More than 500 gourmands (with more than 1500 on the waitlist) gathered this Sunday, March 19, to enjoy and vote in the final contest for the Best Croissant in New York, which was organized by Frenchly’s sister publication, French Morning.
An hour before the doors opened, a line was forming in front of the 5th&Mad bar in Midtown, where the competition was taking place. A group of American women had traveled from New Jersey to support their local Montclair bakery, Le French Dad. A total of thirteen artisan bakers were selected by the French Morning and Frenchly readers to compete in the finals. The bakers had been working since early morning to prepare their merveilleux croissants.
At the time of the tasting, the atmosphere was festive. The crowd wandered from stand to stand to taste the different preparations, while the bar served mimosas. The tables were filled with croissants, of course, but also with other tempting pastries. “Everything is so good, it will be difficult to choose,” said one member of the public.
Among the crowd of voters this year, Taryn Delanie Smith, the Miss New York 2022, didn’t want to miss the finals for anything, having lived in Paris for six months as an exchange student. “When I lived in Paris, I ate a croissant every morning. So I’m really happy to be able to enjoy it today!” she enthused.
At the jury table, faces were concentrated as the the layers of puff pastry were closely observed, and attention was paid to colors, smells and textures. This year, four judges were responsible for choosing the best croissant: Miriam Milford (founder of BcakeNY), chef Eunji Lee (owner of Lysée), Le Bernardin pastry chef Orlando Soto and French chef Alexia Duchêne. “For me, a good croissant is judged by its perfect half-moon shape, its crispy texture, and it needs real layers, a well ventilated interior, and a yellow color that indicates the presence of real quality Norman butter,” says chef Alexia Duchêne.
But appearances can be deceiving, she notes. “You can have a beautiful visual and then the result is disappointing. I really want to feel the taste of butter, a salty note, a melting but not doughy texture in the mouth,” she says.
At 1pm, it was time for the verdict. Breads Bakery took in a double win by winning both the People’s Choice Award as well as the award for Best Original Creation. The company, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, won the jury prize last fall for the Best Baguette of 2022, which was organized by French Morning.
Chef Julien Khalaf, the founder of Julien Boulangerie, who was participating for the first time in the competition, came in second place. “It’s a lot of emotion after eleven years of work. I am really proud. My parents, who are watching from France, are also very moved,” he said as his eyes misted with tears. “It’s a separate process to develop croissants in the United States. We can’t just copy and paste the French recipe, we have to adapt to the ingredients here, to the flour which is richer in gluten here, in particular. And then we work exclusively with French butter.”
Third place went to Épicerie Boulud, from the Daniel Bouloud empire, and represented by its head baker Mélanie Legoupil, trained at the Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie in France.
A big thank you to all the other participants: Carissa’s the Bakery, Charlotte pâtisserie, L’Appartement 4F, Le French Dad, Mo & Jay, Salon Sucré, Nick + Sons, Pistache and Tin Building by Jean-Georges. Thank you also to the event sponsors, the low cost airline, French bee (which donated a winning ticket to one of our readers for a round-trip ticket from New York to Paris), Les Moulins de Soulanges and Beurremont.
Translated from the original French article on French Morning by Charlotte Morlie for Frenchly by Frenchly staff.