Written by root. Posted in IN PERSON


Published on September 02, 2016 with No Comments

Richard Bertinet is the darling of Bath, both for his bread and wonderful personality.


Tell us how you ended up in Bath.
Like any other story, it began with a girl (laughs). But let’s not get into that. It was just one of those things, you know. I was looking for something exciting to do just coming in from France. London did not excite me the least. It was a big city, yes, but it was just like any other city. I came to Bath like any other visitor, wanting to check it out and I fell in love with it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Why bread and why a Cookery School?
One of the things I missed about France is bread. Good bread. As you can see here, the breads you get at the grocers aren’t qualified to be called bread. And to me, bread is such an easy thing to do. Just three or four ingredients. It’s so simple and easy, yet many people think it’s complex.

If you think about it, bread is a complete staple food. I mean, yes, there’s rice, but in hard times, when you have just the basic ingredients, bread is going to be easy to make. And you can survive on it.

In any culture, there is always bread. It can be called many other names, but always, always, there will be some type of bread on the table. Why do you think people use the phrase ‘break bread’? Because it is something so socially acceptable. People can bond over bread. In its most basic form, it’s the food of life.

Sadly, a lot of people do not know how to make bread. That’s when I decided, why not – I’ll teach bread making through my school.

You tend to be very precise about your baking methods when you’re teaching. Some may even consider it pedantic. Why is that?
The students are here to learn. You may see me as being hard when I insist on them doing things a certain way. But, in class, when I teach and emphasise on them learning the right way to cut a baguette, for example, it’s because I want them to remember. I want them to be able to remember to have that discipline even when they’re at home. Because being home, by themselves, it is easy to fall back into bad habits and be lazy about certain things. But when I am “hard” on them in class, they are alert. They think. And it’s a lesson that,
I hope, will stay with them forever.

When you’re not doing classes, what are you likely to do?
(Laughs). That’s a tough question because really, my school takes a lot of my time. But if I do have the time, I would love to travel the world and savour different cuisines and experience different culture. I think there’s a lot to learn from other people’s culture which you can embrace it and incorporate it into your own life and work.

There are already a lot of celebrity chefs that are doing just that right now – travelling the world, embracing different cultures.
I think that we lack real professionals who really care and are genuinely passionate about food. I’m not saying that all of them are like that. But there are some who value too much about being in the limelight, or they are too busy being on TV, that they forget the crux of the matter.

We live in a society that doesn’t care about food anymore. Take bread, for example. Pick up a pack of bread and you see a whole list of ingredients on it. When in essence, bread just needs three or four basic ingredients. We all want food that is fast. Children think chicken comes in these tidy plastic boxes. We do not value our food, we do not have the humility to learn and honour those who give us the food or the produce – the farmers, the fishermen.

I think we seriously need to educate the young generation about the importance of understanding where the food comes from. When there is this understanding – honouring them and the values – then we honour ourselves. And that’s’ when the respect for food will kick in.

Are you trying to change that?
Well, I’m not going to say I’m out to change the world. But I am pretty excited about my new project. I just rolled out our sliced sourdough breads that I’m supplying to Waitrose. This has been a labour of love. I’d love to see how people react to it and I hope it’ll be the start of a journey into educating people about eating right and eating good.

Ever thought about leaving Bath?
Never. This is really a great place to live. It’s such a small community. Everyone’s friendly to each other. We have our own festivals and events; we’re very self-contained, yet London is not that far away if you really crave for the big lights. The air is fresher here (in Bath), there’s a lot of greenery. I could never tire of that.

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