Baldini serves as a foil for Grenouille by illustrating what the average person might have done with Grenouille's extraordinary powers. When Grenouille first comes to deliver goatskins to Baldini's shop, he encounters an apparently prosperous perfumer with a very ostentatious establishment which is, in fact, in decline. Baldini has been reduced to copying his rival's perfume in the struggle to maintain his position. If he had Grenouille's olfactory genius, he would undoubtedly use it to create fashionable and expensive perfumes to sell to aristocrats and plutocrats, making himself the richest and most celebrated perfumer in Paris, perhaps in Europe. This is a very normal and understandable ambition, to be at the top of one's profession, and it contrasts sharply with Grenouille's obscure and sinister motives.
The encounter and subsequent relationship between Baldini and Grenouille illuminates the theme of power and control by contrasting appearance and reality. Baldini is a master perfumer, while Grenouille is a poor errand-boy who wants to work for him. All the power appears to be vested in Baldini. However, from the very first, Grenouille manipulates and dominates his ostensible master. He decides that he will become Baldini's apprentice and, as soon as he makes the decision, has not the least doubt that he will gain this position. He learns everything he needs to learn, then leaves while Baldini's house and business collapse into the river. Grenouille's abilities, his certitude, and his curious force of character mean that he is always in control, even as Baldini is using him to further his own conventional aspirations.