French bakery opens on Front Street
Carb lovers stormed a new French bakery in Hamilton on Monday, gobbling down all the fresh baked goods on offer.
“We sold out the first day,“ said Thomas Bekhazi, owner of l’Artisan Boulangerie on the ground floor of Point House on Front Street.
“We have been really humbled by how Bermuda has welcomed us to the new space. Things have been going great.”
Because of Covid-19 the bakery selling authentic French bread, sandwiches, quiches and croissants was a few weeks late in opening.
“Because of Covid-19, there were a lot of shipment delays,” Mr Bekhazi said. “We are still missing a few things now, but we are almost 100 per cent ready.”
Mr Bekhazi is originally from Paris, France. He was working in New York City as a realtor in 2019, when he visited his brother, Philippe Bekhazi, chief executive officer of Stablehouse in Bermuda.
“We were at the grocery store, and I saw the offerings,” Thomas Bekhazi said. “The quality of it was not there and it was quite expensive.”
Mr Bekhazi bakes bread as a hobby, and considered going into it professionally in New York.
“My brother said, it looks like there is a market here for you,” Mr Bekhazi said. “You should give it a shot.”
He began to develop the idea when he went home to France during the pandemic. While there, he met a French baker, Vincent Hild, 24. Mr Hild, is classically trained in French baking.
“We started a conversation,” Mr Bekhazi said.
Mr Hild had been to Bermuda once before on vacation, and was happy to move to Bermuda to make bread. He now handles the baking side of things at l’Artisan while Mr Bekhazi handles the business end.
While making baguettes at the bakery on Tuesday, Mr Hild said baking bread in Bermuda is a little different from France.
“You have to let the bread dry for way longer here in Bermuda, than you would in France, because of the humidity,” he said.
The bakery’s state of the art oven, ordered directly from a manufacturer in France, can bake up to 80 baguettes at a time.
When the duo visited Bermuda together in August 2020, they considered different spaces, but eventually settled on Point House.
“We really thought it was a good location and a good opportunity, given also that it was going to be a high profile building,” Mr Bekhazi said.
They got the green light to take over the space in early January. They have a Bermudian partner.
Some challenges have been shipping to Bermuda, and dealing with duty.
“It has been a very interesting experience, but it has not been as straight forward as doing it anywhere else,” Mr Bekhazi said.
They moved to Bermuda in April, right before the second lockdown.
“It beat being in lockdown in Paris in January and February,” Mr Bekhazi said. “It gets dark there at 4pm. It’s cold and it rains. I really like Bermuda. It is a beautiful island. There is a lot of potential to do beautiful things here. We want to participate in that and bring what we can to the island. If people enjoy what we are bringing, then that is perfect.”
At l’Artisan there is wi-fi, and room to sit down and enjoy a coffee and croissant with friends. Patrons can watch the goods being made through a window in the bakery.
“You will see Vincent taking baguettes in and out of the oven, rolling the croissants, working the dough,” Mr Bekhazi said. “I find people are more and more health conscious and want to know what they are putting in their bodies. The beauty of baked goods in general, is that they require very few ingredients. Bread needs flour, water, yeast and salt and you are set. In some sense, we are lucky because we don’t need to resort to any additives.”
When they first started planning out the restaurant, they thought the pandemic would be over soon. Now, they are resigned to the fact that it will go on for some time.
“We are putting in place the ability to order on our website,” Mr Bekhazi said. “We are not sure how and if we are going to do delivery, but we have the ability to do pick-up. That is something we are developing right now.”
For more information see Lartisan Boulangerie on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.