The French Bread Test

  • Posted on: 18 January 2015
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe
There is this mediocre but well regarded bakery in town. They don’t subscribe to the “take a number system.” Friends get served first. I once tried to get dinner rolls. They snapped back, “we don’t do special orders.” White dinner rolls are “special orders.” When you look at their menu, they have all of these elaborate baked goods. They don’t have rolls. They don’t have French bread. Why? Because they would fail the French Bread Test.

French bread is almost the most simple fare you can get from a bakery: flour, water, yeast, salt. All of the quality comes from the baker. The sourcing of the ingredients. The prep technique. The attention to the cooking. The chemical composition of excellent French bread is almost the same as lousy French bread. A good baker will eagerly make and rock French bread. A mediocre baker will go for something elaborate slathered with sugar and fat. They do it because they would fail the French Bread Test.

That idea of success through a simplicity of ingredients and an expert technique applies to so many parts of our world. A good baker can turn French bread into slow motion fantasy of flour consumption. A good cook can scramble eggs that you will remember for years. A good actor can stand on a stage and move people with only his voice. If someone isn’t good at something, they can slather it and dress it up all they want, but if they aren’t good at the technique, then they are going to be dishing out a poor product that will leave people underwhelmed.

I do not often blow my own horn. I dress kind of plain. I often keep my little victories to myself. I sometimes don't brag about things I am excellent at. I don't like the idea of showing off just because I have techniques nailed. I don't show off because it makes people who could never pass the French bread test feel bad.

Last updated date

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 13:20