Groupe PVG : From what it says, you make the best bread in Annecy! Tell us about the history of the Boulangerie Rouge, your values. How long has it been around, what is its history?
Jean-François Rouge (JFR) : The story begins in 1927, with my grandfather's bakery on Rue Vaugelas. Then my father took over the business and then went to the coast to Mandelieu, to do the same job. He missed the mountains too much, so he came back and opened his own bakery in Cran-Gevrier. The Rue Vaugelas bakery was run by my aunts but not being bakers by occupation, my father decided to take care of it. When I was 15, I joined the adventure.
Groupe PVG : Have you always wanted to do this job?
JFR : To be honest, I never asked myself the question. I've lived above the bakery all my life, hanging out there since I was a kid and I was young. It made sense to me, I already had the know-how, the tradition. When I joined the CFA in Groisy to take my CAP, I found myself with young people of my age who were having difficulties, who took longer. Thanks to the family know-how, I already knew all this! It was natural.
Groupe PVG : Has the profession changed? With the new “bakery” chains, do you think the baking profession is being lost?
JFR : There is an evolution, for sure. Already in the 1990s, with the Gulf War and the advent of globalization, this marked a real change. Today, the products are not bad in these chains but it must be admitted that with the arrival of technology in the profession, the real baker is lost. The job is based on the fermentation of the product, the time that is allowed. Before, it took night, now you can do good with less effort. With fridges, ovens... it is more within the reach of a greater number.
Groupe PVG : Who are your customers? Do you have a peak in summer?
JFR : We have a loyal clientele from Annecy! We want to keep the tradition while making it evolve with the times. We want our breads and baguettes to have a long fermentation. Our Rue du Lac location helps us a lot to welcome many tourists, especially in summer so yes, we can say that our peak traffic is at this time of the year. We also work extensively with restaurateurs, who represent a significant share of the market. My father had the deliveries in place and we have kept it until today. My wife is present in the markets.
Groupe PVG : Do you work with your family at the Boulangerie Rouge?
JFR : Yes! As I said previously my wife is in the markets and my son is in delivery! Originally, he's a landscaper, but once my father died, he clicked and joined the Rouge adventure. First as a salesperson, then as a delivery person. He liked it so much that he stayed! I also have my goddaughter who was in Paris and who now takes care of the management and accounting of the company. It’s a real pleasure to see that everyone is getting along and that everything is going well. The trick is to step aside so that others take their place naturally afterwards. In the end, it's all luck, there is no magic recipe.
Groupe PVG : Have you been affected by the crisis?
JFR : We stayed open during the lockdown but yes, we lost money. Welcoming our customers again was important to us, we had to maintain a social bond with them. The staff weren't there, but my son and I stayed on the bridge. There were obviously fewer people than usual, people no longer came for pastries or a treat, it was mostly for the daily bread. However, it was the anguish every time someone came. A pleasure to stay open, but the fear of catching the virus of course.
Groupe PVG : Let's talk about food… what is the essential product to discover in the Boulangerie Rouge?
JFR : The paillasse, a big bread that you don't touch a lot. That is to say, it is left at the end of the tank and placed in the oven, which gives it a fairly marked wheat flavor. Then, the praline brioche in viennoiserie which is a bit our Saint-Genis to us, with a lot of praline. There is also the biscuit de Savoie and in pastry, the fine caramelized tart. We don't make chocolate because we don't master it, we are bakers and that's enough!
Groupe PVG : Who approached you to join the Le Pélican adventure? Did the project immediately charmed you?
JFR : It was Olivier Pollet-Villard who contacted me and yes, the project appealed to me straight away! Associating my name with the Pollet-Villard family is a source of pride, it totally corresponds to the idea of my company, the idea of the future: this evolving tradition with an old family which is still present in the current setting in Annecy. It was natural for me.
Groupe PVG : Are you working on developing products exclusively for Le Pélican? A cake, a pastry or something else bearing the image of the hotel?
JFR : Yes, absolutely, but I can't tell you more for the moment… Around the snacking offered, we have thought of a skier's package with a sandwich and a dry pastry like praline, which could be practical to take with. And why not decline it as a tanner's package for the summer!
Groupe PVG : Do you have several bakeries? Would you like to enlarge?
JFR : At the moment we have 2 bakeries and that's fine. With Le Pélican, that's 3 so, I prefer to go slow and do things correctly. A great adventure is ahead :)
Groupe PVG : You are right. Thank you for this interview and see you at Le Pélican hotel !