UK competition What’s the greatest barrier to growing a Belgian bakery chain in Britain? The crashing euro? A cataclysmic economic outlook? No, it’s a linguistically challenged nation whose preferred mode of communication is shouting loudly at foreigners. “We’ve got a virtually unpronounceable name to most English people and a virtually indecipherable logo, even for those who work in the company!” says Steven Whibley, managing director at Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ).Not that that’s hampered progress. At 67 on the BB75 league table of bakery retailers based on numbers of outlets, with 14 clocked in January, one more added since and stores in Borough Market and Westfield Shopping Centre imminent, LPQ bucked the slump in organics last year. While bakery was the hardest sector hit, down 39%, the largely organic LPQ’s sales shot up by 50%.The brand, founded by chef Alain Coumont, started life in Brussels in 1990. The first back-to-basics shop had a small bread counter serving only two breads wheat and rye with cheese, ham and jam, and featured a four-metre communal table.”That was the basis of the concept and it evolved from there,” says Whibley. “Pastries were added a year after they opened. Then quiche, salad and wine. There is a whole range now, but we try to centre the menu around bread.” In fact, the menu has grown exponentially, to the point where it’s due a trim. “Our focus at the moment is to reduce the product range,” he says.Which brings us to the star of the show the bread, served up in assorted bread baskets and tartines (open sandwiches). In Belgium, Bellona Pattis originally supplied the UK outlets with breads and still supplies the par-baked croissants and baguettes, baked off in-store. Now, breads are made in partnership with Celtic Bakers, which can handle the 24- to 48-hour fermentations, and Shipton Mill.”We’re a kind of a mass-market Poilane, for want of a better word. I think ours are as good as theirs. You cannot make this kind of bread in the basement of every store,” insists Whibley, who needs space to make fresh tarts and cakes on-site. “The economics of it don’t work. And there’s a quality assurance issue. Our bread is as simple as flour, salt and water, baked fresh seven days a week and it’s 100% organic. When you’re buying sourdoughs elsewhere, they’re not always pure sours, and that’s something we’re very proud of.” There are few bakery-café-restaurant operators in the UK, which means LPQ is pitted against the likes of Carluccio’s and Pizza Express. The dining area accounts for around 75% of turnover, though the concept is more causal, with the communal table appealing to single people avoiding the stigma of sitting alone. Unit volume for LPQ is £30,000 net a week, which compares to around £20,000 for a Pizza Express. This is due to a bustling all-day trade, with quiet periods a rarity in the most successful stores.”We do a lot of customers for our money,” he explains. “We need those kinds of volumes to drive a similar profit. Our average spend per head is probably half what it would be in Carluccio’s. Our margin isn’t as much as most food operators, because we’re trying to deliver a quality, artisanal, organic product at a price range that is cheaper than bread that isn’t as artisanal, sold, for example, in food markets.”Store layouts are flexible, from 14 to 180 covers, and the smaller ones take 40% turnover over the counter. “It’s a concept that can be sliced and diced,” he says. The deli range which accounts for a modest 2% of sales acts as the store pantry, with goods used throughout the menus, as well as adding decoration to the shop. Stores have wi-fi and there is a strong ethical element, from the reclaimed wood furniture to the triple-certified coffees.Having blossomed into a 150-strong global brand, with the main UK, French and US business acting as the franchisor to Belgium, Germany, Spain, Holland, Russia, Australia, India, Japan, Mexico and the Middle East, how far can they take it in the UK?”We’re not about putting flags on the map, but we’ve got 15 in London and we could do 40,” he says. “Le Pain could go out of London, but once you do, you’re almost starting again to build your reputation. Our niche is quality and that is hard to match. There have always been opportunities to open more stores, take some debt in the business and roll the thing out faster, but we open at a rate where we can keep the business where we want it.”
There is no shortage of words starting with “re-” that can describe what winter break and Wintersession are meant to achieve. Despite the fact that alliteration makes anything sound more dramatic than it is (cue the title of this piece), the most commonly used descriptions are quite true. In contrast to the semester in full swing, the free time and significant gaps between appointments that mark Wintersession give us ample opportunities to rediscover who we were before Harvard, how it has changed us, and who we are today.And winter break, whether spent launching the next Facebook, skiing overseas, or watching Netflix in bed at home, is a great time to step back from an extremely fulfilling, but also sometimes overwhelming and hectic semester.As a freshman, and especially as an international student who had never spent anything other than short visits in the United States, I relished the time I spent away from Harvard. It was eye-opening to step back and cast off some of the pressures, expectations, and stress surrounding GPAs, internships, and even social life that inevitably mount as we study with highly accomplished people.After a short break, coming back to campus was surreal. Part of the strangeness came from realizing that Harvard actually feels like a second home now ― it is “getting back to Harvard” instead of “going to Harvard.” Campus was not too quiet for the most part, and many people were back as early as Jan. 15, working on various pursuits. I heard tales of practical workshops such as how to manage personal finances, new experiences like taking up kendo, and even intensive academic experiences like a case-study workshop at Harvard Business School. As for me and 50 other freshmen, we chose to take part in the Refresh Retreat.The retreat originated as a psychology concentrator’s senior thesis project, and was then adopted by the College. Dean Madeleine Currie of Oak Yard, Paul “Coz” Teplitz of the Freshman Dean’s Office, and 10 upperclassmen facilitators brought us freshman to Hulbert Outdoor Center in Vermont, where we frolicked in the snow, stayed in warm rustic cabins, and pondered the meaning of life. What I found most rewarding was the opportunity to get out in the countryside and reflect in a group setting.I had never visited Vermont in my life, nor really seen any decent snow, so stepping out of Greater Boston was a magical experience. I and the others immersed ourselves in a winter wonderland of completely frozen lakes, pristine snow, icy meandering creeks, and dazzling night skies. During the several hours of free time we had each day, we sledded along the slopes, sang songs from “Frozen” as we built snowmen, tried to perform gymnastic tricks on slides, and had roasted s’mores with hot chocolate. The unique setting and the special experiences helped me forge friendships with people I had never and would never have met otherwise. Beyond friendships, the setting also contributed significantly to our reflection. I consider myself a fairly reflective person, and I enjoy taking time during each day, or each week, perhaps during the shower or while I’m at the gym, to think about what I have been doing and how I want to go forward. Yet there is something about taking yourself away from your usual physical environment that opens up the mind in new ways. While skating (and trying not to fall) along the plowed paths of Lake Morey, I found myself reflecting on the past semester, how far I’ve come and how far I still need to go, and reaching depths and new insights like I never had before.I was able to reflect so deeply in part due to my facilitators and the wonderful sessions we had in big and small groups. Our reflections were divided neatly into three themes, one for each day — the past, the present, and the future. Sitting inside a cozy cabin with 10 other faces made us all open up to relative strangers in ways that even surprised ourselves. I, and many others, commented how gratified we were to hear about the struggles the others faced. It is often easy at a place like Harvard to assume that everyone is doing fantastically well and that you are the odd one out struggling with sleep, extracurriculars, or procrastination. There was none of the “Duck Syndrome” here (a term coined at Stanford for the façade of calm that people put on to belie their struggles), as people shared genuine fears like falling GPAs, taking on too much, not taking on enough, and blocking drama (that came up a lot). As freshmen, we also had the opportunity to learn from those who had experienced it all before us; our facilitators gave us great tips, like reading a few pages in an assignment to estimate how long it would take to do the whole section, or writing to-do lists manually to avoid getting distracted by electronics ― both strategies that I am excited to implement as the semester rolls ahead.If I had to choose one snapshot to represent our collective reflecting experience, it would be when we sat in a circle around a spitting fire on our last night there. We each held flameless candles, which we switched off as we went around the circle and shared our regrets and fears, and lit as we expressed gratitude and aspirations. It was a deeply emotional experience that I believe connected us seemingly disparate individuals in our collective quest to do better and make the most of this wonderful institution.Heading into the next semester, we all have goals, dreams, and targets. I, for one, have already failed some of mine (looking at you, Annenberg breakfast). But no matter how much you reflect and refresh, you cannot accomplish everything and you won’t be perfect every time. And you know what? That’s completely OK.
To recommend a code of conduct for scientists and laboratory workers that can be adopted by federal agencies, professional organizations, and institutions Mar 4, 2004, CIDRAP News story “New board to advise on ‘dual use’ research, announces HHS” Jul 1, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The members of a new government board that will guide efforts to keep terrorists from exploiting the fruits of federally funded biotechnology research were announced this week by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. “The implications for the tremendous good that can be accomplished in this line of research are mind-boggling,” he said. “At the same time, the potential misapplication of this kind of research is frightening. So we have to be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need this type of research. Therefore we must find every way we possibly can to prevent someone from using it for terrorism purposes.” Today’s session included a discussion on the chemical synthesis of bacteria and viruses, with J. Craig Venter, PhD, and other leaders in the field. Venter, founder of J. Craig Venter Institute, talked about the widespread availability of technology for synthesizing microbial DNA. “There are well over 50,000 DNA synthesizers in the world,” he commented at one point, adding that he had seen several for sale on eBay for about $5,000. To develop criteria for identifying “dual use” research—legitimate research whose results could be misused for biological warfare or bioterrorism The board will also be asked to advise the government on guidelines for publishing information about potentially sensitive research, biosecurity education programs for scientists and lab workers, local review and approval processes for dual-use research, and other issues. Venter and other speakers said that unscrupulous researchers could synthesize pathogenic bacteria or viruses and that detecting and stopping such efforts would be very difficult. He advocated focusing efforts on developing medical defenses against such pathogens. HHS officials first announced plans to establish the NSABB in March 2004. The estimated annual cost of operating the board is about $976,000, according to information on the Web site. Leavitt appointed Dennis L. Kasper, MD, of Harvard Medical School to chair the board. Kasper is director of the Channing Laboratory in the department of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. As examples of the potential benefits of “synthetic biology,” Osterholm said Venter described a project to develop bacteria that could remove carbon dioxide from the air and thus combat global warming. Venter is also working on bacteria that would produce pure hydrogen, which “could dramatically change our status as a petroleum-based economy,” Osterholm added. Jun 29 HHS news release with list of NSABB membershttp://archive.hhs.gov/news/press/2005pres/20050629.html In naming 24 people to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), Leavitt said in a news release, “We all realize some research that results in new medical treatments, agricultural advances, and biodefense countermeasures could end up in the hands of terrorists who could twist it for their own purposes. The NSABB will provide a forum to help educate scientists on biosecurity and a means for the federal government to receive advice on how to advance scientific knowledge without compromising security.” Announcement of the members was the prelude to the board’s first meeting, held yesterday and today in Bethesda, Md. The meeting was open to the public and was also accessible over the Internet as a live webcast. Osterholm commented after the meeting that the presentations on chemical synthesis of new microbes showed that the field has huge potential for both good and ill. The National Research Council called for creation of a board like the NSABB in its 2003 report, titled “Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism: Confronting the Dual Use Dilemma.” As established, the board is somewhat different from what that report recommended, but it is intended to achieve the same goals, according to information on the board’s Web site. NSABB sitehttp://www.biosecurityboard.gov/ “If we’re not concentrating almost 100% of our efforts on providing defensive countermeasures, we’re missing the big picture here,” Venter said. “Any viral agent can be produced. We should just assume that’s possible and make sure that we have good vaccines and good vaccine development procedures to work against them.” The board is composed mostly of academic researchers but includes several private consultants, one attorney, and the head of the vaccine department at a large pharmaceutical company, Merck & Co. Among the members is Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), publisher of this Web site. See also: The board’s main tasks, according to information on the NSABB Web site, are: The board will not have authority to approve or reject specific experiments. But it will, on request, provide guidance to local “institutional biosafety committees” on specific experiments or classes of research that raise complex questions. To develop guidelines for overseeing dual-use research Oct 10, 2003, CIDRAP News story “To block terrorists, panel calls for more screening of research