that year the French chef became the man of the year Michel Gurard, who was originally the father of Nouvelle Cuisine; When I discovered it, I thought “wow, cooking is not just cooking, it’s an artistic expression”. So when I turned 16, I decided to enroll in a cooking school.

I bought an oven and installed it in a garage, and thought a good way to cover the investment costs was to open a small shop to sell bread. But I also had to pay an employee to sell it, so I decided to open something more like a cafe. And I equipped it very basic…

What led you to open the first Le Pain?

When I was twenty, I graduated and I went to work in France in three Michelin star restaurants, like L’Archestrate, then I went to New York, where he worked as a private chef for three years. I also work in Milanoin other three Michelin star restaurants, until I decided to open my first restaurant, Le Café du Dôme, in Brussels. It was very difficult to get good bread for my restaurant, so I decided to start a small bakery to supply it. I bought an oven and installed it in a garage, and I thought a good way to cover the investment costs was to open a small shop to sell the bread. But I also had to pay an employee to sell it, so I decided to open something more like a cafe. And I equipped it very basic. I bought a used sewing table. Mir, prob (he gets up and fetches bread and butter, and spreads butter on a loaf and offers it). Do you like butter bread? It’s simple and you love it. I worked and went to very expensive restaurants; sometimes they are very good and sometimes they are pure rubbish. I’ve cooked and worked for very wealthy people in America, and sometimes you find a piece of bread like that is all they need.

How was Le Pain’s arrival in the United States?

I started having partners in Belgium and I grew up there and suddenly I decided to start from scratch in the United States, in 1997. Soon after people came to me saying “I love your bakery, can I open in London?” and it happened. It’s not that I hired someone to do franchise sales, people approached directly. But hey, business is never a fairy tale, you always have times when you go up, times when you go down, but in general all locals do well. For me it’s an incredible way to travel, because I discover countries, people, I meet the locals, I see how they live. Anger tokyo for example and learn about their culture, go out for good.

A new custom or something new that you took from these places?

volume I love the gardener, and for example, sometimes I take seeds from other places and plant them in my garden. For example, I brought red peppers from Brazil, which I put in vinegar and use in salads. I bought a kilo and a half of these peppers; later, in Colombia, I dried them with hotel toilet paper, and later, on my way home, I planted their seeds in my garden. I am already on the third harvest. Sounds fantastic to me.

My favorite breakfast is bread with tomato paste. As long as the tomato is fresh. I’m not a very nice person. I only eat croissants for quality control. In fact, I barely eat breakfast, I drink more coffee than anything else…

And what is your favorite breakfast?

the bread with tomato paste. As long as the tomato is fresh. I’m not a very nice person. I only eat croissants for quality control. In reality almost no breakfastI drink coffee more than anything.

As for the menu, do you study it and adapt it to the flavors and customs of each city?

Yes, we adapt some ingredients and flavors to local taste. For example, In Mexico, you must have these chilaquiles for breakfast. Or if you’re going to Turkey for breakfast there’s scrambled eggs with the turkey sausage, which looks like a meat sausage. In Japan, it is very interesting that the menu is very similar to that of France and Belgium. The only thing different is that they like very soft bread, they don’t like a crusty baguette, they like this bread which is a bit chewy.

Something that caught your attention in Tokyo?

When we opened in Tokyo, there was a press conference, and it seemed like everything was following military order. 100 journalists arrived, sat down, a presentation was made and nobody asked anything, they all wrote the same thing. All the businessmen were in suits and ties, and when they saw me, who didn’t dress like that, the next day some of them changed their look and put on jeans. There’s a lot of discipline, but after work, in a more nocturnal environment, it’s quite the opposite. Suddenly you are surrounded by gigantic towers, and between two towers you find a small wooden house and an open garage where there is a small restaurant run by an 87-year-old couple. You see the whole city ultra clean and a very dirty restaurant with a guy who eats sushi and smokes at the same time. I find the contrast very interesting.

I don’t live so stressed because… Why be so scared or worried? I think we’re all going to die at some point, that’s the purpose of life. Money comes and goes. I worked for billionaires in New York who weren’t happy. Difficult times always bring good stories to tell the grandchildren. Today I’m 61, but inside I’m 18…

And who do you live with or cook for at home?

I have three children, from three different mothers, in three different cities of the world: New York, Istanbul and Paris; my children are very happy. I cook with what I have at home. I have a large garden with a large orchard. And I adapt to what grows with each season. I don’t eat a lot of meat. If I go back to my grandparents, meat and chicken weren’t everyday things, it was something you ate on weekends.

Do you have your favorite markets and restaurants around the world or do you prefer to eat at home?

There are interesting markets, such as in São Paulo, Vila Madalena, an alternative neighborhood, with graffiti walls everywhere, is constantly changing; there is a market, CH InstituteIswhich has all local products, and for example, you buy an avocado, and 100% of the profits go to the producer.

What do you like to do when you have free time?

I really like being in my garden and skiing. I love skiing in Aspen, Sierra Nevada, Andalucia. I have been since I was three years old. And I’m a very active person. If you put me on a beach after fifteen minutes I need to do something, read a book for example.

You also don’t seem to live under stress, beyond all the work you have.

No, what do I know, why be so scared or worried? I think that We are all going to die at some point, that’s the purpose of life. Money comes and goes. I worked for billionaires in New York who weren’t happy. Difficult times always bring good stories to tell the grandchildren. Today I’m 61, but inside I’m 18.

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