Hey Kiddo! That’s the loose English translation for the French word “pitchoun” and the name of one of the most authentic French bakeries in Los Angeles. I use the English term “bakery” because it encompasses what in France comprises two or three dedicated entities, all of which apply to Pitchoun!: boulangerie, patisserie and café or restaurant.
DTLA happens to be the location of the original Pitchoun! which opened on Olive Street at Pershing Square in 2015. A smaller satellite hub opened in 2018 in the outdoor corner shop at Third Street and San Vicente at the Beverly Center.
“The Downtown location is our baby. It’s our flagship,” Fabienne Soulies explained.
She and her husband Frederic are the thoroughly French auteurs behind the thoroughly French bread, pastry and savory entrees offered on the daily menu at both locations. Fabienne grew up in Monaco on the French Riviera with a family in the food business, while Frederic was raised in the small town of Agen in southwest France, halfway between Toulouse and Bordeaux. According to Fabienne, Frederic’s family was comprised of “Bakers and farmers. I was more of a city girl. He’s more related to the ground.”
That said, while Frederic’s family represented a long line of rural bakers, he trained at the vaunted Ecole de Boulangerie et de Patisserie de Paris.
Despite their mutual French provenance, the couple met in San Francisco in 1995. They returned to France together, married and had three children, all the while pining for California.
“We have a long love story with California and California only,” Fabienne said. “We always said we would come back here. Our best friends lived in Los Angeles. We were coming back and forth to LA very regularly.”
By 2011, “It was time (for) a new change in our professional lives.”
With their children aged 11, 7 and 2 at the time, the move was intended as “A family experience as well as a professional experience. We wanted to show people (here) the French way: a small family-owned business bringing this passion for baking here with our French traditional recipes. This is who we are.”
Frederic’s expertise has been acknowledged here and in France, where Pitchoun! won the award for Best Baguette in Los Angeles in a competition sponsored by French American media company French Morning in 2019. His croissants have also been competitive finalists in international baking competitions.
“What makes the difference here is we truly have an authentic French taste,” Fabienne said. “We truly have French recipes. Our sourdough is different. Our starter, our ‘levain’ that we make in house is different.”
While you expect to find baguettes and croissants at a French bakery—and Pitchoun! quite possibly offers the finest in town—there is a daily menu of savory items also worth considering here. Limited to breakfast and lunch hours, both locations offer distanced outdoor seating for guests who want to enjoy fresh samples from the menu on-site.
Breakfast options include everything from Provençal eggs served sunny side up with fried tomatoes ($12.50) to a classic Parisian omelet prepped with French cooked ham, gruyere and mushrooms ($13.60). There’s also a Nutella crepe ($10.50) and a French take on the ubiquitous avocado toast ($12.95).
For lunch, there are nine compositions that can be served either as a sandwich on fresh baguette or ciabatta, as a salad, or as an open-faced tartine on a single slice of country or sourdough loaf. These range from a Parisian-style with ham, brie, lettuce and cornichons ($11.25) to “Rosbif” with roast beef, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, tomatoes and capers ($13.20) to “Pan Bagnat” a rich mix of tuna, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, niçoise olive, radish, celery, green onions and anchovies ($14.95).
The menu would not be complete without the classic French couple: croque monsieur and madame ($10.50/ $11.50), the latter of course distinguished by the fried egg topping the ham, cheese and béchamel, all encompassed by pan de mie bread. Finish it off with an éclair ($6.20) or fruit tart ($6.50) or anything else that looks good (and it all looks good).
Now the holidays are suddenly upon us. Pitchoun! is offering pies designed for just such occasions. Whole 9-inch pumpkin or apple streusel pies ($36) or pecan ($39) can be ordered in advance online for pick-up this Wednesday. There’s still time!
Another seasonal special features pumpkin spice danish and macarons. Expect more holiday-themed fare as Christmas approaches. Think: candied orange zest, gingerbread and Bouche de Noel yule logs. By the way, one of the pastry chefs here is also an expert chocolatier. “We do a lot of chocolate at Christmas,” according to Fabienne.
The Downtown location of Pitchoun! on Olive Street has always been the core business. Prior to the pandemic lockdown it was a lively and vibrant shop.
“(It was) a wonderful business,” Fabienne said. “A lot of people enjoying our food. We were the right fit at the right time.”
An average of 400 to 500 people visited the location on any given workday. Now with offices closed and “WFH” the common acronym for home-bound workers, Pitchoun! lost nearly 70% of its usual business. With the Beverly Center open again as of last month, the smaller space is helping make up some of the difference.
Besides the two shops—prepandemic—Pitchoun! had active wholesale and catering sidelines with 67 employees, most of whom were furloughed in March. Both shops closed on the advent of lockdown. The Beverly Center store reopened in July and the Downtown location just reactivated on September 1. Store hours were trimmed, and the staff is back to 15 with the single breakfast and lunch shift at each location.
As to her beloved Downtown customers, Fabienne is quite emphatic, “We just want them back! Make Downtown great again!” Got that Kiddo?