- Gérard Rubaud
Gérard Rubaud died in his home in Westford, Vt., on October 7, 2018. An acclaimed baker and ski world legend, Rubaud was 77.
Born in Aix Les Bains, Savoie, France, on July 16, 1941, to a father who owned a ski shop and a mother who was an incomparable cook, Rubaud was his parents’ son — a combination skier, mountaineer and food lover.
Skipping school to hit the Alpine ski slopes, Rubaud was expelled at age 13 and never went back. He apprenticed with a local baker, who taught him how to bake and kept him employed at night so he could ski during the day.
From the age of 18 to his mid-twenties, he devoted much of his time to mountaineering and worked his way to the rank Aspirant Guide of the famed Compagnie de Guide de Chamonix. During these years, he was part of an alpinist crew with his beloved friends Jean-Paul Paris, Yannick Seigneur and René Thomas. Together they successfully climbed many challenging routes and peaks, including a first ascent of the north side of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes, in Argentina, South America. They did this without oxygen and in the winter. (Seigneur was absent on that expedition, but they were joined by Ulysses Vitale of Argentina.) The French Alps, and the Chamonix Valley specifically, formed Rubaud's character and physical endurance in many ways.
His first love, however, was skiing. At age 18, he became a ski instructor in Val d’Isere. By his early twenties, he was already a successful coach. And, at age 23, he was hired by Rossignol Ski Co., based in Grenoble, France, to work in their race-ski atelier, providing tech support to the French ski team. At the Portillo World Championships in 1966, Rubaud managed support for a team that included Jean-Claude Killy, Guy Perillat, Marielle Goitschel and Annie Famose, four world-famous racers who earned six gold medals between them. Quickly working his way up to director of racing services, Rubaud pioneered the concept of ski-brand sponsorship by convincing top racers to ski exclusively on Rossignol equipment in exchange for technical support — a common practice today. By the early '70s, he managed all the tech-support teams for Rossignol-sponsored racers worldwide. In 1975, he moved to Vermont to become sales manager and director of marketing for Rossignol's North American market. In 1979, Rubaud was named president of the North American division.
In the mid-’80s, Rubaud shifted back to food, creating Gerard’s Hospitality Inc. and importing the maverick sous vide French technology: boil-in-a-bag haute cuisine unheard of in the U.S. at the time. Gerard’s Hospitality Inc. supplied hotels, restaurants and museum kitchens with high-end vacuum-sealed meals made from quality ingredients prepared by French chefs in an industrial kitchen in Fairfax, Vt. From 1986 to 1994, his eponymous Burlington restaurant, Gerard’s, was a showcase for his sous vide cuisine.
In the mid-1990s, Rubaud returned to baking. He was inspired by the idea that a farmer, miller and baker could create community around a singular food: bread. He spent a year perfecting his recipe for a naturally fermented loaf, pain au levain.
Rubaud tended to his bread with a steady hand. He perfected its aroma and achieved just the right ratio of soft crumb to chewy crust. Gerard’s Breads of Tradition garnered fame with both a local and global following. In 2004, Rubaud suffered a stroke. His recovery involved baking, and he was able to quickly return to pre-stroke production levels — his proudest achievement. Though exacting and demanding, he attracted dozens of apprentices, teaching them all his craft. Gerard continued baking right up to the time he underwent heart surgery in July of this year.
Rubaud is survived by his daughters, Julie Rubaud, and her wife, Ulrika Schygulla (Vergennes, Vt.); Christele Pinaud and her husband, Eric (Thonon, Haute Savoie, France); his ex-wife, Nane Doll-Peyron (Shelburne, Vt.); his granddaughters Camille Pinaud, Chloé Pinaud, and Louissa Rozendaal; his sisters Solange Couve and Françoise Rubaud; and his affectionate companion, Maggie Sherman. The family would like to thank the many friends and neighbors who helped Rubaud live independently, above his bakery, at the end of a long dirt road, after his stroke in 2004 up until the day he died. His landscape, home and friendships were as dear to him as his bread. Special thanks also to the VNA, the rehab staff at Fanny Allen and the cardiology department nurses at University of Vermont Medical Center — and to the many apprentices, delivery drivers, stores and farms that were part of the constellation that kept Gerard’s Bread, and Gerard himself, alive for so long.
A public memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Memorial contributions may be made to the nonprofit International Skiing History Association, P.O. Box 1064, Manchester Center VT 05255 (skiinghistory.org) or to the UVM Health Network Home Health & Hospice, 1110 Prim Rd., Colchester, VT 05446 (uvmhomehealth.org).