Bread Baking’s Best
Baking and pastry arts instructor Chef Charles R. Niedermyer, ’00, advances to the finals on a quest to join Team USA at Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, bread baking’s "world cup."
Contestants were required to show their skill in preparing perfect croissants.
Over 15 months, Chef Charles R. Niedermyer baked, tweaked and perfected six original breakfast pastry recipes (plus the centuries-old European classic croissant and chocolate croissant). During nine hours of competition, he meticulously prepared samples and showpieces for each of his recipes: 159 pieces in total, each carefully prepared within 10 grams of one another, their garnishes placed with precision.
Judges watched. They timed. They weighed each piece. They critiqued each product’s look, texture and taste. Over a series of events, they advanced Niedermyer to the final three U.S. bakers vying for the “viennoiserie” position on Team USA at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in 2016.
The Coupe du Monde is, in essence, the “world cup of bread baking.” Held every four years in Villepinte, France, only nine teams from across the globe are accepted. Each nation is represented by three bakers, each taking on a specialty: viennoiserie (the classical term for breakfast pastry), baguette & specialty breads, or artistic design.
Niedermyer is a 2000 graduate of Penn College’s baking and pastry arts major and, after several years in industry, is a member of its faculty.
Given the theme for Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie – “Your country’s emblem through bread” – Niedermyer played with uniquely American flavors: peanut butter and jelly, pineapple upside-down cake, caramel apples and red velvet cake.
Striving to create pastries like judges had never seen, he submitted the recipes – along with product photos, resumé and answers to essay questions – to the Bread Bakers Guild of America, which sponsors Team USA. His concept was a winner: The guild announced a few months later that Niedermyer was among seven selected to compete for the viennoiserie position on the 2016 team.
“Every day, he is teaching them what needs to be done to be at the top of your field.”
He spent the next several months preparing for the first round, finding time before classes and after, and pulling students into the experience. He exposed them to new flavors and new techniques.
“They’re watching what it takes to be as good as you would have to be to make that team,” said Gerri F. Luke, dean of the college’s School of Business & Hospitality. “Every day, he is teaching them what needs to be done to be at the top of your field.”
During December’s first-round competition, Niedermyer’s work impressed the judges, and he advanced with two others to the finals in March.
“I make the same products time and time again, tweaking them slowly,” Neidermyer said. “It’s not magic, and it’s not luck.”
Following the finals, Niedermyer received positive feedback from the judges, and – though not selected for Team USA 2016 – he hopes to compete for a spot on the 2020 team.
“My driving force is: I want to be better at my craft,” Niedermyer said. “And I’ll bring this all back to my teaching.” ■