Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meet the Apprentice: Justin Rosengarten

Justin Rosengarten, 24, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, came to bread the same way as many other bakers I have had the pleasure of meeting since I started this blog: out of sheer passion.
He isn't absolutely convinced yet that bread is his ultimate calling (he has given some thought to being a furniture designer, a children's book designer or a pianist) and as he puts it, "I'll continue to dance until I find" but he has a pretty good idea that it might be it.
Even before meeting Gérard and deciding to apply to the apprenticeship program, he started on his own to learn what he could about bread: "Frankly I thought there was nothing to it".
He built an oven at one of his friends' house in Vermont: "I wanted to have this oven on my résumé."  But he needed more exposure to bakery work.
His Vermont friend called Erik Andrus, the local baker, and asked him whether he might be open to have Justin come and watch him make bread. Erik, who owns Good Companion Bakery near Vergennes in Northern Vermont, invited Justin to come over and actually hired him to sell bread at the farmer's market.
On his free time, Justin decided to go visit other bakeries in Northern Vermont. He googled Vermont bakers, found Gérard Rubaud through this blog and the rest is history. When I met Justin, he was on the fourth day of his apprenticeship with Gérard. 
Having since left the program for personal reasons, he no longer works at Gérard's. I wish him the best of luck. I am hoping he'll appear again on this blog, this time in the Meet the Baker series...


  1. Was that your voice in the background, MC?

    Nice to meet Justin in his role as apprentice, that's one thing that I would not mind trying someday: spend time with a bread baker learning the tricks of the trade... it would be wonderful!

    (I do need a day with 72 hours in it, though)

    1. Yes, that's me: the voice and the accent!
      Gérard's days do seem to have 72 hours in them. He has this 12-minute nap trick that seems to do wonders for him. I don't know that it would work for me...

    2. Your accent is very very subtle - I can leave your accent in a smoke, trust me... Plus, nothing is more charming that a French accent!

      The 12 min nap thing: my problem would be to fall asleep in the middle of the day, I already have enough trouble during the night! but I heard that it works for many people indeed

  2. Hi MC,

    So I have been following ALL of your Gerard pieces and the one thing that caught me today in your video of Justin was his comment about initially thinking bread was easy…"Anyone can make bread." Or, as he put it, that is what he use to think. He then made a comment about learning Gerard's secret…..and, as that statement sank into my brain it dawned on me that Gerard's secret is in plane sight. It is Gerard himself.

    I am now of the mind that nobody can replicate his breads, the formula yes but the completed loaf….I wonder…..,simply because his breads are infused with his essence which can't be passed on to anyone. He is sooo much his bread…and it clearly a part of him - how can one separate the two. Who would Gerard be without his bread???? and what would his bread be without him???? Makes me wonder further is anyone has ever tasted a loaf he has made compared to a loaf, following his formula, someone else has made and if there is a difference?????

    As you can see, it doesn't take much to make me wonder :-) but of all the reading I have done since starting to bake about 2 years ago he is the only one I can remember who bakes just ONE kind of bread…nothing else and has been at it for many decades…. Or does he bake other things that you have written about? (Chad Robertson comes close but I think he does variations on his Tartine loaf and hasn't been at it for decades….yet…..)

    Anyway, thanks for this peek into the life of Justin.


    1. You are so right, Janet, and that may be why bakers are so generous with their help and formulas. Their bread is so personal, it cannot be duplicated. Gérard has a scientist friend who teaches at the medical school at the University of Vermont and whom I met at his house and I remember hearing him say that even when two bakers make bread together at the same table, using exactly the same ingredients, their bread doesn't come out exactly the same, not even scientifically speaking.
      No, Gérard doesn't bake anything else, save for friends when he has them over. I have asked him to start working on a bread containing about 50% whole grains and he said he would. I am pretty sure that if he does develop a formula, that bread's appeal will be so intricately linked to the quality of the levain that it will be hard to duplicate. Gérard gave me some levain when I left two weeks ago and after a couple of days, it already didn't smell anything like his... Oh well, that's part of the magic, isn't it?

  3. love the pictures of the happy apprentice :) wish I was him!

  4. Farine - I thought you might be interested in seeing this!

    All the best, Nicole



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