BREAD, FRENCH LEGACY IN ASIA
THE SUCCESS STORY OF BAKER ERIC KAYSER
By DR PICK KEOBANDITH
Eric Kayser is a French artisan baker. He is a former “Compagnon du Devoir” (Compagnonnage being an old, traditional French mentoring network based on apprenticeship with traveling masters); on completing his “Tour de France” and his international training, mainly in Quebec, he opened his first bakery in Paris in 1996. During these early years, I and other friends from all over the world visited him in his little shop on rue Monge, more or less opposite a church. And there we could taste his traditional bread with its creamy taste and texture surrounded by wonderful aromas of cereals and dried fruits. We listened to his explanations on the making of bread with liquid yeast, certified flours without additives and on his personal invention, the Fermentolevain machine.
Today he is just as passionate about his baker’s job and about sharing it in different continents.
We are very proud of his conquest of the Asian market thanks to his savoir-faire made in France!
And after all, isn’t bread the main French heritage in Asia?
In 2018 After visiting Washington as part of a deputation accompanying President Macron, we saw you last July alongside members of the Thai Royal Family inaugurating a new bakery in Bangkok. What does Asia represent in the development of the Kayser Bakeries network?
The place of Asia is essential in my life! 17 years ago, when I wanted to open my first bakery abroad, I turned to Asia, specifically Japan. After my first trip, I was fascinated by Japanese people, their culture and their gastronomy. I immediately knew that this country would be the gateway to Asia and its diversity. We were made very welcome and today there are more than 20 bakeries that are located in the country of the rising sun.
From this Japanese experience, we believe a lot in the Asian continent: 7 years ago, we opened an office in Hong Kong, dedicated to the whole continent which has allowed us to spread our expertise in China, Vietnam, and especially Cambodia. French bread is popular!
As with any artisanal product, I imagine that the quality of ingredients, particularly flour, is just as important as the expertise in the making. How do you supply your Asian bakeries? Will you find local suppliers?
The growth of a bakery obviously goes through the study of raw materials available “on-site”. For our pastries, we choose to use local and seasonal fruits. It was obvious to us that our bread flour should also come from local suppliers as much as possible! Fortunately we don’t have to import the flour from France!!! After several trials, we found an excellent flour from a Korean partner.
Tell us about your choice of Thailand after Japan, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Why did members of the Royal Family attend the inauguration?
Through its office in Honk-Kong, Maison Kayser’s ambition is to spread “good French bread” across the continent. How could Bangkok be ignored? Its history, architecture and culture make it a must-see. And the proximity of Vietnam and Cambodia have made it a logical follow-up.
As for the presence of the Royal Family at the inauguration, which was flattering, I can imagine a certain penchant for our croissants unless it is for our delicious financiers who count very many “addicts” around the world!
How do you explain the success of your bakeries in Asia? Who are your customers? Are they members of an international élite or locals reflecting an evolution in the consumers’ habits of a greater part of the Asian population?
I have always had a thirst for discovery and my curiosity has always guided me and helped to evolve in my perception of things.
I fundamentally believe in the value of exchange and tolerance and the openness it causes. These exchanges are taking place today on a global scale. Everyone can now easily access other cultures and a lot of food. I guess this reflects the evolution of the world. Bread, which is the symbol of sharing and conviviality meets with great success, which comes as no surprise! I have always considered that breaking bread announced a discreet party: a culinary party without any distinction among gourmands. If Asia loves our baguette, it is absolutely consistent and natural !