Bouchon Bakery, which spun off in Yountville from Thomas Keller’s bistro in 2003, propagated in places like New York and Las Vegas before boomeranging back to the West Coast. August 18 marked the debut of the Beverly Hills location, tucked into the foyer, behind the stairs that lead to the grand upstairs bistro. For two days leading up to the opening, Bouchon hosted a parade of media types, me included, to taste some pastries and to interview Chef de Cuisine Rory Herrmann and pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel, previously of Cyrus, who both better explained the approach.
Herrmann said they have the freedom to experiment in Beverly Hills, but he and Shvartzapel have to clear changes with Thomas Keller and Sébastien Rouxel, Executive Pastry Chef for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. “There is a set, or a core, if you will,” said Herrmann. “We have history with that. That’s been tried and tested and I think we wouldn’t want to deviate from them, one because we want you to have that relationship with the bakery so you know that wherever you go, you’ll see certain things, but then, once again, you’ll have some of those fun things and those surprises that you’ll only find here. That’s what makes each bakery so special.” Shvartzapel added, “Although there is a blueprint from the other Bouchons, because this is a new market, we’re still unsure what our people enjoy.”
When asked about collaborating with Shvartzapel, Herrmann said, “I take care of all the savory, and he takes care of all the sweet, but the crossover is huge because we may collaborate on a bread I’m going to use for a sandwich. We’ll collaborate on a pastry together when maybe he says we should add a little bit of Maldon salt to it…We’re able to work hand in hand in creating new things and in respect to the repertoire that we already have, he’s been able to master that very quickly.” Shvartzapel said, “It’s been pretty cohesive communication between all parties. It’s also been really beneficial that there’s groundwork with all the other Bouchons in the past, so we weren’t going into this blind.”
So far, the kouign-amann ($4), a Brittany “butter cake” that General Manager Stephen Cook described as a cross between a croissant and a palmier (elephant ear pastry), is the only Bouchon pastry that’s unique to Beverly Hills. Why the kouign-amann? According to Herrmann, “It’s been around for centuries, but it’s a pastry that a lot of people don’t know about. So to revive it, to bring it back and to bring something you wouldn’t see typically at other bakeries but does fit in with our French profile is very exciting, and it’s absolutely delicious.”
Pain aux Raisins ($3.25) sported granules of sugar and a honey glaze. They also sell a number of other pastries, foie gras dog biscuits, the chocolate brownie like “corks” called bouchons, and macarons in flavors like passion fruit/white chocolate, pistachio and caramel.
The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group uses Equator Coffee at every outlet, a different blend at each property. Herrmann described the bakery blend as “a good morning coffee. I think it’s something that’s very approachable and doesn’t shock you when you drink it, but yet has that deep, dark roasted flavor. It’s very well balanced but something that you can start your day with or your afternoon with, as to where some of the other coffees may have a flavor profile that may best fit finishing a meal.” At Bouchon Beverly Hills, they have a different blend in the bistro than they do in the bakery. Herrmann said Chef Keller selects the flavor profile for each property. They brew drip coffee every 30 minutes and house an automatic espresso machine for the bakery.
Bouchon Bakery also sells a number of salads and sandwiches, served on house-made bread, including Santa Barbara smoked salmon on a black sesame Kaiser roll with sauce gribiche, pickled red onions, hard-boiled hen egg and watercress; and oven roasted turkey on whole wheat pecan bread with Hook’s 5-year cheddar, honey mustard, watercress and red onion. Only one item exceeds $10, the $16 Cobb Salad with grilled chicken.
What does the future hold for Bouchon Bakery? “We’re looking for that very California and if you will, Beverly Hills or Hollywood pastry,” said Herrmann. “I think we’ve narrowed that down to the moon pie or the scooter pie.” He said they also have other unique items in the works, but said, “I can’t let you know that yet. We’d be giving away all our secrets.”