Trent Cooper gives new life to Gérard ‘s former bread bakery | Features food + drinks | Seven days

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Trent Cooper puts a freshly baked leavened bâtard on a cooling rack in Westford - GLENN RUSSELL

  • Glenn Russell

  • Trent Cooper puts a freshly baked sourdough bâtard on a cooling rack in Westford

In the fall of 2012, a pizza chef in Jacksonville, Florida wrote a letter to the Vermont bread baker Gérard Rubaud asking Rubaud to consider him for an apprenticeship in his Westford bakery. Acclaimed baker, raised in France, Rubaud has sometimes taught aspiring bakers in his hilltop bakery in the years preceding his death on October 7, 2018, at the age of 77.

“For many years I have been looking for a purpose in my life. I have found out that I want to be a baker,” wrote Trent Cooper. “I agree more with your philosophy on bread than any other baker I have spoken of or read in the books. Your admiration, persistence and severe beliefs about bread are what I admire most about you.” He had read about Rubaud on the Farine bread blog.

Cooper, then 27, continued to write some of his life, concluding with a description of his work in the pizzeria, where he had given the bakery a name (Neesheta) and “began to treat the pasta balls as if they were the my daughters.”

Two weeks went by without an answer. Intent on apprenticeship, Cooper resents his letter. Before the second missive arrived in Vermont, Rubaud called to offer Cooper a trial run to see if an entire apprenticeship could work.

“I remember how I felt when he called me: Is this really happening?“Cooper said.

The call would lead to a four-month apprenticeship, from autumn 2012 to winter 2013. Now, about seven years later, Cooper is renting Rubaud’s old patisserie and filling it with the life and warmth of sourdough bread which he cooks as a soloist in a wood oven.

Rubaud’s daughter Julie Rubaud, owner of Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg, helped Cooper get in touch with the owners of the property about his interest in pastry. She and Cooper had met during her apprenticeship.

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Trent Cooper by portioning and shaping naturally leavened bread - GLENN RUSSELL

  • Glenn Russell

  • Trent Cooper by portioning and modeling the naturally leavened bread

“When Trent was my father’s apprentice, one day I had the vision that he took control of the pastry shop,” said Julie. “It’s a good choice. It reminds me a little of my father: he looks like the kind of person who can spend time alone up there.”

Like Gérard Rubaud, Cooper is driven by the pursuit of excellence. Both were top level athletes: Rubaud was a climber and an alpine skier; Cooper, born in Bremerton, Washington, and raised there and in Tampa, Florida, played forward on a Major League Soccer team.

In Westford, Cooper focuses on the production of pain de campagne, his favorite name for French sourdough, in oblong loaves called bâtards.

“I make a type of bread,” he said. “If I do two or three or four, I am dividing my attention. If I divide my attention, I will never know how much I can do it.”

Cooper, now 35, moved to the apartment above the bakery in December and got to work to get in shape, order supplies and connect with the stores. He started selling his bread – prepared with hard red winter flour, freshly ground spelled berries, sea salt, water and levain (appetizer) – in January. Loaves of Trent’s Bread is now available in about half a dozen stores, including Jericho Market, Sweet Clover Market in Essex and, recently, both locations in Burlington City Market, Onion River Co-op.

Cooper bakes about 250 loaves a week and often delivers them hot from the oven. If the market supports it, it would like to increase that number to 150 or 200 loaves per day.

“I feel that Gérard’s bread was unique to him and that it should be with him,” Cooper said one recent morning, shaping loaves of dough that he had started mixing at midnight. “This is very similar, but it is my way of doing it. Gérard and I are different people.”

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Mark a bâtard of sourdough before putting it in the oven - GLENN RUSSELL

  • Glenn Russell

  • Mark a mother yeast bâtard before putting it in the oven

He looked up from the bread bench and said the name of his teacher, “Gérard Rubaud”, rolling his R in homage to the Frenchman. “People will stop and talk about him, Gérard’s old friends from the neighborhood,” he added.

Cooper met his teacher when he flew to Burlington for the trial phase, a few days after Rubaud had called him. He arrived at the bakery around noon while Rubaud was loading loaves of bread into the oven.

“The first thing he did when I got here was to look at my hands,” said Cooper. “He looks at my palms and said: ‘You will be a good baker. Good bakers have short and wide hands.'”

The stage ended three days later when Rubaud said to Cooper: “You’re okay” and accepted it for an apprenticeship, said Cooper.

Cooper returned to Jacksonville to sort things out before returning to Vermont for his bread studio. During his flight home, he carried two loaves of Rubaud’s bread. The flight attendant told him to put them on the floor.

“‘I can’t do it'”, he recalled saying. “‘This is Gérard’s bread.'”

Cooper found homes for his dogs, Benny and June, and drove north to Westford in his 1998 Buick. During his apprenticeship, he did not mix pasta or bake loaves – those practices belonged to Rubaud, Cooper said. He helped shape the dough and received the peel from Rubaud after the latter used the tool to place the loaves in the oven. He baked apprentice loaves.

The apprenticeship was centered on levain, a portion of the dough that is fed with flour, water and a little spelled and sea salt every four or five hours during the day. The dough ferments the dough making it rise and giving flavor to the bread.

“The advantage was crucial,” said Cooper. “You can’t pretend. You have to learn it.”

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Freshly baked natural yeast bâtards - GLENN RUSSELL

  • Glenn Russell

  • Freshly baked mother dough bâtard

A major difference between Cooper’s and Rubaud’s bread is the percentage of the flour withdrawn, Cooper said. Use a slightly higher ratio, about 24 percent of the weight of the flour. This method tends to keep the holes in the bread on the smaller side. He doesn’t want his jelly to drop.

“Making bread at Gérard’s level requires extraordinary dedication,” said Cooper. “Not many people I’ve ever met had that level of dedication in everything they do.”

The unpaid apprenticeship ended after four months, when Rubaud decided that Cooper had mastered, his student recalled. The baker made this decision the day Cooper’s gain peaked faster than Rubaud’s in a dough fight, according to Cooper.

“When the apprentice has nothing else to learn from the teacher, this is the end,” said Cooper. “I didn’t come here to pass the time. I didn’t come here to have fun.”

Cooper, who had stayed in the bakery, didn’t have a place to stay and didn’t have enough money to go back to Florida. So he crashed into a delivery driver’s house in Burlington for about a week, and then got a sugary job on a farm in Pennsylvania.

When he had earned enough money, he returned to Florida, this time settling in the Tampa / St. Petersburg area.

“I went on a mission to open a bakery, but it didn’t happen,” said Cooper. “I had no money and I couldn’t get funding … I was so poor. I’m still poor, but at least now I have a bakery.”

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Trent Cooper is preparing to divide and shape naturally leavened bread into bâtards - GLENN RUSSELL

  • Glenn Russell

  • Trent Cooper is preparing to divide and shape the naturally leavened bread into bardelle

Cooper has worked in restaurants and bakeries for several years. Last fall, after learning that Rubaud was dead, he sent his condolences to Julie and inquired about the pastry shop. He put him in touch with Michael and Agnes Hibbs, who had purchased the property in October 2017.

Michael Hibbs, a retired engineer, said they were looking for a baker who would be a suitable companion.

“We wanted to see the place go on and not just fall apart,” said Hibbs. “That’s why we were happy when Trent showed up. He seemed to be the right person to take control of him.”

The other day, while Cooper’s loaves rested before baking, he ate bread, cheese and pickles, delighting in every bite. “This is fantastic,” he said. “This is the best part of my life.”

During the morning snack, he described his role as a baker as “just the catalyst among the ingredients”.

“I am a levain administrator,” he said. “She is what makes bread.”

Cooper thinks his bread is the best on Thursday, when he makes an afternoon delivery to Burlington’s Intervale Community Farm. Levain seems to know that it will be his destination, he said.

Standing on the farm last week, Cooper chewed a piece and pronounced his verdict: “I wish I could make such a good dough every day. My energy and the energy of the bread, we were aligned.”


Fashion week: fashion tales and legends

Invitation to the parade Loewe took the form of a vinyl on which appears the grinning face of Megan Rapinoe, contemporary heroine (she is one of the first sportsmen to come out), famous American football player (Ballon d’Or 2019) and muse of the season. Nothing really shows from this exchange in the latest collection of Jonathan Anderson but who cares.

Loewe, a Spanish luxury house (LVMH), was above all known for its leather work before Anderson took over the reins of his ready-to-wear in 2014 and placed the house in the upper echelons of clothing creativity. The Irishman, born in 1984, always pushes the cursor a little further from a technical and poetic point of view. The parade, organized at Unesco House, is a long master painting made up for the most part of voluminous skirts and dresses, and puffy pants adorned with knots at the ankles. It is both rigorous (like this navy blue set, her basque jacket and her loose skirt falling at the ankles) and chimerical.

Photos Lucile Boiron for Liberation

Jonathan Anderson is collaborating for winter 2020 with Japanese artist Takuro Kuwata, who has produced ceramics for him (white plates surrounded by copper balls placed at chest level) sewn onto silky dresses. It also incorporates a Japanese “waves” motif on a dress with balloon sleeves. We are immersed in a storybook where we meet princesses with an aristocratic port, devoid of blandishness, who pass before us in white dresses with triple pagoda sleeves set with blue sequins.

Far, far from the Loewe universe, place Balmain, in the basements of Espace Champerret. Olivier Rousteing is delighted to be nominated for the Césars (for Wonder boy selected – but not awarded – in the documentary film category) in the press release distributed to journalists. The young man has come a long way before becoming one of the favorite creators of the new near Hollywood stars that are the Kardashians.

In Paris, February 28, 2020, LOEWE Fall-Winter fashion showIn Paris, Friday, Loewe parade. Photos Lucile Boiron for Liberation

This season, his bling bling is less “crystallized” than usual (Rousteing has long loved brilliants). He pays tribute to the 1980s, notably in the soundtrack of the very Radio Nostalgia show with, among others, Jean-Jacques Goldman or Jeanne Mas – you had to dare -, the grouped arrival of the models (his “Balmain army”) and the presence of tops that we always enjoy seeing again like Helena Christensen. Rousteing also leans towards latex, but he is less obsessive than that of Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent. Vests with a golden pompom motif are marked on the shoulders, like this blue, white, red Burlington check sweater, topped with golden buttons. Like their mother in their time, the girls wear camel-colored horse-riding capes or double-breasted jackets, black and red, adorned with square buttons, married to leather thigh boots, Mylène (Farmer of course).

Photos Lucile Boiron for Liberation

A perfectly balanced cape trench, heavily reduced male jackets cut at chest height… Some silhouettes of the parade Nina Ricci caught our attention. Like these tips of color distilled on silk sets (saffron, blue) and these scattered flowers (especially on a plastron placed on a crossed jacket). The work started last year by the Dutch duo Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh (also at the head of the men’s brand Botter) continues in continuity but this time turns out to be less striking (especially on the color in which we have them seen to excel). There are still these wide and flowing pants with mesh pockets, associations of materials and bell hats with wide edges, ultra-retro and despite everything very portable in 2020.

Photos Lucile Boiron for Liberation

The parades of Yohji Yamamoto must be experienced without regard for your watch. There is always the same languor, made to disrupt the crazy pace of fashion week. The Japanese designer, present in Paris since the early 80s, creates as he digresses (above all on black). Dressing clothes (a jacket cut in two parts joined in the back by crisscross links), other mutants (a destructured coat which turns out to be also a jacket or even a dress), and collages of shapes and textures like when Yamamoto roughly bombs a series of asymmetrical coats.

Yoshi Yamamoto fashion show, February 28, 2020 in Paris.

Yohji Yamamoto fashion show, photo Lucile Boiron

Fashion is for the 76-year-old creator a game – very mastered – a territory where you can allow yourself anything, a joke too, like this dress “with buttocks” eradicated from another century, endowed of a clownish outgrowth. A way of mixing the bizarre and the comic.

Yamamoto fashion show, February 28.

Yohji Yamamoto fashion show, photo Lucile Boiron

The day ends Friday at one of the major fashion week events. Hedi Slimane at Celine always manages to electrify the atmosphere and stimulate its world. The art of introduction is one of the strings attached to his bow: from the giant logo of the house (which he has redesigned) which blinks at night, from the casting (girls and boys stems) to the music (that by Sofia Bolt, Frenchwoman who sings in English).

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At Les Invalides, he once again produced a collection born in the past – the 1970s – but revived in 2020. The boys cut through the track in skinny velvet pants, heeled boots (higher and higher), frilled shirts , and also carry handbags on the shoulder. They borrow multiple pieces from the women’s wardrobe and vice versa. We see a jumble of a dark brown velvet shirt dress, skimpy leather jackets, sticky jeans, studded leather, a sheep duffle coat, bourgeois Deneuve capes, a navy blue waist skirt high double breasted, a very polar black leather trench.

Gold looks also dot the show. They are sometimes eyeing the couture side (Hedi Slimane is preparing his first haute couture collection for Celine) like a set (top with stand-up collar and pants) with an animal motif (giraffe?) Entirely embroidered in gold. Crystal jewels and compressions made in collaboration with the César foundation (two new projects of the house) are distilled on the models which wear them at the end of the long chain, so that they give rhythm to each step. Pure Celine, Slimane style.

Marie Ottavi photos Lucile Boiron for Liberation