Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Lionel Poilâne (1945-2002)

Lionel Poilâne

Lionel Poilâne, a Paris-born French baker famous for building an empire around his family's signature four-pound, round sourdough bread, died in a helicopter crash off the Brittany coast near Cancale on October 31, 2002, aged 57.

Poilâne's father, Pierre, opened the family's first namesake bakery in Paris (8, rue du Cherche-Midi) in 1932, and that location is still open to this day. He used a traditional baking method that incorporated stone-ground flour and a wood-fired baking oven.

"pain Poilâne"

When the family business was passed on to Poilâne in the early 1970s, he decided to always stay true to the traditional baking method. Through a philosophy that Poilâne referred to as "retro-innovation," he spent the last few decades successfully building a bread empire by continuing to use high-quality ingredients and traditional baking methods while simultaneously taking advantage of modern business techniques and technological advances.

In addition to opening a second location in Paris (49, blvd de Grenelle) and a shop in London (46 Elizabeth Street), Poilâne had a factory outside of Paris with 24 wood-burning ovens. The factory produced more than 15,000 signature thick-crusted, round loaves of "pain Poilâne" a day to be sent by express planes to countries throughout Europe, to the United States and to Japan.

Poilâne is survived by a brother, Max, who operates three bakeries in Paris under the name Max Poilâne (87, rue Brancion; 29, rue de l'Ouest; 42, pl du Marché St Honoré). These bakeries are not affiliated with Poilâne.


Plan a voyage to a tropical paradise aboard one of GAYOT's Best Caribbean Cruises.
Get the 411 on the City of Angels. Find the city's top hotels, restaurants, attractions and more with GAYOT's guide.