Baker sells shop to homeless man for $1.50
F RENCH baker Michel Flamant, who owes his life to a homeless man who begged for handouts outside his shop, knows more than anyone that man does not live by bread alone.
To show his gratitude, Mr Flamant is selling the business in the town of Dole to Jerome Aucant for a symbolic one euro (S$1.50).
The stout Mr Flamant, who wears a tank top and shorts to cope with the heat of his bread ovens, says he has always had a big heart despite his "piggish character".
In fact, long before the fateful day in December when he nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning, he would greet Mr Aucant each day with a cup of coffee and a croissant.
"If Jerome wasn't around that day, I would have been a goner," the 62-year-old baker says, recounting how a defective bread oven began leaking the odourless, lethal gas.
When Mr Aucant noticed Mr Flamant begin to stagger around the bakery, he called the emergency services. Mr Flamant was in the hospital for 12 days.
Back at work, he offered Mr Aucant, 37, a part-time job. He soon realised how well the tattooed, dreadlocked homeless man applied himself.
"And I'm demanding. The work has to be done as I say and that's that!" Mr Flamant says, adding that he loves teaching people like Mr Aucant, who are "smart enough to listen to my advice".
The garrulous Paris native says, as a child, he thought he would be a truck driver when he grew up. But his father put him to work in the family bakery when he was 14.
His companion minds the till on the ground floor while he makes bread, croissants and pastries in the basement from midnight to noon, six days a week.
Mr Flamant, whose three daughters are not interested in taking over, had been trying to sell it for the past two years.
Then, it dawned on him to cede the bakery to Mr Aucant for one euro.
"What's more important, money or life? I don't care about money. I'm not rich but I don't care.
"I want to be free, I want to take it easy now. And also, if this makes him happy... "
Mr Flamant has taken Mr Aucant under his wing until September, when he will retire and hand over the keys.
After that, "it will be up to him to make it work", Mr Flamant says.
"Jerome is a hard worker and he wants to succeed.
"He deserves a chance."
Mr Aucant, who has shorn his dreadlocks, says: "I want to work and the hours don't put me off."
He is aware of the responsibility he is taking on.
"I have to be 100 per cent on the job. Michel has given me a real gift, and now... I want to be worthy of it."