If you’re an average diner, you’ve probably seen Baguette Republic boxes sitting out at some of the best cafes and restaurants in the District. If you’re a restaurant in the DMV area, you know them well. They’ve built up quite a reputation for high-quality baked goods and exceptional professionalism.
We sat down with Master Baker Dahmane Benarbane to find out how he makes it all happen.
Where did you grow up? I grew up Algiers, Algeria. I grew up in the same neighborhood as Albert Camus.
When did you know you wanted to be a business owner in the food industry? I was trained as an engineer and in telecommunications. I came to America and realized that I had make money, so I started working in a restaurant. I was not destined to be a baker, but I found this out when I came to the US. I started working at the first bakery actually in Washington DC called Marvelous Bakery and eventually became the head baker. I was there for 15 years.
What gets you up in the morning? I ask myself, “How can I continue to make something that no one else does with the same consistency?”
What is your favorite office tool/aid? My hands and my pallet are my favorite instruments to use in the kitchen. Nothing fancy. It’s all my body.
What is your favorite food to grow? I love to make bread. It’s such a simple thing, yet something that everyone loves. This is the glue that brings a family together. Flour and water is what can bring people together. It’s beautiful.
What is your favorite wine/beer/drink? My favorite drink is water. It’s what keeps us alive. I drink water because it symbolizes life. I drink some wines, because of the flavors, but not to get intoxicated.
Are there any foods you don’t like working with? I don’t like gluten free foods. It’s false advertising with other companies, which actually negatively affects my business.
What are you favorite restaurants in Washington DC? I don’t have a favorite food. I like to eat out randomly.
Who in the food world do you most admire? I admire my ex-boss. Mark Furstenburg (Bread Furst in Cleveland Park). Because he is where I learned my craft from.
What do you love about your job? It’s the contact of the bread and people. I do farmer’s markets. I love people. This job allows me to bring people together.
What’s the most difficult part of your job? Delegating people. Managing people. Sometimes people don’t understand the impact of doing business with people. The essence of business is to “wear your job”. When you embrace your job it becomes a part of you. I believe this leads to greater and better performance. I love quality. I love working with quality people.
What would make your life easier in your company? I want to have an entity to implement technology with harmony. Take what I’m holding and make it part of technology to give more people our bread. I want a technology that will take our product global.
What do you most appreciate about chefs/customers? Communication between baker and chefs needs to be improved. If we were able to speak to one another better, we would have a better relationship and as a result, a better business. This would be good very good for the consumer.
What do you think chefs/customers could do to make your life easier? To be more in touch in order to give me insight so I can provide them with the best quality bread.
What do you look for in a sales rep? A love of bread that I haven’t found in a person yet.
What do you wish people understood about your profession? I want people to know that we are the local baker, which has been here for hundreds of years. Bakers have had an interesting role in history. Bread, food and everything we eat is inclusive to world history. That is something people need to realize and remember.
Where do you see the food industry going in the future? I think we have two trends: 1. “mega-nation food” companies and 2. “local” business. The new generation wants local. They want to know their bakers, farmers and butchers. We are in this transition now. We will end up “hugging” our local food providers eventually. Food is going to be ultra-local. That said, there are always going to be people who stick with the mega food companies.
What is your goal in your profession? I want to be proud to be a baker. I want my community to know me for that.