The Tunisian-born baker who won the coveted annual best baguette award in Paris last week is at the center of a fermented controversy after claims that he shared extremist posts on social media.
Makram Akrout, whose achievement of beating 173 rivals for the award was hailed as an immigrant success story in France, did not participate in a ceremony over the weekend to receive his award.
By tradition, the winner of the prestigious award receives a contract to supply baguettes to the Elysee Presidential Palace for one year.
Screenshots posted by an anonymous Twitter user claimed to show that Akrout had shared, on a now-deleted Facebook account, posts expressing Islamist ideas.
Akrout “understood that it was not necessarily ideal to come” and receive the award, Paris First Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told AFP during Saturday’s ceremony on the esplanade of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a socialist running for president, was scheduled to present the award, but had a “personal limitation” and was unable to attend, Gregoire said.
Instead, Akrout was represented by his flour supplier, who evoked a “personnel problem” to explain the baker’s absence.
Controversy has erupted as immigration is expected to be a major issue in France’s 2022 presidential elections, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen is still considered the main rival of President Emmanuel Macron.
‘Very good professional’
Akrout, a 42-year-old man who has worked for 19 years as a baker in France since arriving from Tunisia, has seen new customers flock to his Boulangers de Reuilly bakery since winning the award.
Tunisian-born bakers are widely present in the sector in Paris and have also won the award for the best baguette in Paris in the past.
But the allegations led Akrout to be targeted for abuse on social media, and it is unclear whether the Elysee will continue with the baguette supply contract. You have yet to comment.
“This poses a problem for handover to the Elysee if it turns out that unfortunate things were said in the past,” Gregoire said.
The City Council has asked the police to further investigate the posts on social media.
Akrout’s attorney did not confirm or deny that he shared the posts.
“Like many Internet users, in the past he posted content on social media without understanding its meaning,” lawyer Sylvia Lasfargeas told AFP.
He said his client has since received a “wave of hate messages” on social media.
Akrout, who acquired French nationality in 2019, emphasizes “his attachment to France and adherence to the fundamental principles of freedom, equality and fraternity,” Lasfargeas added.
The posts shared in the screenshots posted by the anonymous Twitter user are dated 2019 and 2020.
The president of the Paris bakers union, Franck Thomasse, described his past activity on social media as a “mistake” that this “very good professional regrets.”