By Rachel Huffman
“I don’t wake up at 1 a.m. to make things that are vanilla.”
As the pastry chef and owner of La Pâtisserie Chouquette, Simone Faure alternatively spends her time crafting lemon sherbet cream puffs, pumpkin pasties with cream cheese dough, bourbon-pecan morning buns and the Darkness. Not to be confused with a chocolate croissant, the latter is comprised of flaky chocolate dough, two chocolate batons, rich chocolate drizzle and pink Himalayan sea salt – a wicked combination that will surely lure you to the dark side.
La Pâtisserie Chouquette has been the gold standard of pastry in St. Louis for more than a decade, with Faure’s unwavering commitment to excellence evident in every bite.
Despite the bakery’s refined menu and elegant interior, you don’t need a special occasion to visit. “The aesthetic can make it feel like a treat,” Faure says, “but I like to think of it as a regular dose of therapy.”
At La Pâtisserie Chouquette, you can escape the daily grind and indulge in Faure’s impeccable handiwork. Really, it’s about taking a moment for yourself – and we all deserve that moment at least once a week.
Growing up in New Orleans, Faure was immersed in one of the country’s most iconic food cultures. “My allowance was 50 cents to one dollar a week, and I spent it all on food,” she says with a laugh. “No one was saving up for, say, clothes. It’s New Orleans – the food’s poppin’ – and if you had $1.50, you could get a po-boy, a drink and a pickle or chips. If you only had 50 cents, you could still get a hot sausage sandwich.”
Today, Faure’s hometown influences her approach to food. “I don’t have a lot of New Orleans desserts on the menu, but my upbringing affects how I think about food and how I celebrate it.”
For Faure, food is magical. A small, brown thimble of crêpe batter with a tender custard center and a thick, caramelized crust known as a canelé can change people’s mood. A massive dark chocolate brownie with layers of chocolate-swirled cheesecake and coffee-soaked ladyfingers can put a bounce in their step. And a sensuous slice of red velvet cheesecake adorned with waves of chocolate cream and garnished with a macaron shell can keep them smiling for days.
“In the kitchen, I constantly remind everyone of how lucky we are: We get to make food that people want to eat – not that they need to eat,” Faure explains. “There’s a difference. People go out of their way to visit our shop and give us their money, and we should always be grateful for that.”
Faure wasn’t drawn to pastry because of a particular skill – or sweet tooth; she fell in love with its structure.
“Baking is methodical, whereas cooking is chaotic,” she says. “My brain is chaotic, so I didn’t need any more of that. When I bake, I feel calm, serene, and I like that it forces me to play by the rules, so to speak.”
At La Pâtisserie Chouquette, Faure leans into French-style pastry…out of default.
“When you go to culinary school, French cuisine is shoved down your throat, and I don’t think the food industry acknowledges that often enough,” Faure says. “I couldn’t take a class on Caribbean cuisine or Jewish baking, for example, and so, I got into French pastry because I wasn’t taught anything else.”
Embracing the style, though, Faure has become the maven of macarons. Her method for crafting the coveted confections is so secret that half of the people who work at the patisserie don’t know the details.
On March 20 – or National Macaron Day, as it’s regarded at La Pâtisserie Chouquette – you can try approximately 40 flavors of macarons – after patiently waiting in line, that is. Faure and her team start piecing together the menu in December, and they begin preparing the delicate sandwich cookies a month before they’re made.
Frequently inspired by pop culture, flavors range from a Beyoncé-themed lemonade macaron to a Doritos-flavored cool ranch macaron. Personally, Faure gravitates towards the savory flavors – think fig and mascarpone; goat cheese with olive oil and cracked black pepper; and jalapeño popper.
“Lime is one of my favorite ingredients,” Faure adds. “Lemon might make you pucker, but lime awakens your senses; it opens your eyes and makes you want to be a better person. It’s that good.”
Needless to say, the Key lime macaron also ranks in the top 10 flavors for her.
For another savory pastry, look for Faure’s version of Flamiche aux Poireaux, a French tart with leeks, potatoes and onions. “It’s from the region in France where my husband was born,” Faure explains, “and it’s exquisite. It fills your soul.”
Macarons, cream puffs, galettes – those are obvious choices for the bakery. At home, though, Faure loves to make Japanese milk bread.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone was obsessed with sourdough, she baked a loaf of Japanese milk bread a day. “Everyone was making sourdough bread because there was a yeast shortage,” she says. “I own a bakery that was closed during the lockdown, so I wasn’t hurting for yeast.”
Baking for family or customers, Faure maintains her unmatched artistry by viewing herself as the competition. “I want to be better year after year,” she says, “and that drives creativity.”
La Pâtisserie Chouquette is a staple of the St. Louis food-and-drink scene, which continues to grow, innovate, diversify and delight. It’s been named one of America’s next great food cities by Food & Wine, and local chefs, bakers and eateries have been nominated for James Beard Awards, including La Pâtisserie Chouquette, which was a semifinalist for Outstanding Bakery this year.
James Beard Award winners include Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group for Best Chef: Midwest in 2015 and Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. for Best Chef: Midwest in 2017.
“St. Louis is a big little city when it comes to food,” Faure says. “You can get fufu and okra stew, tteokbokki and xiaolongbao on the same street. Thanks to the Bosnian community, we can also curl up with bosanski lonac on cold nights, and don’t get me started on the pork tamales at Diana’s Bakery on Cherokee Street!
“[In the Botanical Heights neighborhood, where La Pâtisserie Chouquette is located], the dining family is incredible,” she continues. “Whether you live in St. Louis or you’re just visiting, you’ll want to eat your way through the menus at Indo and Union Loafers. On Saturdays, I’ve been known to pop my head into Indo’s kitchen like, ‘Is it time for staff meal?’”
As La Pâtisserie Chouquette enters the next decade, fans can expect to see more international flavors in the pastry case. “I love bringing inspiration from my travels back to the bakery,” Faure says. “When I spent time in South Korea, I got to see how local bakers approach French and American pastries, which was fun, and I’m going to France and Vietnam soon. I can’t wait to share those flavors with St. Louis!”
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