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  • Writer's pictureRachael Fulton

The Wee Boulangerie

Originally written and published for STV Local Edinburgh.

The first batches of pain au chocolat, croissants and baguettes are fresh out of the The Wee Boulangerie ovens.

The little Clerk Street bakery is filled with the smell of freshly baked bread, the shelves crowded with baskets of morning rolls and focaccia.

It's the day before its official opening, and the staff of The Wee Boulangerie are rushing around putting the finishing touches to displays, testing coffee machines and taking photographs of the shop.

In the midst of this hive of activity is French native Katia Lebart, shop owner and master baker, overseeing shop decoration while keeping a close eye on the baking-in-progress.

From rustic country loaves to delicate, melt-in-the-mouth macaroons, Katia hand makes each individual piece entirely by herself and puts her love and passion for baking into every product.

"You can make good bread with simple ingredients, but what matters is the process," says Katia.

"Time and temperature are the most important ingredients. You have to really take care of it, shape it and bake it."

The new bakery is a far cry from Katia's previous career. When Katia first came to Edinburgh, it was to be a lecturer of computer science at Heriot Watt University.

After settling into the city and spending 8 years passing on her skills to budding Scottish students, Katia realised that a career in computer science was not what she wanted.

Finding that she wasn't satisfied with her day-to-day and that her work/life balance didn't suit her, Katia left her life as a computer scientist behind to embrace her passion for baking.

"You only have one life," says Katia.
"I thought hard and I thought OK - I'm going to do something else. It just came very clearly to me that this is what I wanted to do.

"I'm French, so I love bread. Since I came to Scotland I found it hard to find good bread, so I just decided to go for it."

In order for a bakery to be awarded 'boulangerie' status in France, its baker must be trained to an extremely high standard.

Wishing to keep her culture and its passion for bread alive in her work, Katia returned to France to train at renowned baking school Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie.

There she learned her craft from some of France's top bakers, before bringing her skills back to her new home in Scotland.

"There's a very good tradition for bread making in France," says Katia. "French people are very proud of French bread."

With two young children to look after, bringing The Wee Boulangerie to life has been no easy feat. Katia's strong support system of family, friends and staff have helped piece the little shop together in time for a pre-Festival opening.

"Right now we are tuning things for people in the festival, people who are here to enjoy the show and want things on the go," says Katia.

"But the main aim of the bakery is to become a local place for local people. To have people come back because they know the quality's good."

The Wee Boulangerie opens on Friday, 27 July on 67 Clerk Street.

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