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Meet the winner of the 'best baguette in Paris' award

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

The best baguette in Paris must be pretty good, right? A Parisian bakery has been crowned the champion of the 31st annual best baguette in Paris competition. And NPR's Eleanor Beardsley went to the scene.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The line snakes out the door and down the block at bakery Utopie in Paris' 11th arrondissement. The boulangerie has just been recognized with the best baguette in Paris. Parisian Guillaume Francois says it's not his usual bakery, but he had to come.

GUILLAUME FRANCOIS: I do love bread because I'm French, of course. And I love a nice bread, so that's why I really want to test this one.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: As they queue, these Parisians talk about where to get their favorite loaf. Chain bakeries are out. Frozen dough or baguettes baked elsewhere and brought in - forget it. It's still common to see Parisians carrying their daily baguette under their arms. Karine Dupont says a baguette goes with every meal.

KARINE DUPONT: I'm fond of baguette because instead of potato, instead of rice, instead of - we can eat with cold or hot food all the time. It's very, very good.

BEARDSLEY: Student Benjamin Orent describes a good baguette.

BENJAMIN ORENT: It has to be very crispy on the outside. And inside, when you eat it, it has to melt into your mouth.

BEARDSLEY: So we're entering the boulangerie right now, and you can just smell the warm bread smell wafting out of the place.

This boulangerie is a beehive of activity. Customers pore over cakes, tarts and pies in the glass showcase. The prized baguettes are stacked in wicker baskets. But not everyone here is Parisian.

DASHA CHERNENKO: I'm traveling with my friends. We arrived from Ukraine.

BEARDSLEY: Dasha Chernenko didn't know anything about the award.

CHERNENKO: We just found this boulangerie on Google, and we saw that it has, like, 4.6 in Google reviews, so...

BEARDSLEY: We can see through to the kitchen where racks of long, doughy baguettes are ready to be pushed into the oven. Crispy brown loaves have just come out.

Bonjour. Nice to meet you.

Head baker Xavier Netry meets me outside the door on the sidewalk. His baguette beat out 172 others for the top prize.

XAVIER NETRY: (Through interpreter) I put everything I have into it. I am very passionate about my work, and my ingredients are a little bit different. In a baguette there is water, flour, salt and yeast. I add a little bit of my own sourdough, and the key is a long and beautiful fermentation. That makes good bread.

(Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: The 36-year-old pastry chef says he arrives at the bakery at 2 every morning to start the dough and begin the 12-hour fermentation process. As the winner, he'll soon be supplying baguettes to the Elysee Palace. So how does he feel about President Macron eating his baguettes?

NETRY: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "It's very pleasing to know," he says.

(Speaking French).

I ordered two baguettes. They're about $1.40 each.

Merci beaucoup. OK, merci beaucoup. Oh, my God, they're piping, piping hot.

I walk outside and take a bite into a pointed end.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAGUETTE CRUNCHING)

BEARDSLEY: This is the best baguette in Paris 2024.

It's easy to taste why. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIZKID SONG, "2 SUGAR (FEAT. AYRA STARR)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.