A behind-the-scenes visit with Chef Benjamin, judge of the artisan bread competition

The thrill of winning a ribbon at the State Fair eludes many people. And I must admit I am one of them.

But many seasoned winners will tell you they have learned from past miscues and from the comments they receive from the judges.

So I decided to talk to a judge to see what he looks for in a winning entry and to see what tips he could offer competitors.

Chef Benjamin, a master baker from France who works for Neomonde Bakery in Raleigh, is the judge for the artisan bread competition. This is the second year of the competition, and the chef has been impressed with the breads entered.

“It takes a lot of patience and passion to make breads at home, so thank you from a professional chef,” he said.

Chef Benjamin offered a few tips to breadmakers, including being sure to mix the bread for at least three minutes to ensure the salt dissolves and mixes evenly into the dough.

Carefully following the formula or recipe for breads is also important, he said. “Baking is a little like science. A little of this and a little of that is not a formula. Everything needs to be balanced.”

The same advice to follow the instructions carefully goes for mixing times. “If you mix too long or if you don’t mix enough, it won’t be well mixed.”

In addition to serving as a judge, Chef Benjamin will be doing baking demonstrations in the tent beside the church near Heritage Circle. The baking demonstrations will start at 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They will also have a demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m.

Check out this video with Chef Benjamin for more tips and information on the bread baking demonstrations.

About Merrie Go Round

Merrie Go Round is the midway alter-ego of Andrea Ashby, who has officially spent 252 days during the past 24 years at the N.C. State Fair. That's perfect attendance in case you were wondering. In addition to promoting the Fair, looking for untold Fair stories and working on various special events, I also spend a great deal of time roaming the grounds taking photos for the Website and State Fair publications. I like to keep my eyes and ears posted for the unusual and different things that make the State Fair such a great celebration of North Carolina people, traditions and history. I look forward to sharing with you the things I come across on my journey.

One Comment

  1. I really enjoyed Chef Benjamin’s bread making demonstration and his interaction with the audience at the NC State Fair. Nothing beats the smell of freshly made bread! And it tasted absolutely delicious! I purchased several loaves. Thanks to the tips he shared, I hope to improve on my own bread at home. Thank you Neomonde and Chef Benjamin!

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