If you have been reading my blog for some time, you know how I enjoy "a hunt" and definitely love "a story." Before my recent trip to Paris, blog friend Louis la Vache (San Francisco Bay Daily Photo) asked if I could get a photo of Le Moulin de la Vierge on rue Vercingétorix (14ième arr.)
I coaxed Peter (Peter's Paris) to make the trip with me, and we were delighted with the pain from the wood-fired oven, the tile walls, the murals of women holding armfuls of wheat, the mural on the ceiling, the etched glass doors...
This is the story behind this charming boulangerie as told by Louis:
The boulangerie is operated by Basil Kamir, a former music promoter turned boulanger. He inadvertently became one of the leaders of the renaissance of artisan baking in Paris specifically and France in general.
Kamir was using the then-closed boulangerie as his office when an "urban renewal" project in the neighborhood deemed that the building would be destroyed. Basil loved the building with its marble counter, copper fixtures, and fine details. He couldn't allow the building to be destroyed.
Because of his work in the music business, he knew the Minister of Culture. A call was placed to the Minister, Basil pleading for intervention to save the boulangerie building. Calls were made, arms were twisted.
The Minister of Culture phoned Basil and said (in effect), "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is the building will be saved. The bad news is that it must be used again as a boulangerie."
Basil protested, "I don't know how to bake!"
To which the Minister replied, "Well, you had better learn!"
And he did. And in doing so, became a leader in the rediscovery of artisan baking, away from pain industriel, and also became one of the leaders in introducing biologique (organic) flours into baking.
But it didn't happen without some delicious Gallic drama.
A wrecking crew complete with a crane fitted with a wrecking ball showed up in front of the boulangerie. Somehow, the word didn't filter down through the bureaucracy that the building was not to be destroyed.
Basil practically came to blows with the crew. He went back into the boulangerie, and came out with a shotgun. The crew wouldn't back down, and neither would Basil. After some time of this impasse, Basil, took his shotgun and went to the basement, crawled into the wood-fired oven (at this point still long unused) with his shotgun and told the wrecking crew they would have to take him out!
Panicked calls were made and finally the wrecking crew got the Official Bureaucratic Word not to destroy the building. (You can get additional detail from Louis' post here - Merci beaucoup, Louis)
Here is the link to Peter's comprehensive post of the boulangerie.
Le Moulin de la Vierge
104, rue Vercingétorix