Bodian, who works at the Grenier à Pain shop in the historic Paris neighbourhood, beat 162 other contestants at a tasting at the bakers’ and patissiers’ professional headquarters in central Paris.
The competition was stiff and the rules strict. Twenty-two baguettes were disqualified for not conforming to the jury’s criteria – the loaves must be delivered before 1pm, be between 50 and 70cm in length and weigh between 240 and 340 grammes.
The baguettes are judged according to taste, smell, crustiness, appearance and the quality of the airholes, which are a crucial element in traditional baguettes.
The baguette de tradition is legally defined in France. A 1993 decree stipulated that it must be made with flour, water and salt, but allowed the addition of very small quantities of bean or soya flour and malt.
For all the pride in bread heritage, there was innovation in this year’s contest. Five members of the public who had applied by internet were added to the jury, otherwise made up of bakery professionals.
The prize is worth 4,000 euros but the money is just one advantage of winning. The winning shop’s business is likely to treble and Bodian’s boss will probably have to take on more staff.
And, as the ultimate honour, he will become the official supplier to President Nicolas Sarkozy, delivering 15-20 baguettes every day to the Elysée Palace.
Bodian’s immigrant origins have prompted some facetious remarks about the government’s “national identity” policy on certain websites.