French-born Guenievre Milliner owns Nashville’s gourmet market and pantry, Little Gourmand. She brings a taste of her birthplace to Tennessee in the form of artisanal snacks and sweets, French delicacies, freshly baked pastries and sandwiches. She is working hard to offer Nashvillians the opportunity to get the best French foods all year long while bringing the dream of an afternoon well spent in a Parisian café, enjoying an espresso and a pain au chocolat to life. Guenievre sees herself as the Santa Claus of French food because for some customers, going into Little Gourmand is like entering a Christmas shop. She is an avid fan of French food, hockey and country music, as well as a warmhearted woman and inspiring business owner. Welcome her today as our FACE of Nashville!
Tell us about your background and what brought you to Nashville.
I was born in Paris and raised in Brittany, on the western coast of France. I have a marketing background and had worked for Warner Bros. for over 15 years in Paris. This kind of experience is useful every day when you run a small business. We moved to Montreal in 2001 and have seen how important it is to expose your children to different cultures and opportunities. We have three kids, and I am so proud of what they have become. They speak different languages, have friends in different countries and that would never have happened without us moving abroad. Even if it can be hard sometimes to be far away from your hometown, it’s worth it — 100%.
What led you to open Little Gourmand?
We lived for more than 13 years in Montreal, and could not stand the endless and cold winters anymore. I also wanted to have my own business, and being such a foodie, it had to be food-related. I visited Nashville several times since 2005 and loved the vibe, the family-friendly aspect of the city … I am lucky enough that my husband, who is a screenwriter and a film director, can work from anywhere as long as he has access to the Internet, a phone and a close airport. It took us two years to finalize everything and get our visas, and we opened late 2014. It has been a non-stop roller coaster since then!
What can people expect to find at Little Gourmand?
Authenticity! We carry as many products as we can, sweet and savory, and I could not sell something that I dislike. Everything is truly authentic and I am always on the look for new items and new ideas.
I also like to see Little Gourmand as a tiny part of France in Nashville and want to make it a destination for anyone who loves French culture as well as food. We speak French, we listen to French music and we eat authentic French food. After the Paris attacks in 2015 and 2016, people naturally gathered here and we received many letters, drawings and condolences. It was really moving, and that is when I realized we meant more than just good food. We represent France, and that made us feel honored and blessed.
What are a few items in the store that you are particularly excited about right now?
Our brand-new pastries! French macarons are our best-selling item, and I wanted to offer a full range of authentic French pastries. I have been working on that for almost a year, and some have been imported to the U.S. just for us. I absolutely wanted to have some true Napoleons (the French Millefeuille) and was finally able to get them to Nashville as well as a delicious Tarte Tatin or a decadent Rum Baba among others. All these pastries are amazing and worth the try. When I was a kid, we used to go to the pastry shop after Sunday church and were allowed to choose some pastries. That is definitely a true fond memory.
What is your favorite French dish to prepare?
I love cooking and make almost everything from scratch for my family. I enjoy cooking a nice beef bourguignon in winter and refreshing desserts in summer, such as an apricot or a strawberry pie. My “signature” dessert is a matcha tea and almond cake that I usually serve with a red fruit and vanilla salad.
How do French people approach food differently than Americans?
The biggest difference I see is that good food, like good wine, is an essential part of our social life. Friends always meet around a meal, and family dinners can last for hours. When you are meeting new people you like, the first step is usually to invite them for an “aperitif” or a dinner, and after sharing a meal you can say you are friends!
All three meals are important in France. We have a real breakfast at home, a true lunch — if you are working in an office, you actually leave and go to a restaurant to enjoy a full meal — and a family dinner when everyone gathers around the table and talks about their day. We almost never have on-the-go meals like Americans do — having a coffee and a donut in your car as a breakfast is not an option. We also have lots of family recipes, and almost every family cooks its own meal. That means much more “real” food and less processed food.
What is the secret to making the sandwiches and croissants authentically Parisian?
You mean, other than waking up much too early on Saturdays? Well, first I have never eaten a croissant in the U.S. that is a true French one – and I am not saying I never had good ones. The American ones just taste different. Recipes are no secret — you find them online, but I think that ingredients are key. If you replicate the recipe with a different water and a different flour, it won’t taste the same. We have tested so many baguettes and so many croissants before finding what we really wanted, we thought we would never make it … so we import. Our freight costs are terrible, but essential to reach the level of authenticity I want to achieve. Our customers get that when they eat our sandwiches and taste the difference. I am very proud of our croissants. Word of mouth has been fantastic, and now, I bake more than 150 every Saturday and we always sell out. They are now available in a new coffee shop in Berry Farms in Franklin, and I would love to see them in other places, too.
What is your next restaurant destination?
answer. is next on my list. I have only heard good things about it. Miel, Josephine and Rolf & Daughters are our favorites, so we’ll be back there soon. My husband never went to Chauhan Ale & Masala, so it’s on our summer list. And when my daughter comes from Montreal in July, we will head straight to The Smiling Elephant for a pad Thai.
How do you see your future in Nashville?
Our current space is too small, and we need to expand. We have lots of ideas, and our next step would be to open a small French cafe/bistro with our own kitchen. We want to be able to offer the full French experience with breakfast, lunch and the early “aperitif.” Not a full restaurant, but something really authentic. We are looking for investors and scouting for the right space to do so. Prices are now so high in Nashville that it is not easy for a small business to grow. The good news is that we have ideas for the next 10 years or so!
What is an important piece of advice you have been given, and who gave you this advice?
“Never berate yourself, there will always be enough people doing it for you.” My favorite boss always said that and he was right. He was Director of Marketing at Warner Home Video France, where I worked for 15 years. He is still a good friend, and I learned a lot from him professionally.
Excluding friends, family and faith, what are three things you can’t live without?
Blue sky, music and bread!
Merci beaucoup to Guenievre Milliner for answering all of our questions, and thank you to Ashley Hylbert for the stunning photos.
Our newest FACE of TriStar is Linda Hall, who experienced complications from surgery, leaving her with a lengthy road to recovery. Now walking again, she credits the incredible staff at TriStar Skyline Medical Center — and her doting husband — for her tremendous progress. CLICK HERE to read her inspiring story!