We’re already salivating. Lovers of fine breads, viennoiseries, and other artisanal creations are invited to gather around the pool of the National Hotel in Miami Beach on Sunday, October 22, from 6pm, for the ever-popular competition for the best baguette, the best croissant and, new this year, the best pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, as some die-hards call it) in Florida.
No fewer than nineteen finalists will be showcasing their precious creations at this event organized by French Morning, in partnership with the Chambre de métiers et de l’artisanat French American Association of Crafts and Trades (FAACT).
Appearance, texture, and aroma: during this eagerly-awaited final, everything will be scrutinized by an uncompromising jury of professionals, who will blindly taste and judge the candidates’ various pains au chocolat, croissants, and baguettes, before awarding the Grand Prix.
This year’s tough task has been assigned to Laurent Branlard, two-time world pastry champion and head pastry chef at the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach; Stéphane Grattier, owner of Boulangerie Christophe in Washington DC, who won first place in the 2019 U.S. Best Baguette competition, organized by the American Baker’s Association; Romain Dufour, who has just taken over the reins of the Chicago Chocolate Academy kitchens; Valérie Girou Legouhy, co-founder of the World Gastronomy Organization; and Mariana Mircevski, who oversees the L’Éclair de Marius bakery-pastry shops in Paris.
But you, our Frenchly readers, won’t be left out either, and you’ll also have your say. You’ll be able to taste the breads and viennoiseries of the participants (there will also be charcuterie, cheese and, of course, a glass of wine or beer) to decide on your own prize, the Fan Prize.
So who will succeed Ficelle Bakery and Bettant Bakery, respectively crowned “Best Baguette” and “Best Croissant” in Florida? (The two winners won’t be able to compete in the category in which they won last year.) And who will be crowned “Best Pain au Chocolat” in the Sunshine State? The suspense is at an all-time high. Here are our nineteen lucky finalists.
Best Baguette, Croissant, and Pain au Chocolat in Florida Finalists
Cuban bakers have nothing to be ashamed of when compared to the French, or so says Yusel Montelongo, who has been in the U.S. for a dozen years and heads up Baker 305, a wholesale bakery products company in Florida. 711 NW 27th Ave, Miami – (786) 718-3218
Here, every product is lovingly crafted using high-quality flour and butter imported from France. At least, that’s what Xavier and Laura Vital, owners of Bakery X in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa on Florida’s west coast, assure us. 5840 Grand Oro Ln, Wesley Chapel – (813) 360-0886
Matthieu Bettant, who opened his Bettant Bakery on Washington Avenue in South Beach in 2019, is putting up some major competition. After winning the “Best Croissant” award at last year’s competition, this year the chef-baker from Villeurbanne wants to put his title back on the line to prove that the quality of his products is the Florida standard. 1043 Washington Ave, Miami Beach – (305) 673-5522
Originally from La Rochelle, Éric Buffenoir, head of Bonjour Bakery with two outlets in the Miami metropolitan area, hopes to tantalize the taste buds of sweet tooths with his creations. 16650 SW 88th St, Miami – 1435 N Park Dr, Weston – (786) 534-8141
Bros Food Company
With almost thirty years’ experience in the field, Cuban baker Francisco Reyes Perez is at work long before dawn at Bros Food Company, supplying breads and pastries to various establishments in the region.
Casa Tua Cucina
“I will have my revenge. I’m a fighter,” says the confident French artisan David Loprete, last year’s unsuccessful candidate, who bakes bread for Casa Tua Cucina in Miami’s Brickell district. 70 SW 7th St, Miami – (305) 755-0320
C’est La Vie
Self-taught baker Christophe Coutelle has been operating C’est La Vie in Sarasota, on Florida’s west coast, for over a quarter of a century. Supported by his wife Géraldine, this fifty-something loves a challenge, and hopes to open a second location by the end of the year. 1553 Main St, Sarasota – (941) 906-9575
Chef-baker Hilton Gonzales, who heads Chocolate Fashion in Coral Gables, doesn’t just oversee the premises: he gets his hands right in the dough to make sure all of the bakery’s products are sure to satisfy his customers. 248 Andalusia Ave, Coral Gables – (305) 461-3200
According to South American chef Mario Ramírez, rigor is the key to good pastries. He founded D’Liras in Wilton Manors, near Fort Lauderdale, where he uses simple, high-quality products to create the finest croissants and pains au chocolat. 2172 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors – (954) 530-0422
Emmy’s Artisan Bakery
Quality raw materials, traditional fermentation techniques and, above all, the expertise of a renowned pastry chef seem to be key to the success of Emmy’s Artisan Bakery, run by Armand Berger, son of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) Georges Berger. 16345 NW 57th Ave, Miami Lakes – (305) 705-4699
After winning the title of “Best Baguette” at the previous edition of this competition, Haitian-American baker Olivier Rizk, who opened his first Ficelle in his native Miami at the end of 2021, returns this year in hopes of repeating the feat. 1440 NW N River Dr, Miami – (786) 688-3626
Manager of the bakery-bistro La Croquantine in Doral since 2019, Matthieu Cartron perpetuates French artisanal techniques and the use of fresh, preservative-free products. 7930 NW 36th St, Doral – (786) 899-0509
L’Atelier des Pains
After working alongside Frédéric Lalos, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) in bakery, and honing his skills for several years, Parisian Yves Francois, a former Compagnon du Devoir (member of a prominent French organization for artisans and craftsmen), decided to strike out on his own last May, inaugurating L’Atelier des Pains, his first store in Delray Beach, halfway between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. 1445 N Congress Ave, Delray Beach – (347) 303-1237
La Ville Rose
After practicing for over twenty years in Toulouse, bubbly Colombian Shirley Sanchez took her chocolatines under her arm before crossing the Atlantic again to offer them to the gourmands who frequent her establishment La Ville Rose, named in a nod to her former city, opened a few months ago in Fort Lauderdale. 301 SW 3rd Ave, Fort Lauderdale