Mas­ter­ing the Crois­sant

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

Satur­day was the Fete du Crois­sant in Mon­treal, the day when ar­ti­san bak­ers across the is­land sell their hand-crafted but­tery del­i­ca­cies for a spe­cial price. But you don’t have to go that far for an ar­ti­sanal pas­try. Right Samy Roux is per­fect­ing his bak­ing skills here in Stanstead at the lo­cal fine bak­ery.

here, in Stanstead, you can find some rather top-notch crois­sants, thanks in part to a ‘com­pan­ion­ship move­ment’ that be­gan in France in the Mid­dle Ages: Les Com­pagnons du Devoir.

For cen­turies, this move­ment has pro­vided free and thor­ough train­ing to young, ded­i­cated French cit­i­zens to learn skill trades such as car­pen­try, black­smithing, and fine bak­ing through ap­pren­tice­ships, travel and com­mu­nity life. Last year, the Com­pagnons du Devoir move­ment ven­tured out of France for the first time, com­ing to Que­bec to launch the ‘Cam­pagnon­nage made in Que­bec’ project with three care­fully se­lected, young Que­bec bak­ers.

Samy Roux is one of those bak­ers and he is presently work­ing at the lo­cal fine bread and pas­try shop, Les Vraies Richesses, where he is per­fect­ing his culi­nary prow­ess cre­at­ing ‘vi­en­nois­erie’ which, in its sim­plest form, is the crois­sant. He re­cently spoke with the Stanstead Jour­nal about be­ing one of the first Que­be­cers to be trained as an elite Com­pagnon du Devoir.

“Les Com­pagnons du Devoir was re­ally the first known union. It was even out­lawed for many years by the King of France be­cause it be­came too pow­er­ful. It started for the con­struc­tion trades when the cathe­drals were be­ing built in France, and then it was opened to other trades in the 1800’s, trades where peo­ple trans­form some kind of ma­te­rial with their hands,” ex­plained Mr. Roux af­ter a busy morn­ing of bak­ing.

“The ar­ti­sanal bak­ing in­dus­try is in full ex­pan­sion right now in Que­bec. It’s hard to find fine bak­ers, es­pe­cially in the re­gions,” con­tin­ued Samy. The ‘Cam­pagnon­nage made in Que­bec’ project was ini­ti­ated to an­swer the need for more ar­ti­san bak­ers of the high­est cal­iber in Que­bec and to give young Que­be­cers the chance to de­velop pro­fes­sion­ally, so­cially and cul­tur­ally through their pro­fes­sion and by trav­el­ling to dif­fer­ent re­gions.

As part of his ‘Com­pagnon’ train­ing, Samy has spent time in Baie Saint Paul, work­ing and learn­ing at a fine bak­ery in that tourist town, and he has also spent some time in France. “We all went to France to live in the Mai­son du Com­pagnon, to see how it works in France. We lived in dorms to­gether there, we all ate to­gether,” he ex­plained. “We learnt about the im­por­tance of eti­quette, clean­li­ness…it was train­ing of the more hu­man side. And we got to see the real ‘esprit de cam­pagnon­nage’, the shar­ing and the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge.”

Once Samy’s ap­pren­tice­ship is over in Stanstead, not for sev­eral more months as he plans to help with the tran­si­tion pe­riod while the bak­ery ex­pands to Sher­brooke, he will move on to a fine bak­ery in Cowansville, and then on to another in Trois Rivieres. “I’m also sup­posed to do a stage in an English prov­ince, to learn bet­ter English and to learn about bread-mak­ing in that cul­ture,” said the young baker.

Samy is al­ready see­ing the ben­e­fits of the ‘Com­pagnons’ ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’ve been learn­ing how to use dif­fer­ent kinds of equip­ment, and I’ve dis­cov­ered dif­fer­ent re­gions and how peo­ple live in those re­gions. It makes us more open-minded, gives us an ‘ou­ver­ture d’esprit’. We have to adapt to each place.”

Af­ter Mr. Roux’s Com­pagnons du Devoir train­ing, which lasts about three years, has been com­pleted, he will be tested be­fore be­ing ac­cepted into the pres­ti­gious group. “I will have to take an exam,

make bread and pas­tries. If I pass I’ll get a spe­cial belt and a cane to sym­bol­ize the trav­el­ling which was part of the train­ing. I’ll also get a nick­name that will re­flect where I come from and my per­son­al­ity. It will be a name that I’ll keep for life, and when I’m with other Com­pagnons, they’ll know me by my nick­name.”

En­joy­ing his time in Stanstead, Samy de­scribed the town as “unique, with in­ter­est­ing, New Eng­land­style ar­chi­tec­ture”. “It’s very dif­fer­ent here from Mon­treal – there is so much wildlife like deer and birds. When I get up at 4:00 in the morn­ing to go to work, I see a lot of birds,” con­cluded Samy Roux, who may one day be the first Cana­dian-made ‘Com­pagnon du Devoir’.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Samy Roux, one of the first three bak­ers to en­ter into ‘Com­pagnons du Devoir’ train­ing in Que­bec, mak­ing but­tery dough for the ‘vi­en­nois­erie’.

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