“Every month, we’d go to hell “: The Frenchman moved to a Belarusian village and now he bakes bread

A Frenchman in Belarusian village

The Frenchman Daniel Sabo moved to Belarus 15 years ago to follow his beloved woman. After the closure of the business and the period of depression, the man decided… to bake bread. Although he had never done it before. At first, I had to work 15-18 hours a day. But now all the shops in his village and in the neighboring town are buying bakery products from him. Daniel told us his story.

Daniel Szabo is 62 years old now. In 47 he moved to Minsk to marry a Belarusian woman. A little later, they moved from the Belarusian capital to the village of Novy Sverzhen near Stolbtsy which is in Minsk voblast. Initially, the couple had a construction company, but then they had to close it down. Three years ago, the man thought about how he would feed his family and decided… to bake bread.

Love, lucrative construction business in Belarus, family – and at one moment everything starts to collapse… Monsieur Daniel tells us about the hell he went through with his family before he started the business that brought him back to life.

 

“It took 6-7 months to get normal bread.

– It all started with a home-cooked meal and a small stove where you could bake one loaf at a time. It was a long period of experimentation – it took 6-7 months to get the bread that we have now. Now I remember it with laughter, but then it was very painful.

After 9 months we realized that it was time to expand and go beyond the kitchen. We owned a company already, It was not bankrupt, so we just resumed its activities. The only thing left to do was to find a venue.

It was quite difficult. At first, we were considering options in the neighboring city. But then we realized that this option has a big disadvantage: we can not reach it on foot. And this is very uncomfortable.

Besides, it is not easy to find a room that can be adapted to all the requirements and standards of our activity. But then we saw the current version – it was a former canteen, which has not worked for 20 years.

The room was in a very sad state. We hired a local PMC for repairs. The work took three months. Besides, we bought all the equipment: tables, stand mixer, oven and others. We bought used equipment because we could not afford new ones.

If you count everything from works to equipment and so on, we spent about $40,000. And now we need to buy something else, for about $15,000. We would never have opened up if we had calculated all the costs at once: went a little bit at a time and only then saw how it had grown. At the current rate, we plan to pay off in a year.

 

“Nobody knows what time the shift will end.

At first, we did all the work together with my wife, from dough kneading to baking. And it took us 15-18 hours a day. But it was so physically difficult that we couldn’t stand it that long – that’s why we had people.

We bake all our products in the evening to deliver fresh baked goods to the shops in the morning. The first person comes to replace us at 16:00 and starts to knead the dough. By 18-19 the main team is pulled up, and I come later. Now I have more control over the quality and process of baking, so I leave last. When the shift is over, nobody knows.

Sometimes we do it at 3:00 a.m., but in most cases at 5:6:00 a.m. On average, we bake up to 500 rolls, about 100 braids and bread and baguette in parallel. Only it seems that it is a lot. If we could do a 12-hour shift, we would bake twice as much.

We have a total of five kinds of buns, braids, bread, and baguettes. Wicker is the one who likes wicker most of all. However, here for some reason, they are called a baton. But for a Frenchman it’s not a loaf, it’s more like a bun.

 

“The most difficult thing is to bake according to French recipes with Belarusian products.

We make baked goods based on classic French recipes. And the most difficult thing is to adapt them to the Belarusian ingredients.

Flour remains the main problem for today. Belarus has only soft wheat varieties, and it is not suitable for bread. That’s why we buy flour for him in Russia. Because of this, the cost of bread is higher than that of our other bakery products.

If we talk about prices, it is difficult to say whether our products are more expensive or not. We do not buy bread in shops, so we do not know how much it costs. And, of course, everything depends on the appetite of the store and the premiums. But here, for example, our baguette costs 1.10-1.15 rubles. (about 0,5$).

The second problem is the staff. Now we have three people working for us, but it was very difficult to find them. And it takes three more to do shift work. Now we work every day, except Saturday. If you work full-time, your employees get about 600 Belarusian rubles (about $280) a month. It seems to me that by village standards this is not bad.

At this stage, our products are being sold in the city of Stolbtsy. In all shops, except for chain stores, I am allergic to them. I prefer to work with small shops – they have more soul.

Now we are considering options to go to Nesvizh and its surroundings. Of course, we are also thinking about sales in the capital, because a huge number of people who come here for summer cottages or travel, buy our bread. So, perhaps, we will also appear in Minsk.

 

More details on this video (in Russian)

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