San Francisco’s beloved b. patisserie makes its Hawai‘i debut.
It seems that there’s always another bakery, another restaurant, another trendy place-to-be-seen popping up. so what makes any place stand out from the rest?
One visit to b. patisserie, and any patron realizes what makes a bakery stand out from the pack. Critics agree—the two-time James Beard Award-nominee received exceptional reviews from the likes of Food & Wine, Eater, Huffington Post and more. The Washington Post says their croissants “rival the best in Paris.”
But behind the fresh loaves of bread and oh-so-flaky croissants are co-owners, Belinda Leong and Michel Suas. Practically royalty in the kingdom of culinary desserts, Leong and Suas bring their acclaimed patisserie to Honolulu’s International Market Place with their first location outside of the original San Francisco storefront.
Leong, the kitchen’s ringleader, worked as head pastry chef at James Beard Award-winning restaurant Gary Danko and trained under famed “macaron master” Pierre Hermé in Paris. Suas, a quick-witted bread connoisseur from France, started working in kitchens at the ripe age of 14 and eventually founded the San Francisco Baking Institute. Together, the business partners, friends and Bay Area locals elicit the best spurs of creativity from each other.
Together, the powerhouse duo’s successful patisserie received offers to expand in multiple cities, but decided to partner with Raymond and Jackie Suiter of Kona Coffee Purveyors for their first expansion.
“We just seemed to have a connection with them and we think they’re really passionate with their coffee and we are very passionate about our pastries and bread,” Leong says. “So I think the connection there was a good deal.”
Locals and visitors alike don’t leave the bakery without ordering Leong’s specialty, the kouign amann. The kouign amann, pronounced “queen-ya-mann,” is the consistent crowd favorite, reveled for its crispy, flaky outside and buttery smooth layers with a caramelized butter sugar mixture nestled in the middle.
“This one is a hybrid between cinnamon bun, croissant, palmier—all those—but all that goes in your head and you don’t know how to exactly identify it, but it makes you happy,” Suas says.
If this sounds like a one-of-a-kind pastry, it’s because it is. Leong spent 10 years developing the recipe to create a kouign amann that’s a touch more indulgent than a croissant, but lighter on the palate than a cinnamon bun.
The Honolulu location offers Leong’s signature items and a number of Hawai‘i-influenced kouign amann flavors. “We’ll definitely try to use more local fruits. We already use some guava, liliko‘i and even for the Japanese, black sesame. I’m very familiar with those flavors, so it’s definitely something we will do,” Leong says.
From flavor profiles to ambiance, approachability is a common theme for the pair.
“You’ll want to go there because it’s relaxing, it’s most likely there will be some tourists, but we’re really interested in locals. It’s some place we want locals to come because they feel welcomed, and the service is good and the quality control is consistent,” Suas says.
Leong chimes in, saying, “Even like the style of desserts, I like to have really approachable flavors. Like the flavors that you would even remember as a childhood favorite.”
Leong and Suas, whose resumés fill to the brim with achievements, are refreshingly humble. When is the last time you saw a James Beard Award nominee come out from the kitchen to bus plates and cups from diners finishing their last sips of espresso? That’s not out of the ordinary at b. patisserie. Th e same hands bussing plates happen to belong to two incredibly influential industry tastemakers.
And once the table is cleared, Leong heads back into the kitchen to lead her crew while Suas stands behind the counter, asking the next customers in line what pastry they’d like to start with this afternoon. Unsurprisingly, they opt for a kouign amann.
b. patisserie is slated to open at International Market Place on Aug. 25. For more information, go to: shopinternationalmarketplace.com