In the early days of this site, we told friends and family about the basic premise. The expectation from everyone we told was that we would feature graphic designers and visual artists, almost exclusively.

And of course, design does indeed apply to the areas of the visual arts and architecture, as we have proven time and time again on the site.

We have spoken with many such artists since the start, and they have shared their unique perspectives on design.

But we were a little bit shocked to find out that most people think design stops there. Well, it really doesn’t.

Thoughtful design can be applied to almost anything, from cars to cabinets to musical instruments to book sleeves.

Design is everywhere, including in many places you might not have thought to look for it. Wherever there is a passionate artist doing their best to create thoughtful work, design lives.  

And it most certainly applies to the culinary arts, an area where the term “design” not only applies to the visual presentation of food but the inner workings of the food itself, its texture, its structure, and, perhaps most importantly, how flavors interact with one another.

This brings us to Melanie Legoupil, an award-winning baker originally from France and currently based in New York, who we recently had the chance to speak with.  

Rather than focusing on a wide array of desserts and baked goods, Legoupil has specialized her skills in the area of bread and viennoiseries.

She creates bread for Daniel Boulud’s Manhattan restaurants and also participates in nationwide baking contests, where she has secured multiple titles.

During our recent interview with Legoupil, she discussed the role design plays in baking and the artistry that goes into every loaf.

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InspirationFeed (IF): How important is visual presentation in your desserts?

Gorgeous Pastries

Melanie Legoupil (ML): I usually make breads and viennnoiseries, not cakes, so the aesthetic is not elaborated in the same way but it’s still very important. Customers see the bread or a croissant and the sight of it makes them want to taste it. If the product looks appealing and beautiful, a customer will most likely want to try it.

As a baker, the whole process of making bread influences the final result. The right kneading, the right proofing and the right baking all influence the visual presentation. But the final touch, as we call it, the “baker’s signature,” is the scoring of the bread.

With croissants, the more dedicated you are to the lamination process, the more beautiful the layers will be. This is very important for the visual presentation.

 

IF: Do you use artificial color in your creations or do the flavors speak for themselves?

ML: Usually, the flavors speak for themselves.

The only product in which we use an artificial color is a special kind of croissant, a bi-color raspberry croissant. We use artificial color in this one because of the baking time. With the oven, the color tends to go darker so the use of color helps to keep a bright and recognizable red to remind the customer of the raspberry flavour.

 

IF: do you enjoy when customers share photos of your food?

Dough Work

ML: Yes, for sure. The fact that customers share photos of foods that I have made means that they enjoyed them. It is very rewarding to know that people enjoy what you make.

 

IF: Do you see any similarities between your work and the visual arts, such as painting or graphic design?

ML: Yes, especially when designing decoration breads. My chef baker at the epicerie boulud, chef françois brunet, taught me several techniques, including one in particular where you paint on the dough with coffee extract. Then this dough bakes on top of a big loaf. It’s like creating a painting but with bread.

You can also create sculptures out of bread, or sugar or chocolate for pastry chefs. The culinary arts are very creative and involve a lot of self-expression.  

 

IF: Can you tell us about the work you did in Tangier?

Baker adding powdered Sugar to sweets

ML: I traveled to Tangier as a volunteer to work for an organization called Darna, which translates to “our home,” a project that is helping children with social difficulties. They have a place to study and a place where they can learn a job like ironwork, carpentry, sewing or bakery-pastry.

The day-to-day lives of these children is very difficult. Their families don’t have a lot of resources, and the sight of nearby Spain at the other end of the Gibraltar Strait make them want to leave and try their luck in Europe. I saw some young boys run under big trucks, trying to hide and travel to europe. They risked their lives to try to go to an unknown place.

I came to Darna to create and teach as part of a training program in bakery-pastry. I had a group of 10-12 teenagers. They learned the fermentation process, shaping, baking, and the lamination process. We were producing breads for the organization but also for some hotels and restaurants in town.

At the end of their formation, we found them training positions in tangier bakeries where they could stay and work.

 

IF: What does artistry mean to you?

ML: Artistry is a big part of baking.

As a baker, artistry and craft are absolutely connected. Bakery is a craft. we use our hands and our skills to create, and using the word ‘creation’ is important in our work. You need to have the skill to create to become a good baker.

 

IF: is your sense of style still developing as a baker?  

ML: Yes, I think so. When I look at my beginnings compared to what I can achieve now, I can see the evolution. With time, I improved myself, but I am still learning a lot, and with the help of Chef François, my sense of style is still developing.

Posted by Dom Winston

Dom Winston is a writer and editor who enjoys exploring artistry in its many forms. Dom travels extensively to highlight as many artists and perspectives as possible. He has bylines in major music and fine art publications since 1999. Originally from Chicago, he is now based in Northern California, where he lives with his two unruly French Bulldogs, Sasha and Albert.

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