Master Baker Pascal Tepper – by Jonathan Lau

On a hot and humid but otherwise beautiful day I got off at the Qilianshan station and began walking to Shanghai Young Baker’s new baking center to watch Master Baker Pascal Tepper give a demonstration for Shanghai Young Bakers, for the second year in a row.

I arrived late, expecting the walk to take only twenty minutes when in reality it was more than thirty. Maybe one day we will have enough money to have a building center closer to the city center or at least closer to the subway station. Luckily when I got there, the young bakers were just getting started.

As I was readying my camera, the young bakers were getting ready to bake. They hunched over their recipe sheets as master baker Pascal Tepper called out the directions and ingredients in French, which long-time volunteer Yang Ming then translated into Chinese. All the young bakers’ eyes turned to Tepper as he listed off ingredients one by one before mixing them together, as soon as the ingredient was called their eyes went down to the paper followed by some scribbling, then it was back to Tepper again. This process continued, until Tepper grabbed the dough and threw it into the mixer while the young bakers quickly formed a circle around him.

I was impressed by how well the whole demonstration flowed from start to finish. Used equipment was cleaned, tables were cleared and finished bread unloaded with very little talking. Master and students always seemed to be on the same page and worked together seamlessly throughout the four hours. As focused as the young bakers were during the whole demonstration, I saw that they still managed squeeze in a few laughs during the downtime. The energy in the room was infectious, even the Shanghai Young Bakers staff helped out in the baking process by cutting up and weighing the butter.

When the first batch of bread came out of the oven, all the young bakers quickly pulled out their phones and snapped pictures. There was pride to be had in their work and it could be seen on the young bakers’ faces. There are few things in this world that are as delicious as freshly baked bread and this was no exception. When the first olive loaf was cut, the slices were quickly snatched up by hungry hands, in fact, by the time I set down my camera, I was already too late. The whole loaf was gone and I had to wait for the second loaf to be cut.

At the end, Tepper gave a heartfelt speech about his own background and talked about the competition that gave him the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a title which designates him as one of the best bakers in France. The young bakers listened intently to Tepper’s story and at the end, he was met with much applause.

I believe that not just the young bakers, but everybody in attendance walked out a little bit inspired by what master baker Pascal Tepper demonstrated and shared that day.

Written by Jonathan Lau, volunteer