With over 80 locations of Maison Kayser around the world, it was only a matter of time before Parisian master baker Eric Kayser arrived on American shores. His first New York boulangerie/patisserie/cafe opened last week on the Upper East Side, and on day two was already packed with crowds, black-and-white-striped waiters shuttling sandwiches and pastries to tables, and of course many, many baguettes.
Eric Kayser is often called one of France's best bakers, famous for his unique sourdough breads that rely entirely on a liquid natural starter without commercial yeast. He's brought that starter, his custom-made lactofermentation equipment, and his bakers all from Paris to the first of three planned bakery/cafes in the city.
Maison Kayser is currently selling a full bread and pastry list as well as a menu of French classics in the 100-seat cafe: open-faced tartines, quiches, salads, soups, plenty of sandwiches, and a hefty number of breakfast offerings. The bakery is putting out about 1,000 loaves a day, with new breads leaving the oven every two hours.
It's hardly the typical French business model, where bread bakers are not pastry chefs who are not cafe owners who are not bistro operators, but Kayser doesn't pick sides when it comes to bread vs. pastry; "I like them all," he says with a smile.
Kayser is well aware of the problems of spreading his flour, sugar, and butter too thin. He has 20 locations in Paris alone, and others as far afield as Taiwan and Singapore. How does he maintain quality control with so many outlets? He says he lives in Paris six months a year, and devotes the other six to his more far-flung locations. To try to get his New York invasion down, he actually sent a number of bakers and chefs to Paris for six to twelve months to master his methods and recipes.
Interestingly, there are rules in Paris about what must be done on premises to call yourself a boulangerie, so every Maison Kayer in the city makes their dough and bakes it on premises. But his pastries are made at a central commissary, which are delivered to each location daily.
His plan for his New York locations is a little different. All the bread dough will be made in the Upper East Side bakery, then delivered daily to the other locations (in midtown and the flatiron) to be baked fresh. The Third Avenue location will function as the pastry commissary.
Hopefully this will result in New Yorkers getting to experience Kayser at his best, which based on our tasting in NYC and Ed's experiences eating through his original location in Paris many years ago, places him in the pantheon of bread and pastry bakers anywhere in the world.
Take a look at some of Maison Kayser's offerings (and a peek in their kitchen) in the slideshow.