Distributeur Automatique de Baguette
The French are know for some pretty innovative breakthroughs: hot air balloon and hairdryers, pasteurization and pencil, mayonnaise and the metric system, and bicycles, Braille and bras. The Gauls gave us the guillotine and are also accountable for the Etch-a-Sketch. But the jury is still out on the recent brainchild of French baker, inventor and entrepreneur, Jean-Louis Hecht, the 2014 winner of the Concours Lépine—the French invention challenge held each spring at the Foire de Paris.
His invention? Le Distributeur Automatique de Baguette (DAB) or what I like to call the Baguette ATM.
When this contraption popped up in my Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago, I was stunned. Zut alors! A baguette vending machine in the land of artisanal bakers? Sacrilege! I knew I had to see this with my own eyes to believe it.
A quick Google search yielded two addresses: one in the 19eme arrondissement and one in the 15eme. The automatic boulangerie in the 15eme turned out to be a short walk from my Pilates studio, so I grabbed my good friend Rachel and we made the trek.
When we arrived at La Panamette, 32 rue Paul Barruel, we found two dispensers filled with partially baked baguettes—one ready and willing to dispense. We drop our €1 coin, and after 10 seconds, it dropped our baton. I was expecting something more dramatic, and certainly more aromatic, unfortunately it was rather anticlimactic. The machines, swathed in bright pictures of a beret-clad lad wielding his wand among the wheat, were not much different than the chip and candy dispensers from home.
While online reviews promise “crisp and steaming” or “warm and crusty” bread, ours was warm(ish) and chewy, on the verge of being crisp, a super marché quality baguette.
That said, I understand the concept. It addresses a real need. While I wasn’t won over by the taste and texture of this bread, these round-the-clock boulangeries do allow people who work evenings or early mornings to enjoy fresh, warm bread when their friendly bakers lock up shop. In fact, his closed bakery doors are what inspired Hecht, a baker of 57 years, to design the DAB in the first place. Living over his boulangerie, in Hombourg-Haut, he was often disturbed by desperate customers knocking on his door after hours demanding bread. Wanting to spend uninterrupted time with his family and not wanting to worry about closing up for vacation, the idea was born. In addition to more sleep and quality family time, Hecht also hopes that his machines will shorten the queues for buying bread and reclaim the towns of France where the baker has disappeared.
I personally love the anticipation of lining up at my local boulangerie and inspecting the visual and scented edible art, but maybe that’s just an expat experience. To me the DAB is purely a novelty in this land that does bread so well. I’ll wait in line and stick to the real deal.
Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the machines dispensing Dom Pérignon in juice boxes.
Fun!! It was worth trying, right?! Btw- what is your favorite boulangerie?
Yes. It was fun trying, and truth be told, it was better than nearly any baguette I’ve ever had stateside, but for a baguette in the “land of fantastic bread”, I would give it a C+.
There are lots of great bakeries in Paris as you know. I stumbled across this boulangerie near République the other morning: 134RdT (134 rue de Turenne, 75003). There was a line, so I thought I’d check it out. I had the most delicious croissant. When I got home, I googled it and it turns out they are award winners for both croissants and baguettes. Didn’t have time to go back, but will check out their baguettes and let you know!
Great!! We’ll have to make the trek this June. Thanks for the recommendation!!
Excellent place !!!!!!!!
Interesting concept but I too enjoy the ambiance and sights/smells of les delices in a real boulangerie.
Nothing beats the real-deal.
Sacred bleu! Whatever next? I don’t know what the world is coming to, I understand the thinking etc. but …
At least those of us with sufficient time can continue supporting proper bakers as I do at home. There are some things upon which I will not compromise. I’m afraid I like the old things and remember the days of the old ‘pissoir’ in the street; have you ever seen one? Open at the top and bottom where gentlemen could take relief and still bid good day to friends and neighbours as they passed. That’s what I call civilised.
When are you heading back Stateside Nancy, can’t be too long now?
A ‘pissoir’? First of all, love the name. Second of all, I just googled them. The old-fashioned ones are clever and as you said, rather civilized in look, and I’m guessing function. We could use those in Paris now. The smell of “man-pee” is growing strong since the weather has turned warm.
Regarding the DAB, I was very sad to read about this new trend and then experience it. I hate to see France going the way of convenience food like in the USA. I am hoping it doesn’t take hold. Apparently there are over 20 in France now, and they have sold machines to Russia. They are also marketing them to the USA.
Just returned stateside. It’s great to be back with the hubby and dog. Wishing I could convince them to move back to Paris. All-in-all though my life is pretty darn great.
Yes, a pissoir, and I’m old enough not only to have seen them but used them too. If you’ve not read Gabriel Chevalier’s 1934 book “Clochemerle” I do urge you to track it down. It deals with the politics and sexual politics surrounding the installation of a pissoir in the village of Clochemerle in the Beaujolais region (if I recall). I read it, probably in the 1960s and the BBC later serialised it for television. It was a rare case of the TV version being as good as the book.
Glad you’re happy.
Fascinating. Maybe I’ll suggest the book to my Paris book group. Thanks for the tip.
Fascinating concept but I would definitely still prefer to queue up for my bread it’s more “French” somehow! Now ” machines dispensing Dom Pérignon in juice boxes” there’s an idea perhaps you could invent one?! 🙂
Yes. I don’t think I would ever use a DAB in France unless I was desperate.
Can you imagine how much change you’d have to carry around to coax a champagne filled juice box out of a vending machine?
Rather a lot I would imagine!
Love your story! As an almost romantic francophile glorifying artisanal bread and pastry making, I was dazzled by the sheer pragmatism that stands behind the idea! However, kind of practical indeed when in desperate need of bread… but otherwise, I´ll stand in line, as you do.Just not the real deal!
Yes. I suppose if it was 9 pm or 5 am and I really needed bread, I would go to the bread ATM, but otherwise, I don’t see the appeal. I do see that it fills a need for night workers, taxi drivers, and maybe even late-night revelers. And truth be told, the DAB baguette was better than most baguettes I’ve eaten in America. Still when it France, I will always go for the real-deal.
That is a little bizarre
and like you, I prefer to inspect and select when I buy anything.
Anyway Nancy, what are you doing up at 1:30 am in the morning liking my posts??
I find the older I get the less sleep I need. 🙂