It’s a cliché but it’s true – the French love their bread, whether it’s hot from the oven or hot from a vending machine.
A prize-winning baguette dispenser invented by French baker Jean-Louis Hecht not only offers hungry customers hot loaves at any time of the day or night but is bringing in the dough for fellow bakers who have invested in the machine.
Hecht, who won the latest edition of the French Concours Lepine, an annual competition for unique inventions, said the idea of the “Pani Vending” machine came from his desire to spend the evenings with his family instead of being disturbed by eager customers asking for fresh bread at odd hours of the day, sometimes even when the bakery was closed.
The process is simple: you pay and the machine then bakes a pre-cooked loaf and dispenses a hot baguette 30 seconds later.
Hecht has already installed 20 machines in France and 4 in Russia. He said he hopes to sell thousands of machines throughout the world in the coming years.
Vouching for the quality of the dispenser-made bread, Trix Ninot, a flight attendant from the Netherlands said the machine had made her life much easier than before.
“In the beginning when we saw the machine it was a little bit strange because we were not used to seeing a machine. We want to go into the bakery to buy the bread. But the bread is very very good so when the bakery is closed, we take bread in the machine,” she said.
Salam Azouni, a local construction worker, said the dispenser meant avoiding the queues outside the bakery.
“In the evenings, we have no choice. And sometimes it’s quicker, we park, we put a coin, we take the baguette, it’s hot, it has the same taste, it’s the same thing,” he said.
Fun facts about Baguette
- The French have been making long sticks of bread since at least the mid-eighteenth century, but the baguette didn’t become an iconic symbol of French cuisine until the twentieth century. A law passed in 1920 banned workers from beginning their shift before 4am, which made it difficult for French bakers to have fresh bread ready for their customers in the morning. They turned to the fast-baking baguette for a solution, and soon it became a part of daily life.
- According to a legend, it was Napoleon who asked for the baguette to have a long shape. This made it easier for his soldiers to carry their bread around down their pants while in the battlefield.