This year’s nominees for the bi-annual Rotterdam Design Prize have caused some controversy. Scout Matthijs van Dijk, an industrial design professor at TU in Delft, nominated Dutch baker Dimitri Roels who is the founder of bakery the Vlaamsch Broodhuys. A baker as a designer? Is that even possible? While the professional judges appeared to struggle with exactly what aspect of the Vlaamsch Broodhuys they had to judge – the shop interiors, the bread itself, the concept as a whole? – the public seemed less confused and awarded Dimitri Roels with the public prize.
While the whole discussion if Roels’ nomination was in fact just is interesting, I’m more intrigued by the fact that bread as a luxury item is gaining more and more popularity. Especially because this type of bread doesn’t come cheap. Paying four to five euros for a loaf of bread is no exception and French baker Lionel Poilâne even charges up to eight euros for one miche Poilâne. One can see why magazine The Gentlewoman calls Poilâne’s way of baking haute boulangerie .
But besides haute boulangerie there is also the even more popular and better accesible ‘prêt-a-porter’ version of bread. Sold for around three euros, this type of bread is mostly organic and/or made of local ingredients and it is above all handmade. Dutch supermarket Marqt for instance sells bread made by bakers Brood (bread). Besides their shop-in-shops in Marqt, Brood has over five bakeries in Amsterdam alone. Like the Vlaamsch Broodhuys, Brood sells bread that is freshly baked in their in store ovens. This post by The Coolhunter shows that this type of bakeries is not uniquely connected to the Dutch.
So why are these bakers so successful in selling something that one can get for half the prize at any supermarket? Especially considering the financial crisis we’re in.. It might have something to do with that same crisis. After years of valuing quantity over quality (we want more! think H&M in fashion, IKEA in furniture etc.), the crisis seems to have made people aware of the fact you can only spend your euro once. And because of that, you better make it a good experience. Also, in times when people have less money to spend, luxurious bread is an easy and still relatively inexpensive way to integrate some luxury into your daily live. But above all, this bread taste like nothing you’ve tasted before. At least that is what the bakers say.