On Sunday, October 22, a panel of uncompromising professionals tasted and blindly judged the artisan creations of the 19 establishments competing in Florida’s popular Best Baguette, Croissant & Pain au Chocolat competition. The event, hosted by French Morning, was held around the pool of Miami Beach’s National Hotel, in partnership with the French American Association of Crafts and Trades (FAACT).
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
At the end of a suspenseful evening, the verdict was in: the 2023 Grand Prix for the best baguette in the Sunshine State went to Bonjour Bakery, which has three outlets in the Miami metropolitan area. “It’s very gratifying,” said Lucas Bistoquet, the head baker at this chain founded by Éric Buffenoir from La Rochelle, who finished second in the same category last year. “I’ve been in the business for fifteen years. You have to get up early and work hard, so I’m obviously pleased that it’s finally paying off.”
Another title up for grabs was that of best croissant. It was won hands down by Colombian chef Mario Ramírez. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, rigor is essential for making good viennoiseries, and I’m proud to reproduce the gestures that my father, who was a baker in Colombia, passed on to me,” confided Ramírez, who founded his D’Liras chain in Wilton Manors, near Fort Lauderdale.
“As a French person, we always tend to think we’re the best in the business, but this puts us in our place somewhat, and I find it really interesting,” said Chicago Chocolate Academy chef Romain Dufour, one of the members of the jury tasked with deciding between the competitors. Stéphane Grattier, owner of Boulangerie Christophe in Washington DC, who won first place in the 2019 and 2022 U.S. Best Baguette competition organized by the American Bakers Association, added: “It’s especially pleasing to see that more and more people are becoming passionate about the baking and pastry professions, and that the level is constantly rising.”
The next generation of Caribbean chefs
As if to emphasize this point, the jury of professionals unanimously voted Cuban chef Yusel Montelongo’s pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, as some call it) the winner. “I’m very happy and grateful to have won this prize. Believe me, I really didn’t expect it,” said a rather emotional Montelongo, who has been in the United States for a dozen years and heads up Baker 305, a wholesale bakery products company in Florida.
Not to be outdone, the 500 or so bread and pastry enthusiasts present at the event were also invited to vote for their very own Fan Prize. After receiving the title of Florida’s best baguette last year, Olivier Rizk was awarded this distinction in 2023. “It’s very encouraging to see that my products are appreciated,” said the Haitian-American baker, who opened his first store, Ficelle, in Miami, his hometown, at the end of 2021.
The Complete List of Winners
– Grand Prix 2023: Lucas Bistoquet – Bonjour Bakery
– Second place: Matthieu Bettant – Bettant Bakery
– Third place: David Loprete – Casa Tua Cucina
– Grand Prix 2023: Mario Ramírez – D’Liras
– Second place: Olivier Rizk – Ficelle
– Third place: Armand Berger – Emmy’s Artisan Bakery
Best Pain au Chocolat
– Grand Prix 2023: Yusel Montelongo – Baker 305
– Second place: Armand Berger – Emmy’s Artisan Bakery
– Third place: Matthieu Bettant – Bettant Bakery