Monday, September 30, 2013

What If You Never Planned to Be in the Business?

Interview with Francois Godineau
La Duchesse Anne Patisserie
Saumur, France

With Kathryn Gordon and Jessie Riley

Editor’s Note:  the location for La Duchesse Anne has been a patisserie since 1842, and became known as La Duchesse Anne in the 1900’s.  Francois Godineau was raised above the pastry shop as a child, but never wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a baker, and left his hometown of Saumur to go into banking.  Chef Kathryn met the Godineau family in 1999, and has been taking groups through ICE to take pastry classes at la Duchesse Anne ever since (

Jessie:  Hi Francois!  It’s been about 3 years since you took over the bakery after your father Chef Godineau retired.  Can you tell us about that transition?

Francois:  At first, my father tried to sell the business, but the worldwide recession had just hit.  Then he tried to work out a deal for the employees to buy it as a cooperative, but the financing didn’t come together.  But in the end, I left banking and bought him out. 

                      2013 ICE Cuisine Course in France Pastry Class at La Duchesse Anne

Jessie:  A lot of the front of the house (counter staff) seem new, but most of the cooks and chefs in the kitchen seem to be familiar.   Have you had a lot of staff turnover?

Francois:  It was harder to transition with the front of the house than the kitchen.  I promoted one of the sous chefs to the executive pastry chef and he (Chef Florian) got everyone in line.  My mother used to run the shop, but now she runs our second shop in Clisson (where she and my father moved after he retired; my brother assists in Clisson).  Now my wife Celine Petit runs this shop.  We brought in new people because the ones who were there originally were too used to doing what they wanted to do.   

In Saumur, I have 7 employees in the kitchen, 3 students, and 4 employees; in the shop we have 6 including 2 students and 4 full time employees. 

Jessie:  What changes have you implemented?

Francois:  One of my best ideas I think is the 9.50 Euro lunch I introduced last year.  It includes your choice of drink, choice of lunch item and dessert.  And it’s a great way for townspeople to try more of our pastries and it gets them in here. Often they think to buy a cake to take home, and our overall sales increase.

Jessie:  Most of the pastries in the case seem to be the same type as when I worked here with your father and his staff (Easter season 3 years ago).  But I see you have introduced some new ones.

                                Traditional French Wedding Cake:  the Croquembouche

Francois:  I don’t touch the items that were my father’s signature desserts.  However, I think today’s market demands some with less sugar.  So I have created a new line with more subtle flavors, less sugar, and general “lightness” than the petits gateaux and larger gateaux that are my father’s signature items.

The younger market definitely likes more varied fruits, I find.  The older clientele like particularly strong flavors, such as cassis (blackcurrant).  But the cakes I have introduced with less acidic flavors such as raspberries, strawberries and cherries sell very well.

Kathryn:  How many recipes have you modified that were your fathers?

Francois:  I work with the guys to determine what we think could be better, and then we do some R&D until we get the product exactly where we want it.  For example, the croissant dough was a bit hard to work with.  We wanted it to be a bit flakier, as well.  We’ve now added in some powdered milk, decreased the water and mix it on different speeds than my father did.

                                                         Grapefruit-Strawberry Entremet

Kathryn:  Can you describe your process for introducing a new product?

Francois:  Well, it’s a good think we have the shop women in the front of the house.  They keep us in line!  The guys in the back and I think of too many “creative” items that would never sell.  So first we give samples to our front line people – if they say it will sell, we implement it into production.  If they don’t like what they taste, we go back to the drawing board. 

Some of our ideas from the kitchen are probably too sophisticated for the customer base in this town.  Then they offer free samples in our Salon du The, and hopefully the items then start to move.  For example, we introduced a sesame chocolate bon bon that is more contemporary, passed the taste tests and now sells very well.
                                  La Duchesse Anne depositor for macarons and other cookies

Kathryn:  You have a full line of products here, including ice creams and macarons.  How do you get your new ideas?

Francois:  Once or twice a year my chef (Florian) and I travel up to Paris and investigate what the competition is up to.  We are always tasting!  Here and everywhere else.

                                                            Duchesse Anne viennoisserie

Kathryn:  Francois, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since taking over this business from your father?

Francois:  I learned that I have to have responsibility for the whole company, and to do that I had to put my heart into it.   Although it might not have been what I envisioned for my life, I now enjoy it very much.

Jessie:  What’s next for La Duchesse Anne?

Francois:  We’re redoing our website with all new photography.  And I’d like to open more shops!

                                                          Duchesse Anne in history

Friday, September 20, 2013

State-of-the-Art Baking

Interview with Laura Horstmann, CEO, COO
Precibake Ovens

By Kathryn Gordon of Food Startup Help

Kathryn:  Hi Laura!  I met you with your Precibake crew from the US and Germany at a bread baking event at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education).  Tell me more about your exciting new project!

Laura:  We’re about to launch a new intelligent oven at IBIE (International Baking Industry Exposition) in Las Vegas in October.    The intelligence will support the baker, and is available in a variety of oven models.

Kathryn:  And how did this type oven evolve?

Laura:  My parents own Kemper and WP Bakery Group, a large commercial equipment company in Europe.  We’ve been in the US since 1990 as Kemper Bakery Systems. 

For this project, I am leading the marketing side.  My partner in this joint venture with Precibake, Ingo Stork, did his electrical engineering research in Munich and PhD at M.I.T., developing algorithms for helping cars drive themselves using camera technology. 

That product is also useable for other industries.  So now we are working together to use that intelligent camera software in ovens and revolutionize the baking world.

Kathryn:  Can you explain more about the concept?

Laura:  The ovens use the algorithm to detect whatever has been put inside it to bake.  They are completely programmable very easily by the chef.  If you’re an artisan bakery like Balthazar and you like your product to bake more dark to appeal to your customer base, the oven can learn your preferences (from your last bread bake) and adjust the heat for optimal success.  Or, if you own a supermarket or franchise chain and you do not want your employees adjusting anything, it can be set to do that as well.  You as the baker can basically give the oven feedback each time you bake, ultimately making the oven more responsible for success than your staff.

Kathryn:  Why did you decide to launch this new type of oven in the US?  

Laura:  A lot of food industry trends come from the US.  I think change is driven by America.  And we wanted to launch at IBIE because it’s the most innovation-friendly industry trade show in the country.  Come try out the ovens!

Kathryn:  I am meeting you at 175 Varick Street at WeWork.  There’s quite a trend for shared workspace – do you like it?

Laura:  We needed to rent office space in NJ (where engineers take apart ovens for the R&D) and NY with flexible space for various engineers and interns.  Several others on our team are working in Germany -- I’ve been travelling back and forth from Germany weekly.  The WeWork space is versatile and allows expansion as we add staff without having to relocate and remodel continuously.

After the oven launch next month, we will utilize the existing service support network for WP through Kemper Bakery Systems because they understand the existing software in our ovens.  So now they will help customers install, program and troubleshoot the new line of ovens regionally.

Kathryn:  Should I assume all this fabulous and innovative technology comes at a high price?

Laura:  No, we believe the future costs less.  Camera technology is not costly, so these ovens are not more expensive than other ovens. 

Kathryn:  Thanks Laura; it’s all very exciting, and I can’t wait to bake some French macarons in one of the new ovens! 


Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Makes One Brand More Recognizable Than Another?

Interview with Diane Stimson
Graphic Designer
By Kathryn Gordon, Food Startup Help

Kathryn:  Hi Diane; I met you when I substituted for your pastry class one weekend at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), and then you and I discussed your graphic design career when you were on the ICE Cuisine Course in France. Can you please explain what makes up a good logo?  

Diane:  A good logo is clear, not too fussy, and the eye focuses immediately on what is being presented as a concept. 

Kathryn:    What recommendations would you give to one of our clients, starting off in the food industry, regarding how to pick a good graphic designer?  How does someone decide who they should work with?

Diane:  The overriding goal is to create a recognizable brand through the art associated with the product (awnings, in store signage, menus, business cards, website, logo, flyers). 

To start, make a point of viewing the potential designer’s portfolio (often on the web these days).  Word of mouth is good as well; otherwise, ask for references and talk to them.  Meet with the designer, to give them clear direction and so they’re comfortable doing the job for you.  If a designer makes suggestions, allow them to do so as they should know best how to translate your ideas into a graphic – it is their expertise you are paying for, after all.  Most importantly when you are given initial designs for review – give timely and clear feedback.   Also, get a clear understanding of the cost (ask for a written quote) – most designers will require a 50% deposit, just be sure not to pay in full up front as there will be changes along the way until you are 100% satisfied. 

Kathryn:    When you are working on a project, what is your procedure and a typical starting cost?

Diane:  Meetings are generally about a ½ an hour at first and I will send the customer a base quote.  Then I submit 3 initial designs, and things evolve from there.  I usually require a 50% deposit after agreeing on the work to be done.  Generally, for a 2-color logo design, the fee should start at $500.  For packaging, marketing materials and image branding additional costs will be incurred and can get quite expensive – this should be discussed in the initial meeting.

Kathryn:    How can someone minimize their costs when they are working with a graphic designer?  I’ve seen people seemingly “stuck” with a design they hate after they paid a designer for their logo…  Or, they spin their wheels without great designs because their sister went to art school for a while, and they’re trying to save money. But the designs aren’t good, and nobody is satisfied with them or the process.  It can be frustrating for clients.

Diane:  First, find an accredited artist or graphic artist who understands marketing.  Then, you as the client need to clearly define “who is the target audience.”  Not every product appeals to every market.  It helps a lot having clear direction (such as market segments defined in a business plan). 

The KISS guideline “keep it simple, stupid” is key – for example, design for more of a corporate audience should be very clean and not too fussy.  It helps a designer immensely to know where a product is intended to appeal to – the mommy and kid crowd?  A general, more sophisticated public? 

Kathryn:    What pitfalls are there regarding printing costs for labels, stickers, custom boxes, etc?

Diane:  Multi-colored (3-4 colors or more) printing is expensive.  If a graphic designer is given free range, and comes up with a design with too many colors that the client cannot afford, that’s not good. 

You can get a lot of mileage out of 1-2 colors, because that color can be used effectively in different “strengths,” and not affect the printing costs.  You need a balance and not put every dollar available for investment into your logo, because you are also going to need to print other packaging and marketing materials…  The more colors involved, the more costs incurred.

1. Example of 4-color business card         2.  Example of 2-color

Kathryn:    Should a company be prepared to rework their logo, etc. periodically?  Do they look dated after a while?  Does that matter?

Diane:  If you think about it, very recognizable brands like Pepsi or Coca Cola don’t rework their branding.  They may tweak things, but there should be no need for an overhaul with a good design.  Right now, there’s a trend towards “grunge.”  The edges are not clean, they’re a bit tattered.  Menus are reproduced on kraft paper.  But it works, and it’s identifiable for certain food brands – and probably they should stick with it.

Some examples of the current grunge look for logos:

Kathryn:  Can you talk about how you got started in design?

Diane:  I studied communications and art in college, and my first job was in advertising.  I went on to study design at SVA, and fell into art publishing as a freelancer when I was laid off from my job in the early 90’s.

Now I specialize in licensing original artwork to the home décor industry, designing posters, lithographs and giclée art prints, as well as stationery, logos, packaging, and many other proprietary products.   Most of my work is done for Target, Home Goods and Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I’m currently published by 3 different publishing houses under 4 different names, 3 of which are pseudonyms! 

Following are a few of my best-selling designs:

Kathryn:  Thank you Diane for all the great advice!