An Interview at La Bonne Bouchée by La Confectionista - 5/20/2011
My first interview. And it was just lovely. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Chef Oliver Leguet from La Bonne Bouche`e Bakery in Creve Coeur. I've tried his goods before, and I must say the man behind the curtain is every bit a pleasure as the confections he creates.
If you read the website, it tells a bit about his background, so I see no need to recap that.But, I will add in a few nuggets I found interesting. Like when I asked him how it was he got to be in the states. He leaned forward in his chair and told me, about 30 years ago, the then President of France made a new law stating no one could work more than 40 hrs a week. What was to be a welcome release for millions became a chain restricting the free creation that was art, not work, to Olivier. As I watched him lean back in his chair and describe the masterpieces he creates, I could tell cooking was clearly his passion, and it found him young in life. Around age 10. He was number 2 of 10 kids on a farm, when he decided SOMEONE needed to make birthday cakes for the family. So into the chef's shoes he stepped. And from there it grew until he came to the states to spend more time with his first love. But he didn't forget his roots, rather he brings his farming background into the kitchen and believes that farm-style work ethic is very important. No cutting corners, do everything the right/hard way.
If you ask him about his ingredients, you would not at all be surprised to hear, "Only the finest will do..." you can taste that. In fact when I got there he was in street clothes, having just returned from a local grocery store for fresh mangos. (he doesn't use them every day, so he buys them fresh the day he will use them) I was tickled pink to hear of margarine, shortening, corn syrup, and most oils being outlawed in the kitchen, (you should see the distain in his eyes as he even says the word "Margarine") as well as buckets of pre-cracked eggs. (in my blissful ignorance I did not know such things existed.) He tells me one time, when there was a problem getting good eggs, they HAD to use the bucket eggs for two weeks. He literally shivered as he said in his soft French accent, "The smell is still with me". You would also not be surprised that he had trouble pin-pointing a favorite confection to create. He loves the challenge of improving the taste and the beauty of everything. Indeed La Bonne Buche`e is one of the few bakeries that has mastered the art of "too-pretty-to-eat-but yummy-enough-to-scarf" ism; in a time when it seems most bakeries tend to go for one or the other.
What may be surprising is that Monsieur Olivier is a bit of a chocoholic. His favorite confection to eat is the Sacher torte, or almost anything that has “ganache” in the description. And in all honesty, when he was asked what his favorite part of the whole thing is, he surprised me again. I guessed he would say decorating beautiful confections, or owning the shop and cafe so he could oversee the details, or something like that. I was wrong. It's the people. The looks on their faces, and knowing they will return again and again because they are getting something special. The connections he makes with those that enter his abode makes them more like family than customers.He even introduced me to one of his regulars as we were finishing up. I wish I had a picture of both of their faces.And what does he hate the most? Besides ever telling a customer no, he doesn’t like when things don’t go as planned, technical difficulties and what not.But as a business owner, “You must take stresses with a smile” he says.
So what are the plans for the team at La Bonne Buche`e? There's talk of expansion, but not chains. No, the chef would like a more french style bakery. "What is that?" I asked. Well apparently, the French don't like to rush. (That alone make me want to move there.) That applies to picking out their yummies as well, so the cases face the street in a real French bakery. This both intrigues passersby, and lets them linger over the offerings so they don't feel rushed to choose when they're at the front of the line. He does not like his “family” feeling rushed.
Last but not least, what are Olivier’s tips for the home bakers out there? Never short yourself by using just what’s laying around. Use the best ingredients you can, every time.Go get the good stuff, the best ingredients make the best dishes. And that folks was it.Please check the reviews page for my take on the pastries at La Bonne Buche`e.And go check out their selection for yourself, there’s so much, it will take me forever to get to it all.