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Estere Kajema
Upper Sixth
Hallward's House

Apollonia Poilane or ‘A Story of One Bakery’

Apollonia Poilane or ‘A Story of One Bakery’

So many of us, when we were still children, were told by our parents that if we did not study hard, we would not become anything but regular cooks in the kitchens or bakers. A couple of months ago, I was sitting on a train coming from London to Bristol, and reading my favourite magazine - The Gentlewomen. Stories about great women has always very much inspired me as, obviously, I really want to be one. Suddenly, I turned the page, and saw a name "Poiláne". Any person, who is in love with Paris, artsy bakeries, red wine and Gustav Klimt will probably know what "Poiláne" is.

"Poiláne" (which is pronounced as "pwah-lahn") is a Parisian bakery company, started in 1932 by a very young baker, who came all the way from Normandy to Paris to open his first bakery. His first shop was located in the very artsy Parisian district called Saint-German des Pres, on 8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, and that is where the shop is located nowadays. This man was Pierre Poiláne, a son of a lower-middle-class farming family, and a grandfather of one of the most successful and beautiful women of Paris - Apollonia Poiláne.

Apollonia is a petite, gorgeous 27-year-old woman. She does not wear make-up and her right ear is very ‘punkishly’ pierced at the top. Still, no mistake, her name is Apollonia Poiláne and she is the CEO of an international baking company that turns over 14 million pounds in annual sales. In 2002, the day after she became a CEO of Poiláne, Apollonia left Paris to study Economics at Harvard University. Being half-American, she always dreamt of an Ivy League education. She describes her daily routine as waking up early before lectures every day, to call back home and manage the business via the phone.

Apollonia says she always knew that she would take over the family business, but sadly, it happened much earlier then anyone expected. On 31st October 2002, both of her parents were killed in a helicopter crash off the Breton coast, in fog. Lionel Poulán, Apollonia’s father, who was an amateur pilot, and Irena, Apolliona’s mather, a designer and gallerist with Polish-American origins (that is where Apollonia’s perfect American English came from), were coming back home from holiday, when the crash happened. Their two daughters — Apollonia, who was 18 at the time and Athena, 16, became orphans overnight. The next morning, Apollonia informed the Poiláne staff that she was now in control of the business — and since then she has proudly held the Poiláne flag, which for Parisians is the very familiar letter "P", above her head.

For the Poiláne family, bread was always something much more than a meal. It was closely connected with everything — art, politics and history. The story goes that when in 1969 Lionel Poiláne met Salvador Dali, the Spanish artist ordered a whole bedroom made out of bread, just to find out if there were mice in the house!

Right now, there are four Poiláne boulangeries, three of which are located in Paris, and one in London. The prices range from £10 up to £70 pounds!! Earning 14 million pounds every year, Poiláne is the richest bakery in the world. So next time after your parents tell you off for a B you got in your maths test, let them know, that being a baker is clearly not the worst thing that can happen to you!

7 November 2011

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