Chef Sylvain Rivet, who opened Renaissance Patisserie on South Boulevard last month, says the secret to making complicated authentic French pastries is actually pretty simple: master the techniques and only use the best ingredients. Oh, and be French.
“You hear this accent?” he asks in an undeniably French accent. “You can’t fake this.” Touche.
Although he’s been in Charlotte four years and was in LA before that, Rivet is no doubt as authentically French as they come. He shows me the airy delicate structure of a real Napoleon (layers of light pastry and cream), refuses to make American wedding cakes (“I will only disappoint them,” he says), and has a thing or two to say about Charlotte’s French bakery scene (specifically: “I’m not scared”).
The bakery, located in Sedgefield Shopping Center on South Boulevard, sells an alluring lineup of sweet and savory goods, including croissants (butter, almond, chocolate or Nutella; $2.50-$4.50), baguettes ($3.75), macarons ($1.50), quiches ($11-14), eclairs ($4) and more. Even the all-American cheesecake has a French twist here with the use of creme fraiche in the filling and pastry instead of a graham cracker crust.
Before he moved to Charlotte (his wife works for Bank of America and was transferred here), Rivet was cooking for celebrities in LA. He was the private on-call chef for Oprah any time she was on the West Coast and was called in to cook for the Jackson family following Michael’s death. Here in Charlotte he’s done some work for NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, but to Rivet they’re really all just customers.
“I treat all my customers exactly the same. I want everyone to have the same experience,” he says.
I chatted with Camille who was running the counter. She’s a Winthrop grad, fellow vegetarian and, not surprisingly, French. She’s been in Charlotte (Rock Hill to be exact) for three years and says that working at the bakery has been nice. “You get to speak your mother tongue,” she says, “so it kind of feels like home.”
In regards to her totally non-French diet, she says, “Oh I’m not all the way vegan.” Surrounded by this many butter-laced baked goods, I don’t know how anyone could be.
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