There is a ray of light, a great bakery has opened up in Monterrey….
Where can I buy good bread in Mexico? Buying bread in Mexico is easy, but buying good bread – real bread – is hard. This is not just a stylistic thing, this is a taste and health thing and the lack of good bread is a great metaphor for the general lack of good food in the modern diet, more about which is in an earlier post.
As discussed in that earlier post, part of the problem is economic: There are a small number of huge companies in Mexico that churn out cheap products and have access to massive distribution systems with which it is difficult to compete. Part of the problem is sociological: Mexico is a poor country and huge food companies have flooded the market with cheap processed food of all kinds, including bread. The market for relatively more expensive, small production, good quality food is necessarily small. Part of the problem is a lack of awareness: Most Mexicans, of all social classes, are simply not aware of the averse health impacts of eating highly processed food and cannot or do not seek more healthful (and more expensive) alternatives even if if they can afford it.
When it comes to bread, the problem is compounded by geography. Mexico is a huge country but it does not have the vast expanses of rolling plains that are prefect for wheat cultivation. The North is mainly desert, the middle is mainly semi-desert, the South is mainly jungle and the coasts are hot and humid. And there are a lot of mountains. Even though the conquistadors introduced wheat in the 17th century when they arrived, wheat could not and has not taken over simply because it does not grow very well here.
Mexico has a small number of huge food conglomerates in addition to the foreign multi nationals that flood the market with cheap, highly processed food. The industrial loaves are mostly made by a company called “Bimbo” and the industrial tortillas, whether wheat or corn, by a company called “Tia Rosa” which is owned by Bimbo. They are equally disgusting, taste of chemicals, and smell of vinegar. But if that’s what you are used to, you don’t really notice. Witness the domination of the industrial loaf in just about every developed country in the world.
But there is a ray of light. Good bakeries are opening up in Mexico City and an excellent bakery has opened up in Monterrey, a city in the North of the country.
Bread was started up by two friends (since joined by a third) who got into bread on a one day croissant course in France. From there, they returned to Mexico, took courses in Monterrey and in Puebla, returned to England to bake with the E5 Bake House and then simply – started – initially doing everything by hand and selling out of the few croissants they could make about 15 minutes after they opened each morning.
One year after they started, they employ about 15 people, most of whom originally started as cleaners who showed interest and aptitude, who received on the job training, and who now can boast of having a profession. The bakers are so happy – evidenced by the fact that almost nobody quits. They bake sourdough bread, non sourdough bread, bread with flour made from corn, rye, wheat, spelt, amaranth – all sorts of grains, as well as delicious muffins and viennoiserie that is better than anything you can get in Paris, London, or New York. They import their wheat from the USA in spite of the fact that they can get much cheaper flour that is milled just up the road. However, all of that flour is industrially milled, none is organic, and all is bleached and they just won’t have it. Every day they turn down applications from cooking school graduates as well as offers to buy them, franchise them, and otherwise destroy what they have created. Like the folks here at the global head quarters of Virtuous Bread, they feel people should buy bread from the baker, not from the bakery and until they have trained enough people and made enough money to exactly replicate Bread – ovens, mixers, croissant presses and all – in other locations, they are just not interested.
And herein likes a fascinating difference between 20 somethings and most entrepreneurs who grew up in the 80s and 90s. It is something to which business leaders, publishers of business books, and policy makers alike need to pay attention: These young men are different. They are not into “Nail it and Scale it” or “Look for the Exit” they – like every single Bread Angel – are interested in being owner operators of a business of which they can be proud, in which they actually want to be involved, and that they want to grow themselves – or not – as they feel. They, like the Bread Angels, are the new breed of entrepreneurs, small ones, passionate ones, and ones that will probably save the economy and definitely change the world. They can be proud of so much – in addition to their wonderful bread.