Excitement filled the Maison Française as a group of passionate D.C. bakers competed for the title of “Best Baguette Washington D.C., 2016.”
Organized by the French embassy, the D.C. event was the latest in a string of battles to find the best baguettes in the nation. The crowds that gathered outside the Maison Française were as big as those of the New York and LA battles. Once inside, jurors and ticket-holders circled the reception hall, sampling contestants’ offerings, and casting their votes. At 8pm, the first prize of the evening, the Audience Choice Award, was granted to Fresh Baguette of Bethesda. As the only French baker present, owner Florent de Felcourt was overjoyed to take the prize. Flanked by a dozen of his mostly French staff, de Felcourt spoke of the trials and triumphs of bringing French Bread to the USA.
“Thanks to us, more and more American clients have discovered the French way of life,” noted de Felcourt, a former bakery equipment vendor in Dijon. “We are currently building a very big bakery in Rockville to meet demand from customers, restaurants and hotels”.
The Grand Prize was awarded by the jury to Bread Furst in Van Ness. Owned by Mark H. Furstenberg, a former journalist at Washington Post, Furstenburg discovered good bread after marrying a French woman. Bread Furst is the third bakery opened by Furstenburg, who is credited with bringing traditional French bread and pastry to D.C. in 1990. “We make bread four times a day,” he explained, “that’s why there’s always a line in front of the shop.” Furstenberg attributed his victory to the texture of his baguettes. “A light, rich texture is what you look for in a good baguette.”
Also highly commended were Dog Tag Bakery and Silva’s Patisserie. Harry Sarkees, owner of Silva’s, was honored to be a finalist. “We’re a real neighborhood bakery, with clients who come every day and appreciate our love of bread.” As the fourth generation of a Lebanese-Armenian family of bakers who came to D.C. by way of Lyon, Sarkees brought soul to the otherwise sated crowd. “Making bread brings peace to my soul. When I see the bread going into the oven, then coming out transformed it’s almost a religious experience. Bread is my life!”