On a Monday afternoon, I breezed through metro traffic, up 95 North to Baltimore. I pulled up to Patisserie Poupon, smack in the middle of Jonestown neighborhood.
The town itself was founded in 1732, remaining one of the oldest neighborhoods in Baltimore. The neighborhood once provided housing to a mix of European immigrants. The Jonestown synagogue was in fact the first erected in Baltimore. With such a history of European culture, and close proximity to Charm City’s own Little Italy, this ideal French patisserie made perfect sense.
I was waiting to speak with Joseph Poupon, head chef and owner, but well into a conversation about cake lace, I ordered two cookies, unsure of their ingredients or name.
As soon as I found a seat, and took a bite, I could feel the cookie melt in my mouth. This was a real french bakery. Patisserie translated means pastry, or a shop where such pastries are sold.
Joseph Poupon was surely French, accent and all, though he moved to the states around the age of 18. This Baltimore location was his first, of two, the other in DC, though all the baking happens in Baltimore. The chef organizes his employees into two shifts, one which begins in the middle of the night and runs through morning, and then the other which starts late morning and carries through the day. In order to supply customers with fresh products, the bakers work around the clock.
As we walked through the kitchen, every chef was cutting, stirring, baking, or mixing, producing the most wonderful buttery aroma. Just behind the counter, and we were in a different world. Oven and after oven, along with mixers as tall as their operators. The variety of tools and talent led me to believe this crew could make anything, and store it for years, with the amount of freezer and refrigerator space at their disposal. But bakeries, though delicious and comfortable, come with their fare share of challenges, particularly cost. Chef Poupon told me about all of the expensive machinery required, and soon we were discussing regulations, which require frequent changes and upgrades.
Joseph supports the cause of clean and safe food, though often it requires more investment into his business.
Like waste. I guessed bakeries put their trash out for trash pick-up each week to rid themselves of waste, but I was sorely wrong.
Making changes to the structure, equipment, layout, menu, or food procedures requires notifying the health department.
The Maryland Food Code dictates how a food service business should manage food, waste, hygiene, employees, temperatures, plumbing, and the list continues. As our technology advances, the State can pursue more hefty regulations, requiring new purchases and more advancements to be made at the bakery.
Additionally, Joseph wants to expand shop. He loves the neighborhood his bakery has called home for almost 20 years, and he bought the free space to the left of the existing structure. He would like to push the bakery back, and be able to expand the eating area for customers.
The average baker in the United States makes $26,306 per year, though they can eat their weight in baked treats. So, for most, baking is a profession of passion, which Joseph Poupon exemplifies. He takes on new challenges designing wedding cakes, and plays with local fresh fruits to create new desserts. Baking is no easy, or inexpensive, task. But Joseph has a heart for French pastries, which his customers flock to purchase.
Real Time Farms Food Warrior DC ’12