This Blog starts with a story. It is the story of a young boy, aged 12, born and raised in Lyon, France. This young boy, as an intended form of loving punishment from his father, was sent to work in a bakery owned by his father’s friend Pierre Callen, in Montmerle sur Saone, in Eastern France along the Saone River (a tributary of the Rhone River).
As the ironies of life would have it, the father’s intended purpose was achieved, but in a way much different than either the father, or son, fully anticipated at the start. This boy ended up spending his summers and weekends working at the Pierre Callan Bakery. What started as a punishment quickly grew into a passion for this young boy. By age 16, the boy became the youngest student to graduate with CAP (Baker) from Lycée François Rabelais in Lyon Dardilly, with both Boulangerie (baker) and Patisserie (pastry) degrees, and later Mention Complementaire Boulangerie (MC)
For the past 20 plus years, as the boy turned into a young man, he traveled the world working as a Baker and Pastry Chef, in England, Ireland, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Corsica and the Seychelles, to name a few. He has worked throughout Europe for such famed names as Paul Bakery, Eric Kayser, La Boulangerie des Gourmets, Crusto, The Twelve Hotel, Boulanger des Invalides, Constance Ephelia Resort, and, as a French Maître Boulanger (Master Baker) he has run pastry programs and training for two of the most prominent and respected retail food groups in Europe, Migros, and Real Metro Group, in the rollout of their “Ultra Fresh School of Bakery.” In 2015 Yemen was invited to join the French team in the prestigious Louis Lesaffre, World Cup of Baking.
As a French Master Baker, in addition to artisanal breads and pastries, Yemen also developed his artistry in viennoiserie (pronounced vyen-wahz-REE), which perhaps is the most recognized category of French pastry (which ironically had its beginning in Vienna) around the world, and with thanks to the flagship baked good of viennoiserie, the croissant. Viennoiserie describes a whole category of pastry that includes croissants, pain au raisins and brioche that depend on great precision and attention to detail in the dough, and in the baking.
So, why is this story important to us in Syracuse and at The Stoop Kitchen? In the development of The Stoop Kitchen, it always was my dream that it would become a food market, and harkening back to the days when the bakery was such an integral part of everyday life, the dream was also to bring that special bakery to Syracuse. Well, not any bakery, but a bakery that was as devoted to artistry, creativity and excellence as is The Stoop Kitchen’s chef kitchen and bars.
One day several months ago, in the process of finding the right person with whom to live this dream with us at The Stoop Kitchen, we received correspondence from, what first we only knew then, was a baker in Austin Texas. That baker was Yemen Tounsi, who it turned out desired to leave his most recent position as Master Baker at Apple’s (yes, the iPhone Apple) largest restaurant and bakery facility in the world, at their new 1.1 million square foot campus in Austin, Texas. That correspondence led to a three-month courtship for Yemen and The Stoop Kitchen, as Yemen sought a permanent home where he would be free to make his creations and develop a program of his own, in a smaller more comfortable community (and cooler climate than Austin). After much correspondence, telephone calls and a trip to Syracuse, Yemen chose The Stoop Kitchen and Syracuse, over a host of other offers from recognizable groups in larger cities.
And thus, with unbridled excitement, we are now able to announce that within the facility of The Stoop Kitchen, will be a full production bakery and retail area that simply is called “The Stoop Bakery Café.” In Yemen’s words “Syracuse reminds me of a small European village, with the walking streets and the Regional, and suburban farmer’s market. The produce of the Syracuse area is incredibly delicious and fresh, and I am looking forward to using local purveyors in my products throughout the seasons.” While great bread only has four ingredients, it is temperamental and difficult. In knowing his farmers and their process, inconsistencies can be eliminated. “I am so excited to share my passion with Syracuse.”
Yemen has created many specialties well recognized throughout Europe, and is ecstatic to share them with the patrons of Syracuse. Among Yemen’s most recognizable creations is a viennoiserie pastry named ‘Pain au Beurre,’ a flaky, butter laminated, square shaped croissant, stuffed with pats of butter rolled in brown sugar. At his last bakery, these delicious treats were called “Heart Attack in Paris,” and sold out within the hour. You also can expect to see daily, starting in early morning, a variety of house-baked artisanal breads, his famous chocolate croissants and a full range of delectable sweet and savory breakfast pastries along with other French pastries and cookies. And you will be able to pair them with our own barista coffee bar serving Forty Wight Coffee (originally from Syracuse and now roasted in Ithaca), a favorite at Danny Meyer’s New York City Union Square Café.
We believe in Syracuse, and so does Yemen.