Micro-boulangerie pops up in Chelsea dep
Chelsea has a microbrewery, it has a micro-distillery on the way, and now it also has a micro-boulangerie.
Juan Carlos Gomez – who is better known by his nickname Paco – makes and sells specialty, organic baked goods in the former dining area of the M&R Depanneur casse-croûte.
Paco popped up in the dep in January. He has no social media, hasn’t advertised anywhere, has no business cards, no sign out front, and doesn’t even have a name for his business, but he still regularly sells out two hours after opening on weekends.
So far the community has embraced him with open arms. During a visit to Paco on a Friday morning to snap his photo, The Low Down saw a constant flow of customers that Paco knew by name come in to see what he had left. One lucky woman bought all five pains au chocolat that he just took out of the oven minutes before she arrived, while another customer waited in line saying that his wife sent him to get a loaf of sourdough. The pain au chocolat doesn’t skimp on the chocolate — it seemed like there was half a bar of chocolate in the centre.
“I think there’s a need for small, independent, artisan boulangeries,” Paco said.
The 50-year-old Gatineau resident’s smile is hidden behind a mask, but can still be seen in his eyes as he rings up customers.
Paco attended culinary school in Vancouver, but came to the Gatineau Hills when the Wakefield Mill hired him as a pastry chef. He worked there until seven years ago, when he became the head baker at the Biscotti & Cie café in Old Chelsea.
“When I turned 50, I was with my daughter and she asked me if I’d ever regret not running my own boulangerie,” Paco said.
That got him thinking and he realized that he would, so he asked for four months off from Biscotti to try this project. He said he officially left Biscotti two weeks ago.
“I’m really happy. At Biscotti, you don’t see the locals, you see the tourists. At the depanneur, you get to know the locals and know their names,” Paco said.
M&R Depanneur owner Martine Pigeon said that COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants forced her to close the dining area of the casse-croûte attached to the dep, which left space for Paco to move in. She said the businesses work well together because customers can come in for their morning paper and then go next door to grab a croissant. There is one issue with the smell of raspberry danishes wafting into her dep though, she said.
“I forbid him from coming into my store when they come out of the oven because I will eat them all,” Pigeon said laughing.
Paco’s bakery is open in the M&R Depanneur at 152 Old Chelsea Rd. from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Thursdays to Sundays.
“I call it a micro-boulangerie. I want to focus on quality; if it’s sold out, it’s sold out,” Paco said.