How one fascinating husband/wife team has grown their own French pastry empire throughout Central and Southern California.
In June 2007, Chef Renaud Gonthier and his wife Nicole were faced with a life-changing decision. With Nicole’s father extremely ill awaiting a lung transplant at UCLA, they agreed that they wanted their daughter, Morgan (just shy of two years old at the time), to have the chance to know him better.
Living far from UCLA, this meant they would have to take a leap of faith and relocate their family to the Southern California area. But, with much looking, no culinary positions were available for someone of Chef Renaud’s caliber. Insert Nicole’s “ah-ha” moment.
Nicole, a seasoned professional with a strong background in Business Administration, approached her husband with the idea of opening their own business together. On January 9, 2008, Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro opened its doors in Santa Barbara’s Loreto Plaza bringing with it a much-needed French twist to culinary cuisine in the area.
Pulling from his fierce passion for fine pastries, croissants and other French fare, Chef Renaud and Nicole were determined to work hard and put everything they had into making their business work. “Hard work is definitely a factor in our success, along with an unwavering desire to produce beautiful pastries,” said Nicole. “Renaud’s is truly a lifelong dream of my husbands, and I am so lucky to work alongside him as we expand upon his dream. He originally came to the United States with $100 in his pocket – he has truly achieved the American dream! He is incredibly smart and passionate about his craft, so being able to work with him really shows both of us how each of our individual strengths and weaknesses compliment each other.”
Turning back the clock, at the young age of five, Chef Renaud baked his first cake and was hooked. His early education brought him to Europe’s finest culinary schools and pastry shops. He then began work as a top pastry chef for the Ritz Carlton, followed by his tenure at the internationally famous Barton G. Catering firm in Miami, Florida – which led to Renaud’s mastery of the art of creating the finest pastries and desserts.
What started in 2008 as one restaurant has now expanded to five locations throughout Southern California, as well as a massive presence in the local upscale grocery markets, Gelson’s.
“Gelson’s came to us for their Santa Barbara location when the bakery they had was branching off into a very successful restaurant venue,” said Nicole. “We had been with them for about two years when we approached them about possibly using us in one of their Los Angeles locations. After much success in Long Beach, they offered us the La Cañada Flintridge location. Thankfully, around the time we signed the lease for the Long Beach location, we also purchased a small commercial kitchen in the area to be able to bake croissants for the Los Angeles locations.”
Besides exquisite pastries and delectable desserts, Renaud’s offers a délicieux breakfast and lunch menu inspired by the Provence region of France. Thanks to these extended menu offerings (think Egg, Ham & Cheese Croissants, Three Egg Omelets, and Fresh Brioche French Toast for breakfast, and Raclette Cheese Tartines, Caprese Salads, Oven-Roasted Chicken Sandwiches, and Croque Monsieur for lunch), many of their patrons come in for a meal, then leave with a pastry or dessert for later.
With so much competition these days, Chef and Nicole lean heavily on their experienced “just as passionate” team to keep their business forward-thinking all while staying true to their European roots. “We are very lucky to have a wonderful team who works hard to create new, exciting pastry items,” says Nicole. “There are times we will try something out and if it works we keep it, if not then at least we’ve tried! An example of a recent ‘hit’ is our éclair with a lemon cream and lemon glaze. I’m a lemon lover, so I came up with the idea, then handed over the execution to our Executive Pastry Chef, Julien Jeannot.”
A very family-oriented establishment, the majority of Renaud’s staff has worked with them for a long time – some since day one. They all recognize the importance of creating a positive experience for their guests from the moment they walk through the door. In fact, a huge portion of their business is from repeat customers who respect their establishment and feel like they’ve become a member of the Renaud’s family.
Speaking of family, Jordano’s Account Executive, Don Owens, has truly become a member of the Renaud’s team – in fact, he has served as their Account Executive from day one. “Don is someone who goes out of his way to make sure that we have what we need to be successful,” said Nicole. “There have been times when we have realized that we’re out of a particular product at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday. We call Don and he makes a special delivery to bring us what we need to be successful. He is not only thoughtful and conscientious, he actually cares about the success of his customers.”
From bacon and ham to gruyere cheese and fresh mozzarella, all-purpose baking flour and cake flour to egg yolk and apricots, Renaud’s relies on Jordano’s Foodservice to deliver the myriad of products they need to run their business efficiently.
“We are excited to call Jordano’s our primary vendor servicing all of our locations,” says Nicole. “We rely heavily on Jordano’s and have never had anything other than positive experiences. I also want to point out how important of a role Jordano’s Coffee & Chemical Program is to us. We’ve worked with Department Manager, Mickey Cornish, since day one and feel very strongly that they provide top-notch, quick service anytime we need to call. Jordano’s has been there from the start, and we remain incredibly grateful to have their support.”
For more information about Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro, visit www.renaudsbakery.com or find them on Facebook.