ST. PAUL — Imagine practicing the same routine, over and over, building physical and mental stamina, practicing for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a competition that happens every four years.

You’re probably not picturing someone making bread and croissants, but that’s exactly what Rose Street Patisserie’s Kate Goodpaster has been doing for the past year, to prep for The Bakery World Cup, the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie.

Goodpaster, a St. Paul native, will compete with just two other U.S. bakers over two days in January in France. She is responsible for viennoiserie, which are laminated (fancy baking term for butter being folded into dough) products like croissants, and buttery breads like brioche. Jerod Pfeffer of Idaho is responsible for artisan breads, and Nicolas Zimmermann of Chicago will be making a bread-based showpiece.

Goodpaster’s journey to represent the United States began about a year and a half ago, when she first applied to be on the team. Several tryouts later, she was selected.

That’s when the real work began.

She’s now training for the competition, which consists of a 2-hour prep day, where she’ll make doughs and fillings, followed by an 8-hour, intensive day of shaping dough, baking and decorating.

“It’s kind of like training for a marathon or a sport, or weight-lifting, even,” Goodpaster said. “Some days will be full runs, replicating what the day will be like, start to finish. Other days, it’s training on one particular product. Like leg day or plank day if you’re lifting weights.”

Goodpaster rolls up croissants in Rose Street Patisserie’s Bread Lab. In a croissant, you want a “good spiral, and open crumb and fine layers,” she says. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press
Goodpaster rolls up croissants in Rose Street Patisserie’s Bread Lab. In a croissant, you want a “good spiral, and open crumb and fine layers,” she says. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

The contest, held Jan. 11-14 in Paris, is what many professional bakers consider the pinnacle of baking competition. Rose Street Patisserie co-owner John Kraus competed in the pastry version of the worldwide competition, the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie in 2015. His team took home a bronze medal for the United States, which is a huge accomplishment.

Goodpaster went to Gustavus Adolphus for college, but decided after working at a cafe in St. Peter and at Butter Bakery Cafe in Minneapolis that she’d rather pursue baking as a profession.

She attended The French Pastry School of Chicago, and began working for Kraus, who also owns Patisserie 46 in Minneapolis, following graduation.

It was while at pastry school that she became aware of the Coupe du Monde, and Kraus remembers her telling him that competing in it was one of her goals.

“I asked her for a five-year plan, and she said, ‘I want to be on the Coupe du Monde,’” Kraus said.

Of course having a boss who has been through the intense training has been a boon for Goodpaster.

“In many conversations I’ve had with coaches and advisers in this process, they reiterate how lucky I am to have not just the support of my employer, but also the support of an employer who has done this before and understands,” Goodpaster said.

Kraus can help with logistics, but also with just in understanding what Goodpaster is going to experience when she gets to France. Kraus said his own experience was a bit of a blur.

“Those hours are so intense, that you don’t even realize they have gone by,” Kraus said. “The mental is probably harder than physical, I think.”

Goodpaster is responsible for making a croissant, a chocolate croissant, pain aux raisins and brioche. Those traditional pastries must all be within a 2 percent weight guideline, after they are baked, which is incredibly difficult, made more so by the fact that she’ll be cooking with French flour and French dairy products.

Kate Goodpaster shows the inside of a chocolate croissant she just made and baked at Rose Street Patisserie's Bread Lab in St. Paul Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. She will be participating in the 2020 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press
Kate Goodpaster shows the inside of a chocolate croissant she just made and baked at Rose Street Patisserie's Bread Lab in St. Paul Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. She will be participating in the 2020 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

“French flour is very different from American flour,” Goodpaster said.” It’s a notorious challenge for bakers traveling anywhere — the type of wheat that’s used, the way that it’s milled is different. The dairy, butter and eggs, are different from what we’re used to here.”

She is currently training with flour imported from France, but there are no guarantees that it will be identical to what she’ll encounter in the competition.

In addition to the traditional products, Goodpaster will make a few pieces that showcase her creativity. The overall theme for the World Cup is music, and those products will fit that theme. She can’t reveal what they are specifically, for competitive reasons.

In addition, she has to improvise a pastry. She’ll choose from a hat to find out if it’s laminated or non-laminated, then she’ll be given five ingredients from which she will choose two to incorporate in the final product.

If it sounds intense, it is. Kraus said that the training really never stops.

Goodpaster slices off an edge of dough before making croissants. She bakes hours every day at Rose Street Patisserie’s Bread Lab on West Seventh Street. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press
Goodpaster slices off an edge of dough before making croissants. She bakes hours every day at Rose Street Patisserie’s Bread Lab on West Seventh Street. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

“How many hours a day? All of them, I mean probably 12 hours a day,” Kraus said. “Within those hours she’s working on running the company, but also in her brain there’s 24 hours where the Coupe de Monde is running through it.”

But Goodpaster seems unfazed by the unrelenting preparation. It also helps that her regular job includes making croissants and other products she’ll be baking on competition day.

“Part of the amazing thing about being here is that even when I’m in production, it’s still a form of training,” Goodpaster said. “I’m making croissants for production, but in the back of my head I’m thinking about the competition. The lines are a little blurred.”

Beyond Kraus, the rest of the team at Rose Street has been supportive, too, even making Goodpaster a playlist that includes “Eye of the Tiger,” which Kraus called “the greatest song ever made.”

Kate Goodpaster, left, talks with a colleague in Rose Street Patisserie's Bread Lab in St. Paul Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. She will be participating in the 2020 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. She bakes hours every day at Rose Street Patisserie's Bread Lab on West Seventh Street. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press
Kate Goodpaster, left, talks with a colleague in Rose Street Patisserie's Bread Lab in St. Paul Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. She will be participating in the 2020 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. She bakes hours every day at Rose Street Patisserie's Bread Lab on West Seventh Street. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

“I listen to it a lot,” Goodpaster said. “During run-throughs and while I’m working. A song will pop into my head and it helps me get in a rhythm.”

For his part, Kraus puffs up when he talks about Goodpaster’s accomplishments, current and future.

“It’s a tremendous growth opportunity, mentally and physically and professionally,” Kraus said. “This city’s lucky to have Kate in it. I think you would be hard-pressed to find higher quality product than what her team is producing on a daily basis. It’s only going to get better. She’ll come back a different human.”