The French Bastards

When the bakery sign went up, I thought, “Well, that’s rather audacious. I wonder what it’s going to be?” A bakery had been in that space, which had once been a pretty good, but had slid in quality, until one day, the doors closed for good. It’s a bummer to see a place decline but exciting when something better opens in its place, which happened.

There’s been a renaissance in Paris over the last few years of young bakers, who understand techniques and traditions, but use them as springboards to go beyond them. And three of them have set up shop, calling themselves The French Bastards.

Their unconventional name comes from when one of them, Julien, worked in a restaurant in Australia. He was so talented and worked so well that the chef (affectionately) referred to him as “the French bastard.” So he and his friends decided to use it to name their bakery in Paris.

The work bâtard (bastard) typically refers to a type of bread that’s without a distinct form, like someone without the structure of a family. Romain told me the less-gauzy meaning of the word (because he’s not writing for the general public, like I am) which refers to the child of someone aristocratic who has an affair with the domestique (the housekeeper. So it could refer to a bread that’s a cross between a (refined) baguette, and more rustic country loaf. But bâtards come in many shapes, and fortunately, the only ones in this bakery are the ones in the bread baskets.

These guys are very nice, and the first time I stopped in, aside from the name, I knew this was a different kind of bakery. On my first visit, I met Emmanuel (one of the other bâtards), told me their signature bâtard was made with three different flours, two of them whole-grains, which made the bread healthier, and more aligned with modern tastes than if it had been made with white flour. He told me that the fatter, bâtard-shaped breads had mostly disappeared in Paris, but were still made in the countryside. At The French Bastards, theirs resembles a slender baguette, which hews close to a bread that’s traditionally Parisian.

Emmanuel lived in the U.S. for a while, working at start-ups in Mountain View. Julien worked for the most famous caterer in France, as well as at La Manufacture de Alain Ducasse, the bean-to-bar chocolate shop in Paris. David, the third partner came from the diamond industry, but wanted to learn about pastry so studied for, and passed, his CAP (pastry professional) exam, and was the one who understood how to run a business. (Which is always helpful.)

The three had been friends for fifteen years and dreamed of doing something together, until they finally did. They realized Paris was changing and the time was right for an updated bakery, hovering close to the classics, but “making them fun.” They spent two years searching for just the right place and the recently-closed bakery was just the right fit. (And the bank lending them the money was also happy they were taking over an already established bakery, although in the end, they created something entirely different and new.)

Paris has had a few challenges, and they felt people were ready to have fun again. But not everyone was amused; Emmanuel told me that some people come in off the street to tell him that they should call their bakery something French. He told me, “We are a bakery with an English name, but with a French spirit.”

A number of people have said to me, “They’re so nice!” which is also something the younger generation is bringing to Paris. Gone is some of the gruffness (who visitors tell me they are part of the charm of the city, but I doubt any of them would be happy to have that kind of service at home), and young people are excited about what they are doing, including the new generation of bakers in town.

Everything is made in the shop and if you walk down the side street, you can see everything being made in the big picture window next to The French Bastards as everyone works around the cool granite table, which keeps the butter in the laminated doughs that they use for their morning pastries (above), from melting.

Perhaps my favorite pastry here is the individual lemon meringue tart, which really, is generous enough to feed two…or maybe four. At my place, we eat it cut into four pieces, because it’s so monumental. The pain aux raisins uses tiny currants, rather than the standard raisins, because they taste better to the bakers. And while they’re happy to do French classics, they like to touch down in other cultures, too.

A new-fashioned Pavlova (above) has an activated charcoal crust and a poppy seed-filled dome of meringue. Chocolate babka, cruffins, and éclairs reference several cultures.

And yes, if you come during lunchtime, you can get a sandwich, or un sandwich…or whatever you want to call it.

I don’t share text messages but one of them is from the team at The French Bastards, telling me shortly after they opened that I’m an “honorary” bastard. And while I wouldn’t normally consider that a compliment, in this case, I’ll make an exception.

The French Bastards
61, rue Oberkampf (11th)
Métro: Oberkampf or Parmentier
Closed Thursday

[Follow The French Bastards on Instagram and Facebook.]

A fun, new bakery in Paris that mixes traditional French pastries with new flavors

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53 comments

  • Susan
    July 23, 2019 5:31pm

    OMG…….that alone would be enough to hop on a plane from N Idaho and GO!!

  • Catherine Blair
    July 23, 2019 5:35pm

    This is one of your best newsletters – I just love it for its playfulness. French Bastards indeed. Would love to be there to try ALL of their creations. As a home baker, I’ve stuck to my best pastries – rugelach and oatmeal, raisin, walnut, chocolate chip cookes (all in one cookie) for my doctors and nurses at Mayo Clinic who gave me a “second” life by transplant. I’d love to be able to try the French Bastards and increase my knowledge.
    You really made me laugh out loud.

    • Bernadette
      July 23, 2019 5:39pm

      Lovely gesture Catherine, glad you are well now.

  • Bernadette
    July 23, 2019 5:37pm

    Wow, everything looks great, that Pavlova! Best of luck to them and kudos to you, David for being an honorary bastard, lol. I saw the title in my email and though, “No, David wouldn’t rant about something like that, he has too much class. . . ”

    Looks like an exciting new shop!

  • Rebecca Rassier
    July 23, 2019 5:39pm

    I learned about this FB from one of your posts and started following them on Instagram. I loved what I saw. When I was in Paris for just a day, passing through to catch a flight, I had to make a pilgrimage there–they were open on a Sunday! The place did not disappoint. Wonderful items to taste, yes, but it’s the vibe that makes the place. The folks really do seem nice and excited to prepare and share tasty treats with you! And, they are killing it on Instagram, so I can enjoy the place from afar!

  • Emma
    July 23, 2019 5:39pm

    I was fascinated by your article about The French Bastards, and humor therein. I only dream of breads like these, I live in Colorado, and formerly in Toronto. In CO where I’ve lived for 9 years, I’ve never had a good bread, my closest memories are during a few travels to Paris and yonder. It’s a sad thing not to have decent bread available!

    • July 23, 2019 7:09pm

      Emma – I bake and sell croissants using traditional methods. If you’re ever in Colorado Springs, let me know.

      • Jill
        July 24, 2019 12:24am

        Where are you located in CO Springs?!

        • July 25, 2019 6:25am

          Hi, I run a farmer’s market booth every second Saturday, plus I teach the occasional class. I like to think my baking looks like the pics here. :-) My schedule can be found at http://www.LePetitCroissant.com. More pics on my FB page, LePetitCroissantBake (but I’m not a great photographer).

      • Annita
        July 24, 2019 12:44am

        I am in Denver. Would love to know where you are as well.

  • Jeannine
    July 23, 2019 5:46pm

    Great fun to read of a new favorite in my Paris world. Will your name be on the window as it is on the burger shop corner of Oberkampf and Parmentier? Amusing to see ….

    • July 24, 2019 9:09am
      David Lebovitz

      If only! : )

    • Linda
      July 24, 2019 9:48am

      This bakery is now on “the list” of places to visit next month when my friend and I are in Paris…David, LOVE your photos…they are really beautiful, and I could nearly taste the subjects!

  • Lina
    July 23, 2019 5:55pm

    … et en plus, c’est dans votre quartier? Un peu dangereux…

    • suzanne
      July 24, 2019 4:07am

      Donnez-nous l’addresse de cette boulangerie s’il vous plait.

  • nikki
    July 23, 2019 5:58pm

    made my mouth water and want another trip to Paris. The fact that I can see the lamination of the pastry is pure art. I can just hear the shatter of the croissant.
    The pastries are beautiful…the makers of the pastries are pretty easy on the eyes as well!

    • July 23, 2019 7:15pm

      agree to all of your post! :)

      • nikki
        July 23, 2019 11:04pm

        I was going to comment on the “sweet buns” in and out of the photos..

  • Pamela
    July 23, 2019 5:59pm

    I’ll be in Paris next spring and am definitely going to “pop in”. My kind of wonderful.

  • roz harris
    July 23, 2019 5:59pm

    my kingdom for just a bite of one of their breads.

    I may have to quit reading your posts as they just make life difficult here in DC

  • Susan
    July 23, 2019 6:10pm

    This post alone makes me want to hop on a plane to Paris right now and try everything that you’ve pictured here and more. (And may I also say that I love those uber-awesome patched jeans and the very cool tee adorning that very handsome bastard.) Best post ever!

  • July 23, 2019 6:13pm

    Did you show the tarte citron? Searching madly…I would run over there immediately if it was not 97 degrees out and I’m supposed to leave for Amsterdam first thing tomorrow. A delicious post. I can hear the pate feuilliaté (sp) crumbling.

    • July 24, 2019 9:10am
      David Lebovitz

      I didn’t. They weren’t making them the day I went to the bakery, but they make them often.

  • July 23, 2019 7:19pm

    This is my favourite post for now!!! Beautiful bread and wonderful, fluffy, glorious pastries.
    I do wonder however about the bread prices. Even though I know well enough the cost of first class ingredients and I appreciate the passion and ‘soins’ going into each product, I gather that only Parisians can pay €14+/kg for their bread.
    Love their name and should I ever pass in that area, I would indulge heavily with probably everything they sell.

  • Diane Brown
    July 23, 2019 7:42pm

    David, I have an addiction to Pain aux Raisins but have been very disappointed with their quality during recent visits to Paris. Your photos of the pastries, especially the “Escargots” are tantalizing. Can’t wait til my next sejour in Paris and a visit to “the French Bastards!”

  • Shell
    July 23, 2019 7:50pm

    Sigh…those pictures made me feel faint!

  • Bonnie
    July 23, 2019 7:52pm

    One of your best columns! Just sent the link to my husband (at work) telling him it is worth airfare back to Paris!

    And, while we live in South Carolina now, we went to San Francisco State and Cal in the 70’s, were too poor to eat downstairs at Chez Panisse, but loved our fancy nights out upstairs!

  • Annita
    July 23, 2019 8:03pm

    We will be there in October and head straight there!!

  • Pamela
    July 23, 2019 8:19pm

    I was a student at San Francisco State too in the early 70’s. Great memories of students who cared about our country.

  • July 23, 2019 8:19pm

    Wow! It’s interesting and encouraging to see young people breaking the code but also 100% respecting tradition. Love this.

  • July 23, 2019 8:27pm

    Oh my! Every kind of wonderful I could imagine. Thank you for the tour of such an exceptional bakery. And the photos — swoon!!

  • Susan Hennings
    July 23, 2019 8:32pm

    I’ve been reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s “It Must’ve Been Something I Ate.” It’s a fun read and he does romp on about Paris and bread. You’ve probably read since it was published in 2002. Some of his writing reminds me of your’s. Thanks for the wonderful articles, merci, merci, merci.

  • Sue Piner
    July 23, 2019 9:29pm

    oh, La La Chere

  • sue
    July 23, 2019 9:29pm

    Oh, LA LA Chere!

  • Anne Wright
    July 23, 2019 11:44pm

    David, Please throw me some across the ocean! What beautiful treats!!!

  • Y
    July 24, 2019 12:39am

    This place sounds absolutely wonderful. Wish I was back in Paris!

  • StitchinSweetSue
    July 24, 2019 3:26am

    This is how life should be lived, doing what you love, with people you want in your life. Ty for this lovely review, I am partial to bakeries, and savored every word:)

  • Mary Murdock
    July 24, 2019 4:49am

    One of your best posts! Almost joyous in its exuberance! The name ‘The French Bastards’ is inspired. Thank you for sharing this wonderful bakery.

    • July 24, 2019 10:00am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks so much! They were nice enough to let me come in the kitchen and take some photos, which I always appreciate so I can some “behind-the-scenes” shots to share. Some places don’t allow that, so I’m extra happy when bakeries do. Glad you liked the post :)

  • Paule Chamussy
    July 24, 2019 10:19am

    Salut David,

    you know that I left Paris for the “capital of gastronomy” two years ago and yes it is food paradise here except … I have yet to find a really good baguette in Lyon. I have tried practically every reputed bakery and not one has the combination of crust and “mie aérée” which makes a good baguette. Not every boulangerie in Paris either, but here … none. I have come to the conclusion that
    “la baguette est parisienne” as I always heard. It is cultural like all food related characteristics. Non ? And les lyonnais do not seem to miss … what they don’t know.

    A bientôt,

    bisous

  • Penelope Rice
    July 24, 2019 12:04pm

    Will be staying on rue Froissart in early September and will happily support anyone who has spent time in Oz. Hope they’re as good as they look!

  • Virginia
    July 24, 2019 4:52pm

    Damn, David! Come on: Who makes a grown woman cry over bread!? I’m totally charmed. Thanks!

  • July 25, 2019 8:06am

    What a wonderful Post! Thank you David!

    • James Peters
      August 16, 2019 3:38am

      Wow David must be really nice to have these guys in town, chow

  • Megan
    July 26, 2019 9:32pm

    David – this post reminds me of an pair of amazing Dublin based Irish bakers: Scéal Bakery (website/instagram) that you should check out next time you’re over in Cork. Although that is the other side of the (small) country. I’m unaffiliated, just a fan!

  • Lucy
    July 29, 2019 7:10pm

    Loved this article, but was waiting for the link for recipes. Are there any that you can give to us? I bake/cook all the time and am always looking for new finds.

    • July 29, 2019 8:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      Bakeries rarely have their recipes in quantities and formats for home cooks since most of them make things in quantities (and it’s a challenge to scale down those recipes to make just a few (or one cake), so I haven’t found any of their recipes online to link to.

  • Maureen in Oakland
    August 1, 2019 3:55am

    When last in Paris (end of April), we had the happy luck to rent an apartment just down the street from The French Bastards. OMG. It’s. So. Good. Plus the coffee is solid. We went almost every day for the whole week, only taking breaks for Pain des Amies from Du Pain et Des Ideés and and Pain du Sauge at Utopie. I hardly left the quartier…Also I am reallllllly into this Paris take on cinnamon buns that is going on. Ok, time to come back.

  • Kate
    August 6, 2019 12:25pm

    ohhhhhhh f********** that guy’s arms!! And the pastries!!

    • August 7, 2019 10:09am
      David Lebovitz

      People often ask how pastry chefs and bakers stay in shape. Rolling and lifting dough, and mixer bowls, and bags of flour, is pretty good exercise : )

  • Paula
    August 21, 2019 12:50am

    oh man- wish I could come to Paris, wish I could eat wheat!

    I’ll just have to content myself with drooling….