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The Association of Pastry Chefs
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de Buyer factory Visit!

In England, William iV had just assumed the throne following the death of George iV. In France it was Louis Phillipe I, and in the small village of Le Val-d’Ajol, (in the Vosges department of Lorraine in North-eastern France), something great was being born.

A company called de Buyer started to manufacture kitchen and patisserie equipment. De Buyer are a new sponsor of The Association, and as part of that sponsorship Mike Zietek our treasurer, and I were invited over to Le Val-d’Ajol to look at how things are done over there. Our hosts were Jean Michel Petitjean, the export manager, and Claude Haumesser, president director genérale. We were joined on the trip by Paula Sherlock and Steve Callaghan of Signature FSE (The UK sales agents for de Buyer), and Eric Chavot, famous chef-patron of Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair.

Apart from being thoroughly spoilt with their generous and warm hospitality we were given an in-depth tour of the factory. To quote the famous advert…. If Carlsberg made pastry equipment… it would probably be the best in the world. Well, Carlsberg don’t make pastry equipment but de Buyer do, and it probably is the best in the world!

The first thing you notice is de Buyer do not compromise on quality. The first stage of our tour was to look at raw materials. Heavy sheets of ready-lined copper and myriad other materials, lay in wait ready to be transformed into their excellent products. Beside this was a container three quarter full of what appeared to be partly made pans. Even at this stage they looked good. “What are these?” I asked. “Rejects” replied Jean Michel – “They haven’t met our standard, they will go for recycling!” Whilst we were being shown sheets of blue metal and stainless steel, I was pondering on how such seemingly good objects were not good enough for use! We were soon to find out just how exacting their standards are at de Buyer.

The next part of our tour took us to a large workshop where copper pans were being crafted from the sheets we had just seen in the store. There were only two or three men on this production line, behind them shelves were lined with various dies for moulding the bodies of the pans from the heavy duty sheet metal.

The real star of the show was the machine used to stamp and shape the metal. A fairly “recent” addition to the factory, it has only been in use since 1911 and is apparently more accurate at some tasks than its 21st century hydraulic cousins in the workshop next door! Such was the force of this machine that it moulded heavy duty sheet metal in to the body of a pan as easily as we would line a tartlet mould with sweetpaste.

With the body formed, edges were hand finished, and handles attached. It was interesting to note that there seemed to be no foreman running around checking on quality. Each craftsman (for that’s what they truly are) checks their own work before signing-off the batch at each stage on its way to the “finished” pile. It was clear that due to this personal ownership at each stage that only the best would do - any exceptions went straight for recycling.

Each consecutive workshop we visited told a similar story. Each one seemed to be inhabited by a few smiling workers, all absorbed in their work. Each area specializing in producing something different, but all to the same high standard and each one of them happy in their work – all down to the last lady on the line who, cloth in hand, was polishing each and every pan with its own layer of beeswax!

A truly astonishing level of attention to detail. Similarly, with the silicone moulds – each one is checked as it comes out of the machine before being hand packed – so you can rely on the quality.

Another fascinating area was that producing non-stick pans where in contrast to where we’d come from pretty much the whole process is carried out by robots; from flat iron to finished product, nothing was touched by hand.

The factory and office complex is huge, in fact the company owns the whole village - including the school and the church – very much in the same style as Cadbury and Rowntree did in the past in the UK. Before going up into the main office-complex, we were taken into the finished goods warehouse – de Buyer hold a massive (and I mean massive) amount of stock so you can be sure of speedy delivery – it was quite an overwhelming sight to behold.

Moving up through the office building we came to the holy of holies – the de Buyer showroom. One of the great aspects of our job is that we get to use some really lovely equipment. And it comes no lovelier that that made at de Buyer. I have seen and used some good equipment in my time, but the quality (and sheer impressive quantity) of items here just blew us away.

With over two thousand items, it took us some time to take in just what we were looking at. We literally didn’t know what to look at first and found ourselves getting more excited with every item we picked up. Every mould, cutter, tube etc seemed to conjour up ideas for a new dessert or pastry – it even gave me ideas for dressing up as a warrior (with a bit of persuasion from the others!).

The range covers everything from the very traditional, to up-to-date innovations. Whether you’re in the pastry, or in the kitchen, if you’re serious about your profession you need to see the people who are serious about equipment, de Buyer!

Alan Whatley

Chairman APC

The de Buyer range of Mandolins is highly impressive!

Look what it did to this blood orange and avocado…… like a knife through butter! Yes, that is the stone, sliced into wafer thin slices along with the fruit!

Yes, that’s me.

The de Buyer Showroom on the top floor of their factory… this is less than half of it!

This enormous press treats sheet metal like sweetpaste!