I’m in Berkeley. I walk into the Butcher’s Son and see a fresh pile of vegan chocolate and croissants. I freeze. I can’t believe my eyes. A real croissant that I can eat? That I will be able to enjoy that is plant-based?!
As I am paying for my impossibly flaky and tender croissants (you bet your sweet cheeks I got two. Don’t judge me!), I peek my head around the corner into the small kitchen and see two guys looking trés French in their striped shirts, sleeves rolled up; making, baking and tasting. I grab a table and wait. I’m so excited to interview these guys. I want to know just how they make a vegan and delicious French pastries that put the real thing to shame. This is nothing short of a magic trick.
Noé is a giant bean pole of a man from the southeast of France, whose joy and love beams from every corner of his smile. Julien is from the suburbs of Paris and is kind, pensive, has a heart of gold and delivers it with a piercing stare. When together, you feel their magic and their passion. I am instantly intrigued.
You see, between the two of them, one taking a gap year in an exchange program in political science and the other with an engineering masters and chemistry degree, they never really thought that an idea to create a plant based pastry wold go much farther than a social experiment for school.
After both becoming vegan (Noé in July and Julien in August) they started their venture during an exchange program at UC Berkeley where business school and engineering majors connect to build a start up. Soon after putting their heads together, they made their first deliveries to people from Facebook in November of 2015. As more people found out what they were doing and spread the word, that’s when the magic happened. They attended the Vegan SF Fest and ran into our personal heroine Miyoko Schinner, who had heard of them from social media. She then linked them to a whole network of other vegan foodies and by that January, the croissant dudes were on a roll (See what I did there?) and had officially partnered with the Butcher’s Son for their opening.
Their business has now scaled so fast they went from baking 50 croissants a week to 50-a-day and now are up to 100 croissants every day! Insane!
A typical day for Noé and Julien looks like this:
- 5am: take croissants out to let them proof (about 3 hours- which is when they can sneak in a nap)
- Bake and package orders for deliveries
- Make deliveries between 10/11am (deliveries are made by bicycle)
- Bake samples for potential new clients
- Work on business plan
- Commuting and meeting with potential new clients
- 2pm: Make new dough, and let it rest in the fridge (this is the 5am dough)
- 7pm: Bake (4+ hours)
Basically, these guys work around the clock. When your business grows you’ve got to do whatever it takes to keep up with it, and these guys certainly are. They know their next step is to find a commercial kitchen to expand their product offerings and in hopes to gain more wholesale accounts and find investors. They want to eventually make their own butter from scratch to avoid using palm oil (because of deforestation), use all local and organic ingredients and partner with brands and people who are cohesive with their brand values.
Making these tasty treats to make some dough (hehe I did it again) is all well and good, but when you get down to the ooey gooey center of it all, it’s really a way to prove to people that it is possible to make delicious food with out harming animals or our environment. They want something more, and they see the bigger picture of how they can impact the world one step at a time; they want to prove that you don’t have to show gruesome animal cruelty videos to change people’s minds. Let’s reimagine the way the message is delivered. Showing horrific conditions and treatment of animals is important, but in many cases it should be the last resort. The main message is compassion and positivity. Two things are important: how we treat our earth and how we teach others about the impact we have on the planet. And sometimes, like in this case, you can redirect someone’s skepticism with just one bite.
Compassion for the earth, animals, and having an impact in a positive way is the end goal. -Noé
Noé and Julien became vegan when they realized a lot of information is hidden, and the research they did made a lot of sense. Cowspiracy, Julien says, was a pivotal part in changing his mind. Back home in Paris, he used to eat meat two to three times a day and one day he decided that next day he work up he could be vegan. Noé recognized the compassionate values of veganism and the impact on the environment. He also points out being vegan is more widely accepted in the US (especially in The Bay). He says that when he was in Paris hanging out with his friends, being vegan became a social barrier. “You cannot go out to eat with your friends. You know..they order, and you bring your sandwich– it’s just awkward” Julien agreed and stated “all my friend in Paris think I’m going to die any day now.” On how they got from political science and engineering to baking, Julien leans over the table and says “To say I have this degree and to put it aside to make croissants…wow. My friend think I’m crazy, but it is about more than that. I use my chemistry degree sometimes for this. And I guarantee you I learn more in a week than most people do in a month.”
My friends think I’m crazy, but it’s about more than that – Julien
Noé and Julien are still in school, and it’s incredible that they are still able to run a business on top of everything else. And the fact they aren’t bakers by any stretch of tradition, is really astounding. But through their hard work, tireless experimenting, and problem solving there really is no limit to how far they can take this. Their passion shines through in every sprinkle of sugar, bike enable delivery, and 5am call time.
Today, they have moved from The Butcher’s Son in Berkeley, to the kitchen at The Plant in the Dogpatch. Have expanded their products from two kinds of croissants to a line of ten products including cronuts, almond croissants, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, cupcakes, banana bread, and cookies. They now deliver to all locations at The Plant and do catering as well. Bravo dudes!
To sink your teeth into Julien and Noé’s delectable bites, you can find them at the following places:
Animal Place’s Vegan Republic
1624 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94703
Berkeley Student Food Collective
2440 Bancroft Way #102 Berkeley, CA 94704
Black Spring Coffee Company
2930 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
The Butcher’s Son
1941 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
3139 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
The Plant Cafe
2335 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
250 Montgomery St #101, San Francisco, CA 94104
101 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Pier 3, The Embarcadero #108, San Francisco, CA 94111
3352 Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94123