My friend Lionel died Friday
Lionel Poilane was the world's greatest baker. He was also an extraordinary personality, a visionary entrepreneur and a kind and thoughtful man. chez Poilâne
I was supposed to have lunch with him in a few weeks--and lunch with Lionel was always a treat. Lionel embodied just about everything I've been writing about for the last few years. He was remarkable. His bread was standard fare at just about every two and three star restaurant in Paris--because it was different. He was roundly criticized at first (he refused to bake baguettes, for example) but the extraordinary qualities of his bread (and his sparkling personality) won over the critics. We don't have enough gutsy entrepreneurs in the world, and now we've got one less.
On my first visit with him (I was the weird American tourist who refused to leave the shop without some raw dough I could turn into a sourdough starter back home) he invited me to breakfast, gave me a tour of the world's largest collection of bread cookbooks and pumped me for internet advice. I think of him every time I put a piece of bread in my mouth or see a really stylish, cool new business idea...
I'll miss Lionel.