The best baguette in Paris is made by a Sri Lankan immigrant

This year, the winner of the "Grand Prize of the Traditional French Baguette," organized by the Paris City Hall, is the baguette made by Tharshan Selvarajah, an immigrant from Sri Lanka who is not a French citizen. Link to the article in The New York Times is here.

This may have been made possible by the fact that the competition is anonymous.

"Baguettes are numbered after being deposited by candidates, then touched, smelled and tasted by a jury of experts," Olivia Polski, the senior City Hall official who oversees the contest, said in an emailed response to questions. The best baguette, she suggested, should be "well-baked, light and airy. It should crackle in the mouth."

The baguette is the iconic symbol of French food excellence, and some say it is the best French food [citation: me]. The article correctly explains that "the baguette's optimum shelf life is not more than a few hours," a concept absolutely foreign to American customs.

On the day he was interviewed by The New York Times, he was irritated because his store assistants had not reported for work yet.

Always, he said, there's some excuse. He works six days a week, up to 10 hours a day, and thinks such industry — typical of immigrants trying to get a toehold in a new land — may explain why several winners of the baguette prize over the past decade have been of Tunisian or Senegalese descent.

While business is booming at his bakery, Selvarajah has been less than delighted with the official response to his prize.

He has not been invited to meet [President Emmanuel] Macron, who had a selfie taken with some previous winners. He feels he has gotten less French media attention than others in the past.

Nor was he invited to a party this month organized by the confederation of French bakers marking the anniversary of the creation of the "traditional baguette," defined with great detail in the 1993 "Décret Pain," or Bread Decree, a quintessentially French edict laying out the procedure and characteristics required to be deemed "traditional."

The baker attributes these perceived sleights to the fact he is the first winner who is not from France or a country with a colonial connection to it. He also believes his decision not to become a French citizen is resented. "It's not pleasant, but I don't give a damn," he said.