Find raspberry and poppy seed pavlovas at The French Bastards, Parisian bakeries with Australian roots
french pastry chef Julien Abourmad worked at the restaurant in Sydney Kitchen by Mike when he was amicably nicknamed “the French bastard” by the chef Mike McEnearney. This was in no way a comment on the chef’s demeanor, but rather on his very French style of cooking, which was at odds with the laid back Australian way of doing things. Thus, two years later in 2019, when Abourmad accompanied by friends Emmanuel Gunther and David Abehsera were looking for the perfect name to embody their revolutionary new-age bakery concept in Paris, The French bastards was right.
With some 1,200 bakeries located throughout Paris, such a venture may seem like reinventing the wheel. But in recent years the landscape has been marred by the proliferation of frozen products and poor quality ingredients. Motivated by the emphasis on locally sourced, seasonal produce that Abourmad and Gunther encountered in the Australian restaurant scene, the founders set out to disrupt the outdated status quo with their farm-to-table philosophy.
“We always say that the bakery of the future is the bakery of the past – of the past itself,” says Gunther. Each ingredient is sourced locally from artisanal producers – butter from Isigny, chocolate from Valrhona – and product offerings follow a seasonal calendar. “We receive customers who come around Christmas to ask for a strawberry pie, and we take the time to explain why it is not possible to sell this kind of product at this time of the year”, explains the co -founder.
The ingenuity of The French Bastards, however, lies in the intelligent prescience of the founders that the “bakery of the future” would take hold not only in physical form but also online. Alongside French classics, such as the finest pains au chocolat and croissants, are baked curiosities that Gunther cheekily describes as “food porn”: creative culinary delights that are both novel to the taste buds and for social networks.
“We always say that the bakery of the future is the bakery of the past – of the past itself.”
Take, for example, their “cruffin,” an item that pays homage to the Australian-invented hybrid pastry that the co-founders fell in love with on their travels. The oozing indulgence of the croissant and muffin mix translates seamlessly from the sensory to the screen, expanding the clientele beyond locals, who view pastries as staples, to include foodies and tourists who are making the pilgrimage with an appetite whetted by social media. From day one, The French Bastards’ Instagram account has been personally managed by Gunther himself, extending the authentic experience of visiting one of their bakeries into the virtual realm.
With three locations under their belt, the founders see their business not just as a commodity marketplace but as an opportunity to connect with surrounding communities – which sets it apart from other Parisian bakeries. Replicating the barista-customer relationship that is central to the Australian coffeehouse scene, team members make a human effort to get to know their customer. “Back to the time of game of thrones, we had to stay up until 4 a.m. on Monday morning to watch the latest episode, or our customers would spoil it for us,” says Gunther. “That’s how they feel at home – when they walk into the bakery they talk about anything and everything that comes to mind.”
The founders are more than ever concerned with finding a balance between tradition and innovation, adapting the product offer of each store to the local clientele. For their latest bakery, the Saint-Ferdinand outpost in the 17th arrondissement, the focus is on the traditional, with the Bastards’ twist on classic apple turnovers (apple turnovers) sounding like a best-seller. The flagship store on rue Oberkampf, located in the progressive 11th arrondissement, remains the most experimental and the most prone to “food porn”.
Their original Australian name has followed owners throughout this journey, but not without controversy.
“Some people came to insult us, not so much because of the word ‘bastard’, but because we chose an English name for a very traditional French company,” Gunther laughs.
His answer ?
“I asked them to name this thing they were going to buy with a piece of meat between two halves of bread. A sandwich. See? The bakery was waiting for us to have an English name.
For more information on The French Bastards locations in Paris, visit its website.
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