February 16, 2016
I was working as a pastry chef in Brooklyn when I met my now-husband, Leo. While I didn’t realize we would get married in less than a year, I will confess that I did secretly wish my Frenchman would whisk me away to the land of pastries, cheese, and wine. And whisk me away he did… If you had told me one year ago today that I would be living in Paris now, I would have laughed and shrugged my shoulders. And here I am, writing this from my Parisian apartment in Montmartre.
Has it been the fairytale I daydreamed of while working at Brooklyn’s Bakeri, counting down the days until I moved to Paris? In some ways. It’s also been the most difficult, scary, anxiety-ridden adventure of my life so far.
Even though I’m an experienced pastry chef and baker, work has been hard to come by, largely due to the crippling language barrier. The vocabulary is in my head, but as soon as a native French speaker begins talking, nerves cause my brain to swiftly shut down. French is beautiful; I just wish I had better command of it. But I am also confident that once I am able to overcome that initial anxiety and fear of being incorrect, it will be smoother sailing in the language department.
As far as work goes, if you aren’t a French and English speaking barista, waiter, or nanny, jobs can be hard to find. Be prepared. I wasn’t worried about finding a job when I got here, pridefully thinking, “oh please, just wait until they meet me!” I was so wrong. I am quite the baker, but that didn’t seem to really matter here. There are a handful of kitchen jobs that Anglophone chefs and bakers in Paris rotate through: one will work at this small cafe, then that small restaurant, and then everyone switches until they all know each other and have worked at the same places. I’m partially kidding, but it really seems that way sometimes.
With my go-to professional options failing me, I started thinking about how I could freelance,. Luckily this ended up being my ticket to stay in France. If you’re a creative – be it through writing, photography, illustration, or beyond – you can make a decent living if you commit yourself to the effort. I’ve been developing recipes, shooting and styling for food blogs, delivering meals to families as their chef domicile, and lately I’m even selling doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts! Desperation and panic led me to what might be my most exciting venture yet: doughnuts in Paris.
When I first arrived, doughnuts were nowhere to be found. One shop across the city sells them, but it’s out of the way; while I do love a doughnut, it’s difficult to justify the lengthy commute. So I decided to make my own doughnuts. And then I thought, “what if doughnuts are the next big thing here?” After all, Paris didn’t have many craft coffee shops up until a few years ago, and in the last month it seems the food delivery trend has also started to catch on. Enter the true American doughnut to pair with the newly beloved craft coffee scene, and you’ve got a match.
In January of 2016, Doughmade was born. I am the only one involved at this point, but am renting kitchen space and selling my handmade doughnuts to whoever wants them. I also launched a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of raising enough funds for a pop-up “café bike.”
I think if it’s meant to be, it will materialize; if not, it won’t. I do have a good feeling about this, and I plan on documenting the entire adventure. Sometimes it really just comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Wish me luck!
- Photographer Marjorie Preval also talks moving from the U.S. to Paris with her daughter.
- For more American sweets in Paris, check out Foursquare’s round-up of the best cupcakes around the city.
- Waxing nostalgic for a bit of Parisian life back home in The States? Haven in Paris’ own Elise Marafioti shares the small ways she lives une vie parisienne in New York.
Written by Alex Roberts
Alex was raised in the southern United States before moving to NYC where he worked as a professional baker for a few years. These days he can be spotted lurking in Parisian pastry shops buying pastries that are "just for a friend." Alex writes, develops recipes, and bakes too much in his home near Montmartre.
Website: Alex Roberts