After moving to the United States from Montreal, French-born Guenievre Milliner and her husband Eric Summer opened Little Gourmand, a French market in Green Hills, in 2014. French transplants and Francophiles alike enjoy spending time at the bustling business, as it feels like a little slice of France right here in Nashville. On June 16, 2020, Little Gourmand had a soft opening of their second location, Patisserie Française, located on Craighead Street in Melrose. This location focuses on coffee, pastries and savory options, as well as wholesale and catering. French pastry chef Denis Savouray works full-time to provide a wide range of authentic French pastries and desserts. But today, we’re hearing from Guenievre on the new location, her favorite pastries, and the impacts of COVID-19 and Nashville’s May storms. Welcome, Guenievre!
Why did you want to open a second location?
Little Gourmand has been evolving over the past six years. We started with just the grocery store, actually. At the time, there was nothing else — just the pantry items. We added the coffee, and then the sandwiches, and then a more extensive menu. Then I found an amazing French pastry chef, and we started doing just event pastries — like Valentine’s Day pastries and Christmas yule logs. That moved into more extensive work together, and we started doing everyday pastries. So then I had the idea: Why don’t we open a traditional French patisserie where we can really offer a wide range of products? That’s how, one step into another, we went into this project.
What is different about the second location compared to the Green Hills store?
The two locations are a complement to each other. The Green Hills location is the grocery store and has that French cafe vibe where you can have a coffee, tea, or sandwich and just enjoy the weather. The patio there is a really nice location to be able to sit outside. The store in Melrose, for me, is a more urban neighborhood, so we won’t have seating. It’s really creating that experience of a boulangerie or patisserie in France where you come in, you take what you need and you go. The two offer different versions of a French store. If you’re looking for a place where you can have a cup of tea and macarons with a friend, you’ll go to Green Hills. If you have a party tonight and want to bring an assortment of desserts, you’ll come to Melrose.
How did COVID-19 impact your business?
We were originally supposed to open the Melrose location at the end of March, but Coronavirus significantly delayed that. It made things complicated, as it was harder to get all of our ingredients. Plus we wanted to keep all our staff on board. We were able to do that, but it meant a lot of hours for me in the kitchen when we started doing family meals. I was making them at night, on weekends and early in the morning — and that was the thing that kept us going. In terms of energy and time, it was really tough. But we were very lucky that customers supported us and ordered those meals, as well as ordering pastries and croissants for pickup or delivery. I definitely don’t want to go through a second wave, but I’m very proud of how we handled it and how we were able to keep everyone on board.
During the storms in May, a tree fell on your house. What was it like dealing with that as well as COVID-19 and trying to open your second location?
What a good year, right? It was a lot when it happened, but having that goal of opening the second location kept me going. When something like that happens, you spend two or three days on your couch crying, not knowing what you’re going to do, but then you have to move on. It’s a material thing. We probably won’t have the house fully repaired before the end of the year, but I’m not going to wait for nine months on my couch. So for me, having that goal every morning, waking up and doing something was really helpful.
What pastries from the new menu would you recommend?
Oh, that’s a hard question! One of my favorites is a new thing we’re offering in Melrose, which is an opéra. It’s layers of coffee and chocolate cream with a joconde, which is an almond-base biscuit. The one that Denis, our pastry chef, makes is just amazing. It’s really, really good.
What makes these pastries so authentic? Is it the ingredients or how they are prepared?
I think it’s two things: the ingredients and the technique. Denis was trained in France by two MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France), which means “best craftsman.” It’s a really tough competition, and people train for years to reach that level. He’s been trained in bakery and pastry, so he really has that technique, that French palate and that French way of doing things. And of course, all of the ingredients that we get. We source the best chocolate, fruit, etc. I just bought apricots this morning — all from France and handpicked … really good quality. It makes a huge difference, especially since everything here is made from scratch.
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OK, last question. Do you prefer pain au chocolat or plain croissants?
Plain croissants. I’m not that much of a chocolate person. My customers know I love citrus and things like that. So just a plain croissant for me with coffee in the morning — maybe a nice jam on it. That’s probably my favorite breakfast.
Stop by and visit Patisserie Française at 717 Craighead St., Nashville, TN 37204. Store hours are Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more, visit littlegourmand.us or call (615) 522-7134.
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